Green Collar Jobs: Climate Change Meets Civil Rights
“People are either thinking about civil rights or they are thinking about climate change. Rarely are they thinking about both.” The two issues are inextricably linked, argued Majora Carter at a panel on “green collar jobs” at the Center for American Progress this Monday.
Carter, the Executive Director of Sustainable South Bronx, and other panelists discussed efforts in the Bronx, Oakland, CA, Chicago, and Washington D.C. to create new jobs in green industries in areas that need the most economic stimulation. Billions of investment dollars will soon flow into green technologies as more businesses work to transform the United States into a low-carbon economy. That investment has the potential to create a new “green collar” workforce that translates new energy technologies into practical commercial, industrial, and residential infrastructure.
Van Jones, President and Founder of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, described programs in Oakland that provide job training for workers to learn how to install solar paneling and how to weatherize and improve the energy efficiency of homes. These job skills create opportunities for people low income communities—and the green technologies these workers implement reduce energy costs for consumers and mitigate carbon emissions. “How can we create a linkage between the people who most need work and the work that most needs doing?” Jones asked. For him, training a green workforce is the perfect answer.
The discussion highlighted the importance of ensuring that green investments that can energize the U.S. economy do not simply benefit the middle and upper classes. Scientific and technology policy decisions must do more than dictate emissions and energy efficiency standards and open markets for Wall Street traders and solar startups. These policy decisions can connect the energy future of the United States with the cause of social justice through the creation of a new workforce of quality jobs that companies cannot outsource. Sound policy can improve the environment, spur economic growth, and lift people out of poverty on a tide of new jobs. As Carter explained, “environmental justice is civil rights in the 21st century.”
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