I just gave my first Green Jobs workshop to my local branch of the NAACP. The workshop was held in a beautiful little church in the farm country of southern Ohio. We are on the border with West Virginia and Kentucky, the gateway to Appalachia.
This area is filled with contrasts. There are beautiful rolling hills and a nuclear power plant just outside of Charleston. There is a Dow Chemical plant just down the road. It is surrounded by corn fields. The railroad runs coal along the Ohio River and at night you can see the flaming stacks of the steel mills just across the river. The number of billboards promoting “clean coal” are only rivaled by advertisements for cancer care!
In this area we are all greatly concerned about our long term job and economic prospects. First there was the agricultural revolution, then the industrial revolution and now the environmental revolution. As a result, this area is full of industries that need to change or be replaced.
When we depend on big capital to drive our economies, lots of people can get hurt. When the profit margin gets too small for coal, Massey Energy can just pack up and go.
I am hoping that teaching the community about Green Jobs and the Green economy, with its triple bottom line of people, planet and profit, will help us to realize that we can have a say in how our local economies function. We should not wait for big capital to come or go. There is work to be done right now in every community in our nation. There is weatherization, green building construction and renovation, recycling and food production. We should be taking the time now to map our economies and make some choices about what we want. There are resources and networks available to help communities do this.
On the one hand my talk was very successful in laying out the path for getting green jobs in our community. On the other hand it was difficult to explain that the jobs are not just waiting for us. We are going to have to do some foot work, some collaboration, and advocate for what we want. My local NAACP chapter works really hard to connect people in the community with available jobs. But like a lot of community groups there are only so many active members and we’re not getting any younger. Over the last 50 years or so, people have had to work more and more hours just to maintain the same income level. We have precious little time for volunteering. Secondly, the electronic age has changed the way we socialize and has indeed broadened the very definition of socializing! The result is younger folk are just not coming to these meetings.
Every challenge is an opportunity and there are so many opportunities here! Wow! Some suggestions:
- Bring in new members by working on a timely project that involves younger working people.
- Publicize the NAACP. Getting our name out there.
- Counter mass media and filling the information gap about Green Jobs and the Green Economy.
- Instill hope and inspiring creativity by providing critical and useful information
- Do Democracy- learning and leading
Most important is regaining impact and control over our economies. We have devolved into a system where a very small percentage of the population owns a highly disproportionate amount of the assets. The Green Economy and Green Jobs have the potential to change the situation to something more sustainable and supportive to all economic groups.
Sylvia Arthur started out as an Environmental Studies major with a specialty in Economics in 1977. Since then she has played an active role in the anti nuclear movement and most recently, low income self advocacy as Chair of the Statewide Poverty Action Network in Seattle, WA. Her initial reason for moving to Ohio was to be closer to family. But now we can add that it is also an opportunity for her to fulfill a life long commitment of NOT preaching to the choir.