(Part 3 in a three-part series)
Concern for the environment and the current state of our economy are two major issues of the day. And a commitment to a good job can also include a commitment to the planet.
Right now, there’s a great opportunity to strengthen America’s economy with “green” jobs and simultaneously help Americans living in poverty become part of a revived middle class. According to Van Jones, President Obama’s former Green Jobs Czar (who recently visited San Quentin), we have to provide training that will turn 20th century blue-collar jobs into 21st century “green collar” jobs. “Green” jobs tend to be local, which in turn will help strengthen urban and rural communities and provide “pathways out of poverty.”
You may wonder how “going green” is incorporated into the Insight Garden Program’s (IGP) curriculum. By working in an organic flower garden, the men of IGP have become ecologically literate. They develop an awareness of their connection to, and impact upon, the world around them. They also learn about the interconnections of human and ecological systems and how the principles of the natural world, such as diversity and cooperation, transfer to all levels of human systems. Because experience working in the natural world cultivates consciousness, people can learn to respond rather than to react.
This knowledge translates into real life skills. Not only do IGP’s participants gain hands-on training in the H-Unit organic flower garden, IGP has also begun reentry training and collaborations with a variety of organizations both inside and outside the prison walls, including the Green Life Program at San Quentin (formerly Keepin’ It Real), as well as the California Reentry Program. In addition, we are working with outside service providers, such as the Contra Costa Reentry Initiative to help establish effective post-release systems that include green collar jobs.
IGP is committed to setting up a post-release program and continuum of care to help men find gardening, landscaping and green jobs when they leave prison. With the help of IGP’s dedicated staff and volunteers, we work together to learn the skills we need to become productive members of society AND responsible stewards of the environment.
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