Green Jobs Debate – The Costs of Going Green

MarcGuntherBobPollinGreen jobs are all the talk nowadays, which has predictably led to healthy debate.  On today’s Sea Change Radio, Co-Host Francesca Rheannon talks with GreenBiz Senior Writer Marc Gunther about his controversial article, “The Phony Green Jobs Debate.”  Bob Pollin of the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, author of a report criticized by Gunther, responds.  To end the show, Rhennon speaks with David Johnson about Transition Towns.

When Sea Change Radio — under our old name Corporate Watchdog Radio — talked with economist Bob Pollin about the report he co-authored, Green Recovery – A Program to Create Good Jobs and Start Building a Low-Carbon Economy, he said that a $100 billion green economic recovery program would create two million jobs nationwide in such industries as building retrofitting, mass transit and freight rail, smart grid, wind power, solar power and advanced biofuels. 

But environmental economics reporter Marc Gunther, formerly of FORTUNE magazine, thinks these claims may be downplaying the costs of transitioning to the green economy, especially the toll it may take on employment in conventional energy sectors. Gunther thinks the environmental movement needs to level with the public — and he’s gotten some flack from environmentalists for the recent Phony Green Jobs Debate article.

After Marc Gunther posted the article, Pollin wrote him to dispute Gunther’s claim that we can’t forecast the costs to the economy of shifting employment to green jobs. Gunther published Pollin’s comments and replied to them .

After hearing this ad from the Blue-Green Alliance on green jobs, we talk with both Marc Gunther and Bob Pollin about the costs and benefits to jobs of the transition to a green economy.

QUESTION TO LISTENERS: What most motivates you to make changes in your carbon footprint: fear of the long term consequences of climate change or economic benefits right now? Tweet us with your answer @cchange. Or leave a longer answer in our comment section.

Transition Towns: As some ponder the role of government investment in creating green jobs, others aren’t waiting for government to provide the stimulus for the transition to a low-carbon society. They are joining a grassroots movement called Transition Towns . Featured in the April 16 issue of the New York Times Sunday Magazine, Transition Towns was started in the UK four years ago by ecological designer Rob Hopkins. The Transition Towns (TT) movement isn’t about creating a more sustainable industrial, globalized society. Rather, it’s about building resilient communities in the face of the shock of declining oil supplies, climate disruption, and the unraveling of industrial society as a result.

David Johnson

TT’s goal is to put new systems in place to make local communities as self-sufficient as possible. It’s process is to marshall the collective wisdom of those communities in an on-going, democratic, self-organizing evolution. And it focuses on practical efforts that can be accomplished now, but also help set up the conditions for a more profound transformation in the future. One example is the mass planting of nut trees in the small British town of Totnes–which now is the so-called nut tree capital of the world. 

Recently, TT trainers came to Amherst, MA to put on an awareness raising workshop for people interested in making their own community a Transition Town. Sea Change Radio spoke with TT trainer David Johnson. He got involved in the TT movement in his native Britain, but has moved to Portland OR to help build the movement there.


About Bill Baue

Bill Baue is Co-Director of Sea Change Media, a non-profit that makes connections in the shift to social, environmental, and economic sustainability. He co-hosts/produces Sea Change Radio, a nationally syndicated show that podcasts globally.