NRDC's New Videos On Clean Energy Reveal the Faces and Potential of the Green Economy

You can see the videos this review is about at CleanEnergyStories.org

All too often, discussions about so-called green job creation are placed in the future tense -- something we predict or hope will happen, but is still considered to be in the realm of the hypothetical. Many people don't know anyone who has a green job, are unable to imagine what one would look like, or who would be creating them. This keeps the concept of green jobs fuzzy and abstract for too many -- not the kind of thing you'd base an economic recovery on. The opponents of clean energy have seized on this, claiming that the whole concept of green jobs is a fantasy that could cost jobs in the established fossil fuel industry that we see all around us.

But for many lucky Americans, green jobs are not wishful thinking -- they are a welcome reality RIGHT NOW, giving laid-off workers well-paying jobs so they can keep their homes, revitalize their struggling communities, and do something positive for the entire country by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and decreasing our dependence on foreign oil. NRDC's new videos, "Clean Energy Jobs For A Strong USA" and "Clean Energy Patriots", introduce you to these green collar workers and let them tell their stories in their own words. At the same time, they lay out a roadmap for how America, with its traditions of innovation and tackling the biggest challenges, can put generations of Americans to work by creating and maintaining a clean, efficient, sustainable energy infrastructure -- a project as needed, ambitious and economy-stimulating as the construction of America's interstate highway system that began over 50 years ago.

"Clean Energy Jobs For A Strong USA" does an excellent job of demystifying the concept of a green collar worker. They aren't farmers digging in organic compost or scientists in spacesuits -- they're welders, steelworkers, electricians and autoworkers, many of whom saw once-reliable Midwest factory jobs evaporate as the Great Recession ravaged the country. Despite no previous experience in clean tech, these workers found that their skills were easily transferable to clean tech industries. After all, windmills and solar panels are simply generators that need to be manufactured, installed, maintained and connected to the energy grid by skilled workers, and a factory that makes energy-efficient windows is still a window factory.

One thing that's notable about the workers interviewed in "Clean Energy Jobs For A Strong USA" is their pragmatism and noted lack of idealism. This is not to say that they aren't optimistic -- they want the rest of the nation to have the same kind of second chance that the clean tech industry has brought to their families and communities. But they don't want that because they are true believers in something unseen -- they want it because they've experienced it firsthand and live it every day as they work at their clean tech job and return to a home they can now afford to own. One could say that wanting to leave a better planet for your children than the one you were given is idealistic, but if so, it's an idealism that every person on the planet should have.

At the same time, the executives and spokespeople for the clean tech companies hiring these workers are simply looking at the reality of where the market is heading, where a once-exotic CFL is now simply a lightbulb and "alternative" energy will soon be the norm. Blake Jones, the CEO of Namaste Solar, reveals that he used to work for Halliburton until he understood the consequences of being dependant on oil from unfriendly or unstable nations. Chuck Swoboda, CEO of LED manufacturer CREE Inc., used to work for Ford until he realized that so much energy was being spent protecting the SUV business Ford had that they were failing to make the cars that would drive profits in the future. The two things corporations prize the most are profits and predictability -- if you don't know what the future of your industry holds, it's risky to try to profit from it. Clean tech companies know that clean energy makes profits, but without clean energy legislation that allows them to be competitive with markets in other countries that enjoy government support, future profits, venture capital, entrepreneurs and the innovation they breed, those profits will be made by companies overseas.

In "Clean Energy Patriots", we learn the multiple ways that clean tech strengthens the nation and its security. To start, service in America's highly mechanized, technologically advanced military turns out to be excellent training for jobs in the clean tech industry, providing great jobs for returning veterans eager to start working and put down roots. Soldiers building bases in Iraq can build solar farms in Nevada, and a technician who worked on submarine electronics can troubleshoot the electronics of a smart power grid. Many of the men and women in the video served in Iraq, where they experienced the consequences of our dependence on foreign oil firsthand and how American oil dollars fund those fighting against us. By working in clean tech, these former soldiers are able to continue serving their country by making America energy independent -- no bullets or overseas deployments required.

"Clean Energy Jobs For A Strong USA" and "Clean Energy Patriots" are videos you should dare elected officials and green job skeptics to watch. Even if you ignore the reality of climate change, the benefits of clean energy to America's economy and national security are overwhelming, and the honesty and excitement of the videos' participants hits you in a way that actors or the most polished PR firms couldn't match. For those who can't imagine a thriving economy based on clean energy, efficiency and energy independence, these videos provide a glimpse into a safer, more sustainable future for America. Or, more accurately, they let you spend time with the men and women who are already living there and want the rest of the nation to join them.

 

Cold Times in New York Town

The coldest, most bitter part of winter is upon us.  Even those of us with a warm home and a proper coat have good reason to fear that truly awful type of wind, the kind that cuts through the skin and chills to the bone. And, for those among us without, this is the time of year when life becomes a struggle for very survival.

With the holidays past, it can be tempting to indulge in a little selfishness, putting all that thankfulness and goodwill towards others on the backburner.  When some unsold clothes that Walmart and H&M put in garbage bags outside their stores were found to have been slashed over the last few weeks, rendering them unwearable, it was probably not an act of malice against people who have been left out in the cold, but it certainly betrayed a lack of compassion.  No one should be forced to rely on digging through the trash for clothing, but, until we create a sufficient social safety net, it would be nice to think that we would all try at a minimum—a very minimal minimum—not to make life even more difficult for people trying to scrape by.

The economic collapse is forcing us to confront the degree to which our fates are inextricably linked.  And, while there is good reason to believe that many Americans have been reminded that we’re all in it together, all it takes is one story like this to see that, if we intend to be our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers, we have an awfully long way to go.

Read more at The Opportunity Agenda website.

Spotlight on Community Voices Heard and the Economic Recovery

The economic stimulus package has tackled some of the most pressing job-related issues facing our communities.  However, with national unemployment at over 10% for the first time since the early 1980s, we have to make sure recovery monies are spent in communities who need help the most. We have a better chance of achieving success in these areas if we come together to ensure that our most vulnerable communities, including communities of color, immigrants, and the poor, can participate in and contribute to our economic growth.

Over the next few months, The Opportunity Agenda will be highlighting the progress that a number of community groups have had in dealing with the economic recovery. Specifically, we will be highlighting the successes and challenges that these groups have had in accessing stimulus funds, how those funds have been used to increase job opportunities and ensure economic security, and what the economic recovery package has meant for poor communities and communities of color.

As an organization working to ensure equal opportunity in the economic recovery, we have begun interviewing local and state-level groups to gain a better understanding of how our country is faring during this critical period. Today’s post centers on the our interview with Sondra Youdelman and Henry Serrano, focusing on their work with Community Voices Heard (CVH), a membership organization working to build power for low-income families in the state of New York. Sondra is the Executive Director of CVH, and Henry is their Senior Organizer/Voter Engagement Project Coordinator.

During these trying economic times, CVH has been lucky enough to achieve success by taking advantage of stimulus funding opportunities and grassroots activism. Recently, CVH won $25 million in new resources for subsidized employment, partly through regular Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) contingency money. In addition, CVH has been extremely proactive in assuring proper oversight and monitoring of public housing capital funds, specifically in the enforcement of Section 3 provisions of the 1968 Housing and Urban Development Act. The Opportunity Agenda interviewed Sondra and Henry together on October 21, 2009. Here are some portions of that interview:

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Weekly Audit: EFCA Vital for Recovery

by Zach Carter, Media Consortium MediaWire Blogger  

It's official: The U.S. economy has been in a recession for a year and a half and many of the economic troubles worrying progressives in 2007 have yet to be addressed. While the Obama administration has taken steps to relieve some problems, a series of counterproductive bailouts, woefully inadequate labor laws and rampant inequality are still in urgent need of attention.  

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Obama's Project: Making Thin Ice Safe

Those with an investment position betting on the Dow Jones Industrial Average plummeting to say 6,500 (it's at 8,131 now), should read Alexander Cockburn's piece in CounterPunch and be happy. Not the rest of us.

Consider the recovery project facing Obama in saving the world economy and the words gargantuan and humongous come to mind, analogous to constructing a snow fortress on thin ice on a central Wisconsin lake during the early Autumn. [Lots of unknowns and ambiguity; we don't know what to do, why and whether it will work.]

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