Book Review: Green Collar Jobs: Working In the New Northwest by Alan Thein Durning

 Green Collar Jobs: Working in the New Northwest


by Alan Thein Durning
Northwest Environment Watch, 1999
1402 Third Avenue, Suite 1127 Seattle, WA 98101-2118
114 pages, $12.50

Buy this book from Powell's, an independent bookstore

Green Collar Jobs tells the story of five rural communities caught between their historical dependence on logging and fishing and the region's evolving environmental goals. In this eloquent little book, Alan Durning brings to life tales of the misdirected struggle between environmentalists and chambers of commerce, as well as success stories of loggers turned protectors of forest ecosystems. Those clinging to old models of resource-based development are juxtaposed with those seeking to develop gently-extractive, value-adding sustainable livelihoods.

Durning is well aware of the digital divide that threatens with joblessness many of those dispossessed by the old extractive economy. Communities are losing traditional firms, established jobs, and neighbors. But Durning finds hope in the communities - growing resilience, the new residents and firms, the diversifying economy and population, and the active involvement of citizens.

His careful tableau blends and seeks to reconcile work and nature, conservation and tourism, consumption and sustainability - all set within the context of the temperate rain forests of the Pacific Northwest.

In the several months since its publication, the book remains a well-kept secret of our friends in the Northwest. But it deserves to be read much more widely; it applies as well to the wooded communities of the upper Midwest, the "Northeast Kingdom" of New England, Appalachia, and the sky-island forest communities of the Southwest.

Green Collar Jobs is a source of encouragement about the transformation of rural towns in the face of globalization and a quiet voice of measured optimism for a future beyond giant timber firms and "Big Box" shopping malls. And its gentle wisdom on the need for consumption sufficiency as well as resource efficiency will echo well with many.

  Reviewed by Michael E. Conroy, who works in the environment and development field at the Ford Foundation.

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