A long tradition of advocacy, of fighting for environmental justice: CSED’s origins are tied to a strong sense of community within the Lower 9th Ward through homeownership, families, schools, churches – and gathering together as neighborhoods to protect a way of life. For decades, that called for supporting responsible historic preservation, lobbying against environmentally-risky plans to widen the Industrial Canal, and other grassroots efforts to improve conditions in the isolated Lower 9th Ward. This independent spirit also led to creating playgrounds and community gardens, programs for crime prevention and calls to reduce blighted housing.
In the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, the community’s resolve actually strengthened. Still reeling from devastating losses as a result of flood waters, by late 2005 several Lower 9 residents were participating in a Louisiana State Energy Office-sponsored meeting to outline a sustainable recovery for their homes and businesses. Led by energy and sustainability national experts Bob Berkebile, Bill Becker and Bill Browning, the community published Sustainable Restoration for the Holy Cross Historic District & Lower 9th Ward in June 2006. This unprecedented plan laid the groundwork for rebuilding badly-damaged neighborhoods, with key recommendations on:
- Urban Design and the Built Environment
- Quality of Life
- Economic Prosperity
- Environmental Quality, Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy
With support from the Holy Cross Neighborhood Association, participants then proposed a new, community-driven organization to move forward on the Sustainable Restoration Plan through fundraising, education and advocacy. And thanks to co-founders Pam Dashiell and Charles Allen, the Lower 9th Ward Center for Sustainable Engagement and Development (CSED) was born. Original funders included Mercy Corps, Sierra Club, the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, the Tulane/Xavier Center for Bioenvironmental Research (CBR), and the Blue Moon Fund. With Pam as executive director and Kathy Muse as program coordinator, in December 2006 CSED established its first office on Dauphine Street, later moving to the back of Greater Little Zion Missionary Baptist Church at Chartres and Lizardi.
Early successes included representation on the sustainable design competition for Global Green’s Holy Cross Project, the donation and installation by Sharp Solar of 10 rooftop photovoltaic (PV) systems in the Lower 9th Ward, collaboration with Rebuilding Together and PRC’s Operation Comeback initiatives, early support for the Make It Right Project and Historic Green’s all-volunteer event each spring – plus, the donation and distribution of hundreds of bicycles, paint, CFL bulbs, trees and many building materials throughout the community. See more on CSED’s growth under Accomplishments.
Hey, we’re only just getting started!