In 2000 the unemployment rate in West Oakland was 18.3% (while only 8.4% in the rest of Oakland). Green Jobs Training programs present solutions to chronic problems in West Oakland: poverty, unemployment, pollution and environmental injustice, but the scope of existing programs could be greatly expanded. In Green Collar Jobs: An Analysis of the Capacity of Green Businesses to Provide High Quality Jobs for Men and Women with Barriers to Employment, Raquel Pinderhuges points to the potential for job expansion in green (sustainable) landscaping, urban agriculture, water retrofits to increase water efficiency and conservation, parks and open space maintenance and expansion. The Urban Bamboo Biofilter presents opportunities to provide youth with transferable landscaping skills, create a healthier environment by purifying the air and water, and support the green economy through an innovative urban forestry project.
For the green job training aspect of the project we plan to start small: this Spring a Merritt College class entitled Regenerative Design taught by collaborator Nik Bertulis will be held in West Oakland and will focus on the design, installation, and monitoring of the first pilot Urban Bamboo Biofilter. Marisha Farnsworth and Nik Bertulis are writing a new Urban Bamboo curriculum for Merritt College; we anticipate this class will be on the schedule by Spring 2010. By leveraging teacher’s salaries and small materials budgets we will be able to get started while we seek funding to develop a more comprehensive training program, which would incorporate local organizations with related experience, such as Urban Releaf.
Within the first year of the project we will be able to install our first Urban Bamboo Biofilter on a private lot on 8th and Pine Street, made available by Marcel Diallo of the Village Bottoms Development Corporation. We have an able workforce from Merritt College and two classes of 35 students each per semester, which are ready to be relocated from the Merritt campus to the flats of West Oakland. Over a three year time period we will develop a Green Jobs Training Program in eco-landscaping where youth will gain transferable skills while working on real projects in their community. Participating youth will be trained in a college-level program in job-skills, urban gardening, eco-literacy, propagation, installation of plants, irrigation design and implementation, root barrier installation, bioremediation, water efficiency and landscape maintenance.
Through the Peralta community college system we have an opportunity to build on the successful systems and infrastructure that Laney College has developed for Green Collar Job training programs. While Laney College has focused on preparing youth for jobs in construction and solar PV installation, Merritt College Landscape/Horticulture Department has spent the last decade developing an innovative Eco-Landscaping and permaculture curriculum. Through the development of a Green Jobs Training program in Eco-Landscaping, coupled with cutting-edge research in bioremediation, West Oakland will address urban ecological injustice, while propelling the green movement forward.
Urban Biofilter leverages waste to improve quality of life in inner-cities. A micro-industrial forestry project grown with waste water on brownfields, Urban Biofilter bioremediates water, soil and air while shielding residents from industry and transportation routes. By valuing ecosystem services the project enables a green economy that serves environmental justice.