The idea of a green jobs creation program is receiving bipartisan support in the United States as policy-makers grapple with the twin spectres of skyrocketing unemployment and escalating ecological breakdown—perfect timing, as recent high school graduates pile onto the ranks of millions of Americans desperate for work in a COVID-ravaged economy.
“Across the nation, what typically comes after the pomp and circumstance for high school or college graduates—finding a job—is now a far more daunting prospect,” writes Grist. “It’s the perfect moment to create a 21st-century jobs corps, with climate starring front and centre.”
Many of the beneficial projects that could be undertaken under a green jobs program can be found at the intersection between public works and ecosystem restoration: from planting the mangrove forests that protect U.S. coastlines from storm surges, to building climate-friendly, low-carbon transit infrastructure, to reclaiming wetlands that “act as natural water quality filters”.
And the concept is not new. “Putting jobless Americans back to work with projects that need to be done was the goal of dozens of public works programs that were part of the New Deal of the 1930s,” Grist notes. (Included among those programs was the Civilian Conservation Corps, an organization whose green ideals “were marred by their racism and sexism,” the news story adds.)
Unlike many other attempts at pandemic relief, such a federal jobs program seems to be bypassing any kind of “partisan strangulation,” instead achieving wide, cross-party support—even from the likes of billionaire entrepreneur Mark Cuban, a member of Donald Trump’s Opening Our Country council. What may become a partisan sticking point is the potential price tag—but, writes Grist, “any climate jobs program worth its salt would pay for itself over the long term by reducing carbon emissions and beefing up climate-resilient infrastructure, both of which will reduce the financial damage from future climate disasters.”
While a green jobs program will not singlehandedly resurrect the American economy, it would “provide dignity and skills to millions of Americans who will otherwise languish in indefinite unemployment or join the gig economy rat race,” Grist says. “It would also get desperately needed projects off the ground for both preventing further climate change and protecting us from its effects.”