COVID-19 will undoubtedly reshape our world in ways we can only begin to envision, presenting new challenges — such as unprecedented unemployment — and new possibilities. We have the opportunity to help restart the economy with a post-pandemic jobs plan that puts Americans to work and addresses the most pressing social and environmental challenges of our time.
Now is the time to build the new green economy.
Doing so starts with the creation of a green workforce. Green jobs programs that offer vocational training can get people back to work while building meaningful careers that meet critical needs. And the resulting work on pressing environmental projects — such as habitat restoration, tree planting, erosion control, invasive species removal and urban greenspace improvement — would have major impacts in the effort to mitigate climate change and protect against biodiversity loss.
Plus, outdoor jobs make particular sense now, as they offer a safer workspace where workers can easily maintain distance from one another.
A green workforce is not a novel idea. From 1933 to 1942, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) successfully put 1 million men to work on environmental projects, planting more than 3 billion trees and constructing 28,000 miles of trails in natural areas nationwide — all while helping to alleviate unemployment wrought by the Great Depression.
The CCC was not without its faults. Although unemployment rates for African Americans were nearly double those of white Americans during the Great Depression, the original CCC predominantly employed young white men, exacerbating inequities that continue to the present day. A CCC reboot for the 21st century must engage the business sector in creative, green and equitable ways, and place us on the leading edge of innovation and economic vitality. I challenge the President and his administration to create a new CCC that would help lift up those in greatest need.
In the meantime, we are not helpless. During this time of uncertainty, we can find renewed unity and determination to come together to confront the challenges of social and environmental crises while cultivating ties to place, creating new opportunities and strengthening our communities. The COVID-19 pandemic has taught us that, once warned, what we do to mitigate a crisis and how quickly we do it will have a profound and lasting impact on lives and the economy. The same holds for climate change. We have been warned. And we know what we have to do to stave off mass misery on a scale not seen since the last asteroid struck.
For today, Oregonians can call their Congresspeople to thank them for their work supporting local economic recovery efforts and tell them that, moving forward, they want to see programs that invest in green infrastructure to mitigate climate change and better steward our shared resources. And we can get involved with conservation organizations — as volunteers or donors — to support green industries and products.
The coronavirus has upended life as we know it, and brought immeasurable harm to people and economies around the world. Let’s find a silver lining in this disruption with green jobs in Oregon and beyond that help heal both our climate and our communities.