Envisioning a "green new deal" to fortify the economy while preserving the planet, a group of community, environmental, and labor leaders gathered in Roxbury yesterday to add their voices to a national movement seeking billions of dollars in federal clean-energy investment.
The Boston Green Justice Coalition, as the new organization is calling itself, and Community Labor United joined the national Apollo Alliance in calling for $50 billion a year over the next 10 years to build the green economy. The coalition issued a 60-page report detailing how that investment could be used here to create good-paying "green collar" jobs and address energy needs for lower-income communities - in addition to erecting wind turbines on the Cape or solar panels in the suburbs.
More than 200 people filled the pews at Twelfth Baptist Church on Warren Street for the coalition's announcement rally, as labor and environmental leaders, community organizers, and officials highlighted the need to target investment to narrow wealth and social justice gaps while addressing fossil fuel dependence, climate change, and other environmental issues.
"The Green Justice Coalition is all about making sure that huge tsunami of change - what we're calling a green wave - lifts all boats," said Loie Hayes, coordinator for the Boston Climate Action Network; the network is on the steering committee of the coalition, which includes more than two dozen local agencies and organizations.
The coalition rally was combined with a four-hour energy fair for area residents to learn immediate ways to save money and make their homes more efficient.
At the fair, Robert Wilson, 33, of Dorchester, collected low-cost tips to help his aunt seal her windows and improve the efficiency of her radiators.
Wilson, who is enrolled in a green-collar job-training program through JFYNetWorks, also attended the coalition kickoff. He said he appreciated the short- and long-term focus of the two events in making sure that Boston is not left behind in the greening of the economy.
"It's good to see it's not just in Chestnut Hill, Braintree, or Brighton," Wilson said. "It's about everybody."
Yesterday's meeting served as an official kickoff for the coalition, which has come together over the past year, as well as a chance for it to align with the Apollo Alliance, a growing national organization of business, labor, environmental, and community leaders calling for clean energy investment in a manner that echoes the 1960s Apollo space program.
"When we first announced this, we thought that [a total of $500 billion] sounds like a lot of money," Ron Ruggiero, national field director for the California-based Apollo Alliance, said referring to Wall Street bailouts.
"We've since seen that there's clearly not a question in our country about the amount of money; there's a question about priorities."
Among other figures, the Boston Green Justice Coalition's "Green Justice Solution" report cited a study by the Center for American Progress and the Political Economy Research Institute of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst estimating that $100 billion in federal investment would create 2 million jobs nationally in clean energy and energy efficiency, four times as many as if the money were spent on the oil industry.
Jim Hunt, Thomas M. Menino's chief of environmental and energy services, addressed the gathering to signal the mayor's support for "green justice."
In addition to calling for reducing the city's carbon emissions and boosting its solar capacity, Menino plans to plant 100,000 trees and has started investing in training programs for "green collar" jobs.
He is also looking to President-elect Barack Obama and Congress for help, Hunt said.
"There's great hope that our new president will be making the changes necessary to dig us out of this hole we have been digging ourselves in in the US, both from an environmental standpoint and an economic standpoint," Hunt said.
Hunt said Menino wanted to attend but was unable.
Other local officials were present, including state Senator-elect Sonia Chang-Díaz and City Councilors John Connolly, Chuck Turner, and Charles Yancey.
The kickoff was followed at the church by an energy fair, put together by the Boston Climate Action Network and ACORN.
Moving among tables staffed by members of nonprofits, utilities, community groups, and vendors, Mary Washington, a 68-year-old Roxbury retiree, asked questions about drafty windows and collected a bag full of compact fluorescent bulbs, as well as coupons and literature to share.
"I'm a senior, and this is good, because I can come and get the information and give it back to my neighbors," said Washington.