The Green Economy: Win-Win Rather Than Either/Or


In uncertain times we tend to be more conservative, harking back to earlier recessions for tried and true remedies, or speaking in terms of limitation and tightening our belts. While these approaches may be valuable to our country right now, it's nice to know that sometimes the government need not make tough choices between priorities like improving the economy and protecting the environment.


Professor Robert Pollin, who presented his plan to create 2.9 million jobs before the House Education and Labor Committee last week, advocates for an investment in green jobs that will stimulate the economy in the short term while laying infrastructure for greater energy efficiency in the long term. Specifically, a program to retrofit public buildings with energy efficient technology will help out the construction industry, which has been hit hard by the recession.


Civilian Conservation Corps members engaged in
tree preservation work

Sugar Loaf Road, 1934 -- from the NPS collection

Author and activist Van Jones, whose best-selling book The Green-Collar Economy proposes green solutions for our country's economic problems, is also the president and founder of Green For All an "organization dedicated to building an inclusive green economy strong enough to lift people out of poverty." Jones sees that the development of green jobs--and job training for those positions--will increase opportunities for Americans, especially those in vulnerable communities, while reducing carbon emissions from the "current pollution-based economy."


This sounds great, doesn't it: a win-win situation as a result of forward-thinking individuals and new technology? But is the green economy an idea whose time has come, in the context of our dark-hued economic climate? Perhaps we can look backwards to an example of a program designed to address social issues like unemployment while benefiting the environment. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was established in 1933 as part of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's emergency response to the faltering economy. Read the US Forest Service's account of this "massive forest conservation program aided fire fighting and observation, opened large areas of forests through needed trail and road construction, and provided administrative and recreational facilities on forest lands." The CCC employed 3 million men over nine years while putting into practice a new focus on environmental conservation.


While only one candidate can win the election, let's hope that either-or thinking will not dominate the new administration. Check out these tools for action from Green For All for ideas on what you can do right now to bring us closer to a green collar economy.

Tags: Economy, Green jobs, History

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