Recent research indicates that a green economy is a strong and inclusive one that will help the shift to an economy that is fairer, more sustainable and resilient. Author Ethan Pollack of the Economic Policy Institute outlines the benefits of a green economy in his paper “Counting Up to Green.” More than 3.1 million jobs are considered “green” as of 2010 and that number is increasing faster than the overall economy. Green manufacturing jobs are accessible to the nearly 70% of Americans without a college education. States with the greatest green intensity (the number of green jobs within a particular industrial sector) have generally fared better in the last economic downturn than states with a lesser green intensity. These statistics show a bright future for green jobs as we transition to a sustainable economy, and the seeds of this transition are already planted widely throughout many sectors – ranging from renewables to public utilities to appliance manufacturing. However, as Pollack explains:
The best case for greater environmental protection and green investments isn’t just about jobs, but rather about equity and broader economic growth. The ‘dirty economy’ model relies on allowing businesses to push a portion of their costs of production onto third parties without their consent, simultaneously causing harm to people who are disproportionately impoverished and lack political power, and distorting the market by causing overproduction of pollution-intensive goods at the expense of cleaner goods.
With these words, Pollack hit the nail on the head. While jobs are certainly important, it is equity – fair, all-inclusive economic growth – that is the ultimate goal of a sustainable economy. How sustainable can an economy be if it only benefits a few? As we’re currently witnessing, not very.
A sustainable economy is not only about how many photovoltaic panels can be manufactured, or how green our infrastructure can be – it is about workers owning their place of employment through a burgeoning cooperative movement. It is about local currencies giving an economic boost to small towns across the United States. It is about having a say in the governance and policies that affect our lives every day through unrestricted public engagement. It is about restructuring the way corporations work by putting a greater emphasis on the impacts they have on their employees, the communities they operate in and the planet. It is about rethinking the models of what progress is – does a higher GDP really benefit us? Let’s open our minds to new ideas of how the economy could work for us all.
As a source of inspiration, I really like this map that was created by the New Economics Institute called the Global Transition to a New Economy. It shows many of the current initiatives that are being taken to reach the goals of a truly sustainable economy. People across the country are taking more risks and are using their creativity to spark innovative ideas that will stimulate our economy in new ways.
Now the question is, what steps will you take to contribute to this progress?