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Majora Carter is one of New York City’s most well-known activists for environmental justice and economic equality. In February 2006, Carter gave an inspiring and emotionally charged eighteen minute speech on “Greening the Ghetto” at a TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) conference in Monterey, California. More specifically, this convention calls attention to the prevalent issue of environmental racism and inequality among minority communities. Not only does Carter underscore the importance of sustainable development and the imperative need for a clean green economy, but she also presents a number of feasible ways in which we can maintain economic development without causing environmental pollution or degradation. Taking everything into account, the illuminating TED Talk was certainly worth viewing seeing as Carter was able to effectively convey an empowering message across to her viewers about environmental justice with confidence, persuasion, passion, engaging content, and audience awareness.
Toward the beginning of the presentation, Carter vividly narrates her fight for environmental equality in the South Bronx, New York City. This highlights Carter’s capacity to connect with the audience by sharing her back-story and life experiences. For example, she reveals the harsh reality of growing up as an underprivileged black child in the South Bronx, and additionally talked about the loss of a loved one at one particular point in her poignant speech. Carter’s detailed disclosure about her older brother Lenny’s tragic death demonstrates her vulnerable side as well. Her vulnerability and candidness seems to capture and resonate with people in a way that mere facts and statistics never will. Carter displays a genuine level of sincerity and dynamism in her emotions as well. By opening up about her life history and experiences, Carter is better able to connect with the audience on a more personal level. Carter’s storytelling process also pulls the viewers focus into her world and establishes a context for why her narrative matters. Engaging the audience via a story enables one to see through someone else’s eyes. This type of involvement evidently appears to be the key to Carter’s persuasion.
An additional strong point that Carter exhibits is her confidence, persuasiveness, and passionate stance on the fight for environmental and economic justice. For instance, Carter appeals to the viewers by vehemently stating “help me make green the new black. Help me make sustainability sexy. Make it a part of your dinner and cocktail conversations” (Carter, 2006, min. 15: 44). In making this remark, Carter empowers individuals to take control of their own lives and urges viewers to use their own knowledge and influence to support sustainable change everywhere. Also, if viewers and listeners feel a strong sense of why environmental injustice should concern them, the more likely they are to inform and influence others about this important subject matter.
Moreover, Carter’s content rich visuals, data, and statistics support her findings and help establish her credibility in the piece. For example, Carter utilizes visual imagery to strengthen and add emphasis to her research. She illustrates how minority neighborhoods and communities of color suffer the most from flawed urban policies. Carter explains that in due course, “economic degradation begets environmental degradation, which begets social degradation” (Carter, 2006, min. 7: 05). Carter’s point is that the long-term consequences of economic, environmental, and social degradation will adversely affect susceptible communities throughout various parts of the world. This is a fundamental aspect of Carter’s presentation because it offers viewers a deeper insight into understanding that we are all held accountable for the future that we create.
Furthermore, with regard to audience awareness, Carter is highly aware and mindful of what information to present to her viewers as well as how to convey it in an effective manner throughout the entire speech. She begins by clarifying the term environmental justice for those who may not be familiar with it. According to Carter, “no community should be saddled with more environmental burdens and less environmental benefits than any other” (Carter, 2006, min. 2: 40). In other words, Carter believes that “race and class are reliable indicators as to where one might find the good stuff, like parks and trees, and where one might find the bad stuff” (Carter, 2006, min. 2: 59) such as toxic waste sites, power plants, and chemical facilities which pose detrimental health risks to minority communities. Towards the end of the speech, Carter concludes by boldly stating “please don’t waste me” (Carter, 2006, min. 17: 35). In this comment, Carter encourages the audience not let their hard-earned experience, energy, and intelligence go to waste. She points out and acknowledges the fact that although we may come from diverse backgrounds and different circumstances, “we all share one incredibly powerful thing: we have nothing to lose and everything to gain” (Carter, 2006, min. 18: 08).
The essence of Carter’s argument is that in order to create change and make a meaningful difference in the world, sometimes the very first step is finding the courage from within. All things considered, Majora Carter appears to have met her objective at the TED conference. Carter presented a profound message about the adverse effects of environmental degradation, and makes a compelling case about how a healthy and sustainable community is essentially attainable for everyone. In addition to an engaging content rich speech, several other factors that strengthened her overall presentation included her confidence, persuasiveness, passion, audience awareness, and the ability to connect with an audience on stage. For this reason, Carter’s “Greening the Ghetto” TED Talk was worth watching since she delivered an effective, coherent, and poignant presentation punctuated by moments of wit and humor.
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