#Investinourplanet, Innovating Cultures Respect Mother Earth


It is time for another Earth Day celebration where globally we recognize the limitations of our planet and since we have only one, it is in our best interest to take care of it. This year the theme is #investinourplanet.

There are a great number of people who have been influenced to believe that those who talk about sustaining the planet and other environmental concerns, including climate change, are tree huggers. (The term initially referred to a protest tactic but has since become a derogatory and negative reference for anyone who takes an active role in preserving and advocating for the protection of our planet).

As a first generation Black American I can attest that people of color around the globe have a natural respect for Mother Earth that is in line with the tenants of environmental sustainability. This is my legacy from the shores of the Caribbean to the mountains of Kenya.

Have you ever heard your mother or father say, “close the door because you’re letting out all the good air”? Or had a grandmother who used their butter container as Tupperware to hold leftovers that they were putting in the refrigerator?

Have you lived in a household where the plastic bags were never considered single use? But they also found themselves as liners for garbage cans, head covers to warm hair during oil treatments and conditioners after relaxers. They even served as hats during the rain.

Perhaps you had an uncle or a friend whose house was always a little too cold in the winter. You knew not to visit without an extra sweater. Or when you visited your Auntie in the summer you were well aware you needed to bring your personal fan because the temperature was never adjusted down on her thermostat.

These are examples of cultures that already had concern with the expense of keeping lights on when not in the room; keeping external doors open when air conditioning or heating was on; or what was seen as wasting perfectly good products that could be used over and over and over again.

In fact, these acts or actions have been fodder for late night hosts and comedians and in shows like Everybody Hates Chris, Good Times or even the Jeffersons. But what may have been thought of as just an indication of poverty shows a culture that reflects more entrepreneurship and pro-environmentalist behaviors that are easily over looked by other communities.

An article entitled Black Americans Past and Present Created Frugal Innovations and Embraced Circular Economy Principles by Clovia Ann Hamilton from Winthrop University College of Business Administration, gives examples of this narrative. She shows how out of necessity the recycling and reuse of materials was standard practice. What was born from necessity and respect for resources resulted in ingenuity that has led to innovations which minimize waste.

The article notes in particular:


“Black American frugal innovators have embraced material and product, reduced use, reuse, recycling, redesign, remanufacture, and the repair of old goods for hundreds of years. They had limited resources that they coveted and saved. They strived to save energy and their contributions created jobs.”

Today there are many examples of companies doing just this in automation, electrification, connected and shared mobility. This includes innovation in mobile charging and electric vehicle charging maintenance and repair. Out of necessity they have found a need to invent in order to ensure that no community is left behind as we hurdle into the world of new mobility. These entities are innovating in cleantech and hiring from local communities. It is increasing reliability in and engagement for all in our new transportation ecosystem. The result will be better air quality by encouraging the move from internal combustion engines to electric vehicles in all neighborhoods.

It turns out that these actions and attitudes were that of cultures and people who appreciated that there are limitations to resources and that we have to make the most of what we have.

So as a nation and citizens of the world when we honor Mother Earth this Earth Day, we must make conscious and intentional decisions about the resources available to us and how we show our respect for our planet. Let the legacy of those who have gone before us continue to drive our decision-making so that we are all #investinourplanet.


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