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A Case for Investing in Green Jobs

Posted: 4:40PM September 29th, 2011 | Comments

Two weeks ago at the Sundance Cinema, Sustain Dane sponsored a showing of the documentary, The Last Mountain. A 2011 Official Selection of the Sundance Film Festival, The Last Mountain is a “passionate and personal tale that honors the extraordinary power of ordinary Americans when they fight for what they believe in, [as it] shines a light on America’s energy needs and how those needs are being supplied. It is a fight for our future that affects us all.” It also details the extreme environmental (and health) costs of mountain top removal coal mining. In a state like Wisconsin that sources 60%-70% (depending on the source) of its electricity from coal, this movie should be required viewing. (Just saying.)

From watching the movie it seemed obvious to me that there is something very, very wrong with Big Coal, and yet the president of the West Virginia Coal Association claims that the coal industry is vital to protecting jobs (never mind the fact that the need for workers has been greatly reduced through mechanization since more than two and a half times as much coal can be extracted per worker per hour compared to traditional underground mines). Now, the last thing I want to see in the country is more jobs lost, especially in areas where poverty rates are already high. However, I can't help but wonder: if our jobs rely on our natural resources and we destroy our natural resources, what happens to those jobs?

So the question is, can green jobs really provide what we need to heal our economy?

Heck yeah they can!

According to the authors of the article, Top 10 Reasons Why Green Jobs Are Vital to Our Economy, the rapid growth of green jobs will boost demand in our economy by reducing unemployment, making America more competitive in the global economy, and protecting our public health—all of which will result in greater economic productivity and long-term economic prosperity. And who doesn’t want that (besides the president of West Virginia Coal Association)?

[Moment of Transparency: I’m all about infographics lately. As you might guess from the name, infographics are graphic visual representations of information, data or knowledge. Before I stumbled across the recent trend of these (thank you, Facebook friends) I didn’t know pie charts could look so…so…well, sexy. At least once a week I visit the sites Daily Infographic and GOOD, which pretty much just have the same ones, but I still go to both sites and spend way too much time looking through pages and pages of aesthetically pleasing and informative material. Then I look for places in my life where I can put the infographics to good use, which usually means they end up getting posted on Facebook. And now the Sustain Dane blog.]

In my hours and hours of searching through infographics I came across one that demonstrates the benefits of clean, green job growth as compared to traditional growth. What I really love about this infographic is the way it conveys complex information quickly and beautifully. It makes me want to look at it and learn something. What I love even more is that its information is based on rigorous analysis, not just nice ideas. (The creators of this infographic list the Brookings Institution and the Pew Charitable Trusts as their sources. Not exactly rag-tag organizations.) If we are really concerned with job growth and opportunity like we say we are, it’s time to start getting serious about investing in ‘green’ jobs.

As we work toward job creation and security, let us keep in mind the generations to come. Are we creating opportunities now that will help our communities flourish for years to come? Discuss.

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