The Green Exemption


It’s hard to respond to the theme for this blog, “green”, when there are so many tragic things happening in the world. There is so much human suffering in Haiti and elsewhere that a conversation about recycling or LEED certified buildings seems a bit trite. But hey, every topic should have its day.

Recently I had fight with some old friends who live their lives “off the grid” in a small cottage warmed by a wood stove and surrounded by handmade fences and art. The fight was about whether I was living too much “in the grid” with my big city lifestyle and job that requires me to fly sometimes to places like Washington D.C., San Francisco or South Africa because that’s where AIDS is. They accused me of growing the footprint, their version of a felony violation.

I told them that I wanted a “green exemption” for social justice and human rights work. It’s hard to do my work without jumping on planes to lobby the Hill or meet with the White House. And activism uses all those leaflets. Are we supposed to show passersby a computer screen? I don’t want to think about saving the planet – only the people in it. If I can help 1000 people living with HIV/AIDS get housing and healthcare, do I really have to recycle my garbage? If we can change national healthcare policy by bringing 100 buses of advocates somewhere, are we really overtaxing the grid?

And what is this entire planet saving about anyway? Doesn’t the planet have any responsibility for its own destiny? Epidemics, earthquakes, tsunamis and other natural disasters change and reshape the earth all the time. As we are recently reminded, an earthquake can totally reduce a land mass and destroy everything in its sight requiring massive efforts that I guess mangle the footprint even further. How can we really have an impact at that scale by using fluorocarbon light bulbs? If my work helps reduce HIV incidence isn’t that green enough?

Image Credit: woodleywonderworks

About The Author

Ms. Quattrochi is the Chief Executive Officer of Bailey House, an award winning community based organization that since 1983 pioneered permanent supportive housing for persons living with HIV/AIDS. Ms. Quattrochi, an advocate committed to housing as a human right, has worked for the rights of low income men and women living with HIV/AIDS and the communities that serve them to have access to housing, healthcare and HIV prevention. She serves on numerous national and local boards and is playing a key role in the development of national AIDS policy under the Obama administration as a member of the policy consortium briefing the President and his staff on issues critical to the epidemic here and globally.

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