With Whole Foods moving in, many of us are talking about how our neighborhood is changing. Given the big trends—persistent unemployment, hurting economy, freak weather, climate change, rising costs of food, gas, and healthcare—we can expect a lot more changes to come.
Jamaica Plain faces urgent needs for affordable housing, youth jobs, violence prevention, quality transportation and lower cost energy. Many of our challenges are rooted outside the neighborhood, but we know there is much we can do to strengthen equity and resilience at the local level.
The economic meltdown of 2008 exposed the vulnerabilities of an economy based on debt, inequality, housing speculation and predatory lending. Years later, few of the underlying conditions that caused the meltdown have been addressed. A political paralysis at the national level—the result of corporate capture of Congress—is blocking urgently needed reforms in job creation, foreclosure relief, energy policy, climate change and economic development.
At the same time, scientists report that we have fundamentally altered the climate because of the amount of carbon in the atmosphere. This will lead to short and medium term changes in weather, agriculture, energy costs, and public health with impacts already felt in our communities.
No one knows the time frame, but we can generally agree that the ecology and economy are going through deep transitions. How can we meet these urgent needs while also preparing to live in an economy based on a different model of economic growth? How do we transition to a resilient and new economy that seeks health and well-being for all people and the planet? How do we ensure a new economy involves and lifts up everyone, not just a fortunate few?
JP has residents eager to move the city toward green jobs, local economic development, reduced carbon emissions, and improved access to local food, healthy diets, public transit, libraries and other urban amenities that promote well-being.
Sometimes these groups speak different languages, reflecting the race, class and cultural divisions of our neighborhood. Are there ways that we can bridge these differences and prepare together for a new economy?
While the next 10 years are unlikely to resemble the past 10 years, it is important to remember that the future is not somewhere we are going, but something we create together.
As a neighborhood, can we come together to create a shared vision of where we want to be in the next five, 10 or 15 years?
The JP Neighborhood Development Corporation (JPNDC), the JP Forum, ESAC, Bikes Not Bombs, JP Greenhouse, Egleston Square Main Streets, Franklin Park Coalition, Cool JP and many other JP groups are together launching the Jamaica Plain New Economy Transition (www.JPtransition.org), a series of events promoting community dialogue on our future.
On Feb.15, from 6 to 8 p.m, a forum at English High School will begin a conversation about the State of Our Neighborhood. [See JP Agenda.] We hope everyone in Jamaica Plain be there to add their voices.
Director of Community Organizing, JPNDC
JP New Economy Transition