Signs of Life :: Green Economy

Green Jobs Kindle Economic Hopes
Jobs like the ones created by New York’s Buffalo Reuse, which specializes in building deconstruction and salvage as an alternative to demolition, can mean a pathway out of poverty and an answer to the Buffalo school system’s high dropout rate. The enterprise uses its projects for apprenticeships and training for both adults and at-risk youth. Photo by Caesandra Seawell
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Although news about the U.S. economy has been sobering of late, there is one bright sector—an emerging “green jobs” market is on the horizon. Gatherings in Memphis and Pittsburgh, along with new green-labor alliances, show that the grassroots green jobs movement is rapidly gaining momentum.

The organization Green for All, which unites green jobs advocates from disadvantaged communities around the country, drew 1,000 people to a conference in Memphis on the 40th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination. Under the name “The Dream Reborn,” the conference called for $1 billion by 2012 to create “green pathways out of poverty” for 250,000 Americans by greatly expanding federal government and private sector commitments to green jobs.

United Steelworkers and the Sierra Club have created a Blue-Green Alliance whose recent “Green Jobs, Good Jobs” conference in Pittsburgh also drew nearly 1,000 participants to demand public policies in support of green jobs.

The new climate protection campaign 1Sky is also calling for 5 million new jobs as part of a national mobilization for climate solutions.

Such grassroots energy has sparked state and federal action on green jobs. Washington state recently adopted the “Climate Action and Green Jobs” act, which funds colleges and technical programs that train workers for the jobs that will be required to reduce greenhouse gases. The act sets a goal of adding 25,000 green-collar jobs by 2050, and it makes Washington the fourth state—along with California, New Jersey, and Hawaii—to pass comprehensive binding limits on greenhouse gases.

At the federal level, tax incentives for clean energy and green jobs, which failed to make it beyond the early versions of the federal economic stimulus bill, are being considered for a second stimulus package.

And although the Bush administration has fought other attempts to address global warming, President Bush has gotten behind green jobs. At the end of 2007, Bush signed the Green Jobs Act, which provides $125 million for workforce training programs that target veterans, displaced workers, at-risk youth, and individual families who fall below 200 percent of the federal poverty line.

Meanwhile, candidates on all sides of the presidential race are calling for green economic investments. Senator McCain, for example, has pledged to create “profit-making [green] business” and “stimulate green technologies.”

Proponents believe green jobs will be a win-win on a big scale. A recent study by the Blue-Green Alliance shows that renewable energy investments could generate more than 820,000 new jobs across the U.S.

“The … green economy can generate a lot of good jobs at a far greater scale than a pollution-based economy,” says Jason Walsh of Green for All.

— Jeremy Brecher, Tim Costello, and Brendan Smith are co-authors of the book Globalization from Below: The Power of Solidarity.



Photo by Sarah van Gelder
Photo by Sarah van Gelder

Green Workers Cooperative

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Gloria Walker is one of the worker-owners of the ReBuilders Source cooperaitve, which opened its doors in April 2008. The South Bronx co-op salvages and sells building materials otherwise destined for the dump. Green Workers Cooperative, which helped launch ReBuilders Source, aims to take the green-collar jobs movement to the next step by promoting worker ownership.



Four countries have pledged to go carbon neutral

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Norway, Iceland, New Zealand and Costa Rica recently signed on to the UN Environment Programme’s Carbon Neutral Network.

Iceland has made the greatest actual strides toward this goal, with 99 percent of its residential homes heated by geothermal and hydropower. Four cities—Arendal, Norway; Rizhao, China; Vancouver, Canada; and Vaxjo, Sweden—also joined the UN pledge.

More Americans are leaving their cars at home.

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The U.S. Federal Highway Administration reports that in 2007, Americans cut back on driving for the first time in two decades. Faced with soaring gasoline prices, many have chosen more fuel-efficient transportation options, like the bus. Americans rode public transit 10.3 billion times in 2007, the highest transit use in 50 years, according to American Public Transit Association.



Palaniappan Chidambaram

“When millions of people are going hungry, it's a crime against humanity that food should be diverted to biofuels.”

Palaniappan Chidambram, Indian Finance Minister, commenting on food prices, which have jumped 83 percent in the past three years.


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