The Next 20 Years Will Be Nothing Like the Last 20 Years…
Green Fact: Wind power now employs more people than coal mining across the United States. Coal mining employment has plummeted, from 126,000 miners in 1948 to only 15,000 miners today. Much like the whaling industry, many wasteful, resource-exploiting enterprises must either transform or die.
Denial, Short-term Greed, Lack of Vision and Failure to Plan Can Obstruct Positive Change
Corporations have long threatened employees with losing their jobs if manufacturing and services have to conform to environmental standards. It is hard to get people to see through these fear-based manipulations, when companies create loyalty by giving employees benefits, but blame layoffs on the environment. In reality, environmental regulations protect the health of the very people who resent them. Over 70 percent of all cancers are induced by pollution and other factors in the environment. Besides, the same company leaders who ask for loyalty from employees to help fight pollution controls, do not hesitate to lay people off when company profits slow down, regardless of whether it has to do with the environment.
Environmentalists Planted the Seeds for Business Opportunities
David Brower’s successor as Sierra Club Executive Director, Michael McCloskey, back in 1981 wrote an article called, “Environmental Protection Is Good Business,” in the Sierra Club Bulletin. “Environmentalists have been accused of being radicals,” Michael McCloskey said. “Of course none of this is true. Environmentalists seek responsible behavior by business people, behavior that does not degrade the environment others must share, or impoverish the future. We are against the brand of progress that means that only a few gain and most lose.”
“Pollution-control programs,” Michael McCloskey continued, “Far from being a burden on the economy, have produced one of the fastest growing industries in America. There are now more than 600 companies manufacturing control equipment. Others make cooling towers, scrubbers, precipitators, catalytic converters, pyrolitic processors and mufflers. As many as a million workers may soon be employed in this work.” Michael McCloskey goes on to outline how environmental advocacy has helped to provide business opportunities in “processing recycled materials, manufacturing buses and trains for mass transit, building and selling solar collectors, rehabilitating older homes and installing insulation and energy-conserving equipment.” Remember, this was back in 1981. The opportunities are much more diverse and larger now.
Pollution Controls Save More Than They Cost
Though even in 1981, investments by business in pollution controls, often saved as much or more than they cost. “One division of Dow Chemical found that new investments in pollution control cut operating costs by the $2 million that the control equipment cost,” Michael McCloskey wrote. “Alcoa cut energy consumption in its plants by 30 percent when it introduced new technology to reduce flouride and tar emissions. The 3M Company changed its processes to reduce air and water pollution and saved $11 million in costs. The Great Lakes Paper Company found a water-pollution treatment system that reduced annual operating costs by $14 million a year.” Environmental retooling has produced savings and increased profitability for many years. Yet in the dirtiest industries, a few prominent players with the most influence, still perpetuate an outdated public perception that conservation is bad for business. On the flip side, consumers and shareholders are instigating change themselves in many cases. See these recent articles: “Home Depot Shoots For 20% Reduction,” “Home Depot Faces Shareholder Wrath Over Energy Efficiency,” and “Record Number of Shareholder Actions Target Climate Change.”
A New Brand of Leadership?
While many feel betrayed by Barrack Obama’s promises of peace and promotion of war, as well as his misguided continuation of George W. Bush’s uncontrolled spending, Obama’s leadership in developing green jobs is the best of any president ever. It is refreshing to see our national leader demonstrating that going green does not cost jobs, but creates them, does not undermine the economy, but boosts it. This is the change we need to make in our generation and the sooner the better before we destroy not only the habitat of small endangered species, but enough of their habitat to add up to the destruction of our own.
A Taste of the Future…
Many people don’t realize that the recession is really a reordering and shakedown. We are in a transition from a brick and mortar reality to an internet reality, from dirty energy sources to clean ones, from black to green, from health profit to health care and from self-denial to self-awareness. There are certainly many people and factions of government who will hold on hard to the old ways and hope that we can revitalize them, but the new ways are much more resilient, flexible, dynamic, healing and expansive, a much better recipe for long-term success, even if the transition is bumpy.
“The Earth will survive but will humans survive on the Earth?” – Philip Hyde
What do you think, will humanity survive? Please share your views in comments.