The Green Collar Economy: How One Solution Can Fix Our Two Biggest Problems

The Green Collar Economy by Van Jones is an interesting look at the current state of the environmental movement and the economy. It is written from a progressive viewpoint, and proposes some serious actions on the part of our government and individuals which, if acted upon, could solve two of our biggest problems.

The book includes a short history of the environmental movement, starting with early conservationists and preservationists like Gifford Pinchot and John Muir, through a regulatory phase spurred on by Rachel Carlson, author of Silent Spring, and into a newly emerging phase, which he calls an “Investment Agenda”.

During the new phase of the environmental movement, Jones says we need to meld equal protection, equal opportunity, and reverence for all creation into a new way of living, working and engaging with one another. Following these principles, with the government as a partner in removing barriers to green solutions, will put us on a road to both a more just, better world, and a better, more sustainable economy.

The book proposes a five-way partnership, a Green Growth Alliance between organized labor, social justice activists, environmentalists, students and faith-based organizations. Jones draws parallels with the civil rights movement and points out that we did not see Martin Luther King and other leaders marching out of shopping centers, libraries or high school gymnasiums. They marched out of churches. He suggests that having God on the side of the environment would add great power to the growing green collar economy.

One of the key points to this book is that many of the green collar jobs of the future are the same jobs we have now. Welders will fuse metal to create windmills rather than widgets; mechanics will work on electric motors alongside combustion engines; engineers will design wave powered generators instead of nuclear power plants. While some will require retraining or specialization, many workers can be assimilated directly into the green economy. That is a ray of hope in this economic environment.

The book closes with a focused set of recommendations for our political leaders, national and local. Let’s hope they take up the cause and go for the green!


Department Of The Environment

Department Of The Environment-In One Ear…Out the Other.

Back in January, posted a brief suggestion that there should be a cabinet level department of the environment. Our friends over at In One Ear…Out the Other expanded on the thought, noting that:

“One of the reasons why we have such haphazard and uninformed debates in this country about environmental issues (there are some ridiculous global warming, clean coal and green energy myths flying around) and why the environment continued to be such a low priority for so many years is that we have no structured governmental method of tackling environmental issues.”

Both posts make a great point. If we do not have a cohesive, singular focus on the environment, we will never act upon environmental problems in a coherent, systematic manner. If, for example, a developer wants to fill a wetland in Ohio, they need to get a permit from the Ohio EPA, and the U.S. Army. Each agency has different rules, different jurisdiction, and ultimately, different standards governing whether permits can be granted, and under what conditions.

At the federal level, as Marc Hudson points out, the Department of Interior is populated with agencies with divergent goals. The National Park Service mission is “to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.” We all know that National Parks are special places where nature can proceede unimpeded by man’s dominance. There are generally not timber harvests, extensive mining, or major extractive activities in National Parks.

Meanwhile, the Bureau of Land Management, also within the Department of Interior, is responsible for carrying out a variety of programs for the management and conservation of resources on 258 million surface acres, 700 million acres of subsurface minerals, 57 million acres of commercial forests and woodlands, more than 18,000 grazing permits and leases and nearly 13 million authorized livestock animal unit months on 160 million acres of public rangeland, 117,000 miles of fisheries habitat, as well as a plethora of other lands and resources. While the mission of BLM is managing and conserving, the emphasis appears to be on managing for revenue production. In 2007 alone, BLM collected $4.5 billion in mineral royalties, rents and other payments. Compared to the National Parks, BLM is much more of a land management agency, rather than a conservation or environmental agency.

A third agency, the U.S. Forest Service, is housed within the Department of Agriculture. The Forest Service’s mission is more straightforward: to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the Nation’s forests and grasslands. The National Forests are managed for timber production. BLM, over at the department of Interior, also manages forests. Why two agencies?

These small examples of overlap are indicative of a bigger problem. As Treehugger and Marc Hudson both point out, there is no cohesion. We have a warped system that is not set up to meet environmental goals. Our current agency configuration is remnant of a past when we as a people were not thinking in terms of ecology and protecting the environment. This country has come along way since the Clean Water Act, NEPA, and the beginnings of the environmental movement.

Our issue is now mainstream. This is not a side issue. A clean, healthy environment is not an extra. A clean, healthy environment is essential. If we are to have a healthy, vibrant human community, and a healthy, vibrant economy, we need a healthy, vibrant natural environment. The only way to do this is to align our governmental structure with this reality. “We the people” already see it this way. Our government needs to be responsive to reality and form a Department of the Environment or Department of the Ecosystem. Then, it needs to take the true conservation and environmental agencies and place them within that department.

Doing so would lead to clarity for the employees of the agencies, increased efficiency, less overlapping jurisdiction, decreased cost, and perhaps a simplified regulatory structure for the regulated community as well.

Write or call your representatives and urge them to draft and sponsor such legislation. Don’t know who to contact? Go to this web site to find out.


I’m Not A Commie!

I’m Not A Commie!: “As a matter of Justice, if someone were take a biological weapon and empty the contents in a public reservoir maintained for a city’s public drinking water, would you consider this mass murderer to be a terrorist?”

I would say “terrorist”. Even if it is a corporation polluting our water for profit. However, there are many who believe that environmental regulations are somehow anti-capitalist and hence somehow wrong. And of course, if it were 1950, we might just be called “commies” for suggesting such a thing.

Well, it ain’t 1950, but I do hear the term “commie” thrown around frequently these days. Times just don’t change for some people, including those of us who only lived through the last part of the cold war. Marc Hudson does a good job of debunking this anachronistic, unenlightened, red-baiting point of view in this post at In One Ear and Out the Other.

What do you think?


Ecological Stimulus Package: TreeHugger

Ecological Stimulus Package: Investing In Natural Capital : TreeHugger: “We need to be investing, much more seriously, in our natural capital. Green energy sources, green jobs, and greener consumption habits are a terrific start towards positive environmental change. Interventions and actions that reduce environmental stresses are good for our ecosystems.”

Check out this Treehugger post. It makes a great distinction between environment and ecology that we all ought to bear in mind. The post, from the Earthwatch Institute, suggests that we need to look more holistically at not just the outside environment, but at the ecosystem, which is an inclusive term that encompasses the various parts of the environment, but also the systemic interrelationships, and ultimately, us.

In order to really solve our planet’s problems, we need to think in this way. Investing in what Earthwatch calls our natural capital is not an extra or option. Such investment is necessary if we expect future generations to share in the tremendous wonders that our planet has to offer.

What can you do to help. Invest in a green company? Contact your congress people? Tell your friends? Drive less? Eat more locally?

Think about it.