Not since the Great Depression has employment been the economic imperative it is today. History has lessons. Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal placed conservation as a cornerstone of economic recovery and employment. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) employed three million Americans. They planted over three billion trees. They built spectacular National Park infrastructure, as well as city and county parks in virtually every community in America. Water and soil conservation was implemented on a scale never known in history. “The CCC became one of the most popular of all the New Deal’s innovations,” according to historian David Kennedy. In concert with the CCC, new National Parks, National Wildlife Refuges and conservation lands were established at breakneck speed, all during our nation’s greatest economic crisis.
Nationally, recent studies have generally cast green jobs as a niche market. From our perspective, this is not the right positioning; it places conservation as a lesser economic goal. Boeing alone provides 80,000 direct higher paying jobs and a total of 260,000 indirect jobs. Fast food chains provide far more employment in the Puget Sound Basin than healthy natural systems by standard niche market approaches. The four most populous counties of Puget Sound have a total of 1.7 million jobs. That is the scale upon which we need to work. Understanding what portions of the state’s jobs are 1) bright green jobs; 2) green jobs; 3) environment dependent jobs; 4) green economy supporting or neutral jobs or 5) enhanced by conservation is critical.
Job creation has become the driving goal of economic policy in 2011 in Washington State and D.C. All indications are that jobs will remain a top goal for the next few years. Investment from federal to local, and economic development planning will be steered by job creation expectations. If paving wilderness is seen as creating jobs, only the courts may stand between the cement truck and conservation. Today, green jobs analysis is sorely lacking with most accepted definitions of green jobs being narrow, such as planting trees, implementing energy efficiency measures and farming organically. With this narrow focus, the opportunity to identify and quantify jobs that support real long-term investments in sustainability and climate adaptation is missed. The conservation movement lacks the data, concepts, unity and economic case to effectively utilize job arguments to support conservation. Without robust analysis and an updated tool set, economic policy will promote climate-damaging investment, depletion and destruction of natural resources placing short term job creation over long term sustainability.
Consider how we once counted IT jobs - we counted any job dependent on a computer as an “IT job”. Today, computer use is required by the majority of jobs. At Earth Economics, we believe that achieving sustainability will require the same approach. We are working to demonstrate significant arguments for investing in job creation that promotes sustainability, climate adaptation and the conservation of our increasingly scarce and threatened natural systems in Washington State. This work has national implications as well.
This new approach creates a broader, deeper definition of “green jobs.” This includes farming, industrial jobs which have shifted to green, such as recycled paper production at Grays Harbor paper, green data center production (twinned with solar and wind power), university research and applied employment, Tribal fishing jobs, real estate agents that specialize in work with land conservancies and more. In addition, traditional employment, including Boeing, is environment dependent. Shipping conveyance, provided by Puget Sound provides crucial inputs for Boeing, oil refining, paper, wheat exports and this list goes on. Every industry, and every job in Washington State is dependent on clean water. Boeing is one of the state’s largest water consumers. Whereas traditional economic analysis recognizes aluminum and the jobs provided as an input to commercial aircraft production, water and the forest system that provides it is not included as an input to commercial airline production. Jobs that are dependent upon natural systems and their continued health are ultimately conservation dependent jobs, even if they may be destructive and short-lived. This approach helps separate sustainable environment dependent jobs from unsustainable environment dependent jobs. It gives guidance for public policy to support investments that support sustainable job production and in the future, climate adaptation friendly jobs. This far more expansive vision frames an economic development vision for the 21st Century that is fully grounded in sustainability, climate adaptation, peak oil, water and conservation of natural systems.
Earth Economics will deliver this project in six distinct phases which are described HERE.
The focus of Phase I is to provide a robust survey of existing green jobs in Washington State by County. This analysis will describe an economic vision with conservation, jobs and economic prosperity closely bound together. It will detail the other five stages in approach, and, as time and funding allow, Phase 2 and Phase 3 will be developed.
On April 11, 2011, David Batker was interviewed by NPR’s Liam Moriarty for KPLU 88.5fm. Listen HERE!
By working with over 30 non-profit organizations and businesses to understand their needs, Earth Economics has produced a series of factsheets to help communicate the impact of Washington State's Departments of Fish and Wildlife, Parks, Ecology, Natural Resources, Resource Conservation Office and Conservation Commission budget on local jobs. Two sets of factsheets were developed for each county: 1) Natural Resource Jobs, showing the impact of the State natural resource budget on local jobs; and 2) Direct and indirect jobs supported by the State Recreation and Conservation Office (RCO) and Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program (WWRP) grants and by Model Toxics Control Account (MTCA) expenditures.
Demonstrating the importance of state natural resource jobs to the Washington State economy in dollar figures, these factsheets were used by Senators during the 2011 legislative session to gain support for the “Discovery Pass” $30 per vehicle fee. The Discovery Pass creates a $70 million permanent funding mechanism for Washington State parks. While other states were closing parks in 2011, every one of Washington State’s parks remained open!