TEDxVail2017 speaker spotlight: Charles Orgbon
If you go …
What: TEDxVail2017, with 18 speakers, performers, swag and Radicals, Rebels & Renegades après party.
When: 1 to 9 p.m. Friday, Jan. 6.
Where: Vilar Performing Arts Center, 68 Avondale Lane, Beaver Creek.
Cost: $100 with advanced registration online, $125 at the door, $50 watch party for final two sessions only.
BEAVER CREEK — Environmentalist Charles Orgbon, from Atlanta, was at a hotel in New York City when he heard panic in the streets. Helicopters swarmed overhead. People were funneling down to Time Square with bullhorns and signs. He turned on the news, and that’s when he first heard the news of Michael Brown’s death at the hands of police officers in Ferguson, Missouri.
Only hours before, Orgbon had met with young environmentalists of color to discuss how to use the environment as a context for improving the lives of people of color in the United States. It all came together in that moment, as Orgbon realized the interconnectedness of America’s environmental and social problems.
“When I saw young people that I work with in the Bronx creating a greener, more sustainable environment for their community, they also understand that they are taking a jab at institutional racism,” Orgbon said.
“This is the institutional racism that produces first-class jails and second-class schools. This is the same institutional racism that produces asthma rates that could have us believing that black and white children breathe different air.”
Awarded the Captain Planet Foundation Superhero for Earth award, along with other national and international environmental awards, Orgbon will focus on how the environmental movement can remain relevant for people of color and act as a vehicle for delivering positive change for the health of the planet and the social problems of its population at his TEDxVail2017 talk on Friday, Jan. 6, at the Vilar Performing Arts Center in Beaver Creek.
“If someone works in an environmental organization, I challenge them to join the effort to bring everyone to the table by shifting their institution’s way of thinking,” Orgbon said. “If one simply cares about the future of the planet, I ask them to please consider being a mentor to a young person who’s different from themselves and bring in today’s multicultural generation.”
This would tackle a problem with what Orgbon sees as a homogenized environmental movement, one where the faces advocating in Congress or pleading with the American people to act on environmental challenges are not representative of the communities most affected by environmental degradation or poor communities most often inhabited by people of color.
“If the mainstream environmental movement hopes to remain relevant to communities of color,” Orgbon said, “the movement must recognize how environmental issues disproportionately impact people of color and how these issues are linked to other concerns of justice and equality.”