brad_pitt.jpgBrad turns out to be as serious (on climate) as he is good looking. He came to the first CGI as an observer, not a speaker. But today he announced a major commitment:

Brad Pitt expanded his commitment to New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward today by announcing plans for a new community of homes in the area hardest-hit by the worst natural disaster in American history. He is partnering with Steve Bing in creating the 150 affordable and sustainable homes, which are the first effort of Pitt’s “Make it Right” project.

Pitt announced his plan at today’s meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative, where he challenged attendees to join him and Bing in rebuilding the Lower Ninth Ward. Pitt pledged to match $5 million in contributions to the project. Bing has pledged to match $5 million in contributions as well, for a total of $10,000,000 in matching funds.

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Pitt seems genuinely committed to these issues. He said, it was “nice to be in a room with people who are not still debating climate change.” He has enlisted William McDonough to make sure the housing is as green as possible:

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Make It Right is collaborating with William McDonough + Partners to develop the environmental criteria guiding the project, using Cradle to Cradle thinking to influence design and materials selections for the new homes. This philosophy, developed by William McDonough and Michael Braungart in Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things (North Point Press, 2002), was inspired by natural systems. In the natural world, the sun continually generates new growth and feeds living systems. One organism’s waste nourishes another — waste equals food. Ideally, all products could be reused as nutrients in either biological or technical systems, indefinitely recycled back into comparable products. This is the next-generation goal we are working towards using today’s products and technologies.

Brad is as quippy in person as he seems on screen. He said “maybe we could bring intelligent design to New Orleans — and I’m not talking about creationism.”

But he is also well informed and he knew that 40 percent of greenhouse gases come from buildings. Brad called Katrina a manmade disaster, not just because global warming is making storms more intense but because of the failure to design adequate levees.

He said a journalist asked him on the way into the room, “What do low income people care about green buildings?” He said they care the most. He had worked on a previous project that cut energy bills 75 percent, putting more money into the hands of the owners.

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He said that rebuilding is a “justice issue, as is climate change.” For more info on the effort — and if you’d like to donate money (which will be matched) for New Orleans sustainable housing, go here.

Yes, I know, this effort is a drop in the climate bucket, and I normally write about policy and major solutions — but with inaction in Washington likely until 2009, it is great to be around a bunch of folks who are taking some action now.

This post was created for, a project of the Center for American Progress Action Fund.