Greencollar jobs: a coming boom, or myth?

April 18, 2008

An Inconvenient Screen Shot

I was in the car the other day listening to KUOW (Seattle’s NPR affiliate) and the story was about whether “greencollar” jobs are a real, potential economic boon, or just a bunch of hype.  They interviewed a guy named Todd Myers from the Washington Policy Center, a “free market think tank.”  Mr. Myers said that all of the talk about new opportunities is “almost a hundred percent political.”

It’s his opinion that we’re not creating any new jobs, we’re simply moving them from one segment of the economy to the other — old tech jobs to new tech jobs.

As I drove along (yes, alone, but at least in a Prius) I found myself shaking my head thinking that it was such a waste to be minimizing growth opportunities.  Who’s going to win from such an argument?  (Yes, I understand that some people will win, but at what cost?)

If you saw Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, perhaps you recall the same eureka moment I had realizing how big the opportunity is ahead of us, should we choose to embrace it as citizens, consumers and businesses.  It was 71 minutes into the movie (according to my DVD player) and Gore is making the point that when thinking about the climate crisis, many people move directly “from denial to despair”  without pausing to consider the business opportunities that are created if we respond in the right way.  He talks about the “false choices” many promote, claiming that we have to make a choice between the environment and the economy.  (As an aside, the screen shot above is from when when Gore explains a slide from a presentation he attended at the first Bush White House where the presumption is that we have to choose between nice, shiny gold bars and the entire planet.  It’s one of many moments in the movie where you see that Gore reaally does have a sense of humor).

As I watched that movie, it was blindingly obvious to me that great economic opportunity is in front of us.  Gore cites the examples of the markets that might be available for American made cars if our fuel economy standards weren’t the worst (by far) in the world.  As my wife and I gather resources to build a new home — one that we’re striving to be as sustainable as we can feasibly do — we see it.  We’re talking to people and companies that probably didn’t exist three years ago.  I’ve attended the Built Green show and Greenfestival here in Seattle and there sure are a lot of people who seem to be making a living at this.  Granted, they didn’t all just crawl out from under a rock — they are likely moving from other jobs.  But it sure smells like opportunity to me.

What do you think?

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