OPINION: Green Pathways Means So Much More Than Just Jobs

by Got Green Executive Director Jill Mangaliman

Growing up in Seattle, I was a youth who didn’t feel like I had a future. It was a feeling that I was heading into a dead end and failing in this economy, that I couldn’t take care of myself and my family. I felt alone in this feeling, stuck and exhausted. It wasn’t until I joined Got Green in 2009, that I started to feel like my presence and opinions mattered, that I didn’t need a masters degree or a fancy title to advocate for my community. Through the environmental justice movement and being supported by our elders, I found we were the experts of our conditions and community was most qualified to come up with the solutions because we were living and breathing the conditions ourselves.

I learned that this system wasn’t set up to benefit everyday people, but rather a wealthy few. At Got Green, we wanted to collectively create a different reality, an economy that valued people and their contributions, that wasn’t about extraction and profit, but about meeting people’s needs and stewardship towards the earth. I became determined to help create a multigenerational movement and fight for the needs of communities everywhere. Got Green was my Green Pathway.

Through the young organizers at Got Green, I could see my own story playing out today, juggling school, debt, and low paid work, paired with the desire do right in the community and the environment. The employment gap locks youth of color out of future employment opportunities. Although the education gap has failings that must be resolved, the education attainment does not fully explain the difference seen in green careers. Many green jobs require only a high school diploma, and here white people and people of color are on relatively equal footing; nevertheless, many of these positions require an apprenticeship or certification that people of color do not have access.

In 2015, Got Green’s Young Leaders in the Green Movement steering committee were able to win a resolution to create 100 living wage green internships for low income young workers of color in Seattle. We are currently holding the city accountable to creating a robust inventory of living wage environmental career pathways, however, they felt a need to expand to nonprofit and private environmental employers through the inception of the Green Pathways Fellowship Program.

Green Pathways is about the undoing of exploitative and extractive programs, such as Americorps, by providing living wages and opportunities out of poverty for young people of color. The Fellows will become the leaders of these organizations and movements they join, and through Rainier Valley Corps’ leadership program, we can see the organizations and individuals thrive. Success to us is seeing the shifts in the environmental movement itself, becoming led by those most impacted. We look forward to partnering with Community Passages and Creative Justice to reach youth who are targeted by the prison system, as a direct solution to breaking the school-to-prison pipeline.

The Green Pathways Fellowship is about cultivating young leaders and strengthening organizations led by communities of color. It will become a regenerative program that places fellows with green organizations committed to environmental restoration and justice. Let’s keep building more and more Green Pathways, so our people can have healthy long lives, and a future to look forward to.

 

  • As of this writing, City Council approved the 2019-2020 Seattle City budget. It contains funding for the Green Pathways Fellowship of $100,000 in 2019 and $164,000 in 2020.
  • It was a tough budget year, Council made many difficult decisions and a lot of really good work was left unfunded.
  • Contact your Councilmembers to thank them for their support of the city’s full investment in the Green Pathways Fellowship Program.

Featured Photo: Jill Mangaliman is the Executive Director of Got Green. (Photo courtesy Got Green)

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