Brad Pitt Gives Katrina Update

Brad Pitt in New Orleans
The average electric bill for one of the energy-efficient homes built in New Orleans by Brad Pitt's Make It Right foundation is $35 a month, the actor said Thursday during an update on the project at the Clinton Global Initiative.

The cost of building the homes also is dropping. And by the time all 150 promised homes are completed, the cost will be comparable to standard buildings, Pitt said.

"I don't know how we build any other way anywhere else," he said. "We can no longer tell ourselves that implementing this technology is too complex a problem because it's just been proven on this little spot on the map."

Pitt started the foundation in 2007. The program focuses home construction in a section of New Orleans heavily damaged when Hurricane Katrina struck in August 2005. The homes are being built with features including rooftop solar panels and energy-efficient appliances to help reduce electricity consumption.

Photos: Brad Pitt
Photos: Brad Pitt in New Orleans
Photos: Brad Pitt Goes Green

The Clinton Global Initiative, an annual event started by former President Bill Clinton, brings together the public and private sector to discuss solutions to problems in four areas _ climate change, poverty, global health and education.

At an afternoon panel discussing education, Queen Rania of Jordan said it was an evergreen subject in political campaigns but one that loses priority once politicians are in office because there often isn't any immediate political gain.

"The benefits of education sometimes don't fit in with the political cycle because you reap the benefits way down the line," she said. "What we need to do is realize that sense of urgency when it comes to education, because education is a matter of life and death."

She also emphasized the importance of the quality of education, saying that while educational enrollment was high in the Middle East, there hasn't been enough focus on teaching young people the skills to get them through life.

"Take young people who are opportunity starved, and there is political conflict around them, and that makes a very dangerous social mix. As you all know, what happens in the Middle East, does not stay in the Middle East," she said. "Critical thinking, problem-solving, creativity, those kinds of skills are extremely important to empower our young people."

Among those joining the queen on the panel was U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, who referred to her own history as the first in her family to go to college in talking about the need for both government and private investment in expanding educational opportunities.

"I was the first one to go to college and it wasn't because my parents could afford it, it was because we have the Pell grant program, we have programs that help to provide assistance," Solis said. "Those programs work and it's a good investment in our young people."

Attendees at the Clinton Global Initiative are expected to commit to steps they will take to work on global problems. Those who don't follow through on their commitments won't be allowed to return to subsequent events.