It’s Not the Economy; It’s the Environment!

  • Published on March 8th, 2008

354513329_911883e804.jpgAs I monitored the results of Tuesday’s primaries, mostly thanks to my Twitter friends, I was once again struck how the candidates and general population are ignoring the greatest issue facing human kind: climate change. Media outlet after media outlet proclaimed the economy as the greatest concern of voters; however, the connection to the environment seems to be lost in the hype. Not only is environmental degradation caused by our hunger for rapid, continual economic growth, but the environment also offers the solution to leading us out of recession.

Whether you like it or not, we live in a corporatocracy where decisions are made in favor of short term profits in contrast to the long term effects on our environment. When we expect that our economy will perpetually grow without considering the environmental consequences of corporate decisions, we are doomed. This is what the presidential candidates should be talking about: how can we ensure a stable economy that protects the environment. The solution is green jobs.

Both candidates (I am excluding McCain from any discussion — can he seriously think we should be in Iraq for 100 years and give nuclear power subsidies?) Obama and Clinton have promised new green collar jobs if elected. This should be more at the forefront of both of their campaigns, as I see research, careers, new technologies, etc. that will help us solve climate change issues as the WPA of our times. Let’s not build new dams, but let’s tear them down and replace them with wind and solar power plants. And I’m sorry, but if Al Gore really cared about the environment, he would run for president, where he would actually have the power to bring about the change that is needed.

Environmental regulations do not hinder economic growth; they change the nature of economic growth to a healthier alternative for the planet and its inhabitants. This should be the issue of this campaign: how are we going to use the problem of climate change to stimulate our economy? The only trade-offs are abandoning the current corporate power strangle on Washington in favor of a green economy. I have to believe we can do it, but who will lead us? You can view the candidates’ stances on various environmental issues at the Grist.

About the Author

Jennifer lives on 160 acres off-the-grid in a home built with her own two hands (and several more skilled pairs of hands) from forest fire salvaged timber. Her home is powered by a micro-hydro turbine, and she has been a vegetarian for 21 years. Jennifer graduated from Humboldt State University with a degree in art education and has been teaching art to children for over 16 years. She also spent five years teaching in a one-room schoolhouse before becoming the mother of two beautiful children. Jennifer has a Master's Degree in Early Childhood Education and is currently teaching preschool, as well as k-8 art. She enjoys writing, gardening, hiking, practicing yoga, and raising four akitas. Jennifer is the founder and editor of Eco Child's Play ( "I’ve always been concerned about the earth and our impact upon it. Now that I have children, I feel compelled to raise them with green values. From organic gardening to alternative energy, my family tries to leave a small carbon footprint." Please visit my other blog:
  • Pingback: 50 Coastal Projects Funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act | Blue Living Ideas()

  • Pingback: America Has a Spending Problem: A Review of “I.O.U.S.A.” : The Inspired Economist()

  • Pingback: (Not) Seeing Eye to Eye With Co-Workers About the Business of Earth : Sustainablog()

  • Pingback: White House Newsflash: Global Warming VERY LIKELY Caused by Human : Red, Green, and Blue()

  • Pingback: Mean Joe Green: “Putting the P in GOP” : Red, Green, and Blue()

  • Pingback: The Big Oil Company Scam : Red, Green, and Blue()

  • like the 644.000 who just gave up looking for a job, the large base of the socio-economic pyramid is rapidly eroding.

    when the rent is overdue, the parents are over wrought, when the mortgage is maddening and the kids are screaming, a windmill and a solar panel look like a fairy tale and you'd better not mention cutting back on the only thing they can afford—big macs and cheap chines junk.

    that's why we must get through the economic blanket to warm up the subject of global warming. too many are hidding their heads under the only covers they know.

    slow and easy, don't scare the natives too badly.

  • Daryl,

    What about the salmon? We are facing another fishing closure here in CA, and the dams are definitely to blame, as well as global warming. I like the idea of step dams, and it really makes sense; however, when you dam a river, there are environmental consequences in other forms than CO2. I don't know what the solution is, but hydro power is good on small scales (it's how I power my off-the-grid home from our creek).

  • Daryl

    Tear down the Dams! What a great plan! This is why government does not take most environomental rhetoric seriously. We have a very successful CO2 free renewable power source, so lets get rid of that.

    Be realistic, you should be adding capacity to the hydro system not tearing it down. IT is CO2 free, continual reliable renewable power generation and capacity wise one the best options on the table. I say step dam all existing projects and you can almost triple capacity.

    Step dams are inceasing smaller generators reusing the outflow from the previous station the re-power another turbine. Like recycling the potential energy of the water.

  • Obviously, there aren't any easy answers Adam. I guess, that if the new jobs being created were all green collar, then there wouldn't be a need for choice. That's so sad so many people have given up looking for work.

  • I am in total agreement that decisions for the country, and for the world, should be made with a long term goal in mind.

    That being said, I don't think that everyone else feels that way. I read on Yahoo news today that in the month of January alone, 644,000 Americans just gave up looking for work. If they aren't even looking to solve their immediate needs,I might be wrong, but I can't imagine that the environment is the first thing on their minds.

    This just seems staggering to me. How do we get more people to want to make a difference? Fear about the end of the world doesn't seem to work. Hope about green jobs and the economy doesn't seem to work. What other paths might we take to get more people working for the better of themselves and humanity?

    One thing those election polls don't show are unregistered voters. Data shows that voter turnout in presidential elections has been hovering in the low 50s since 1962. If only 50% care, is it enough to make a real change?

  • I think you are right Tim, the question needs to be changed (and perhaps the title of my post too!) It is not an either or choice, and it should not be presented as such.

    As far as your analogies go, as a parent, sometimes you do have to make choices in favor of one child over the other, but you hope that it all balances out and you are always looking at the long term benefits of those choices. For example, when my son needed heart surgery, choices and sacrifices were made that clearly benefited him, yet my daughter did suffer from these necessary choices in the short term. In the long term, she got a brother that is alive and healthy and will be her companion for life. As far as the economy and the environment go, I think that the choices for the economy are made for short term benefit; however, choices that support the environment reap benefits that extend beyond an individual's life span.

  • Americans will always be more worried about the economy, at least as long as the question is framed as it always has been in the National Election Survey.

    Let me elaborate with a couple of analogies:

    1. Let's say you have two children whom you love very much. Now let's suppose someone asked you to rank them in their order of importance to you. How do you answer this question?

    2. Assuming again you have two children whom you love dearly. The question this time is, are you willing to sacrifice the health, well-being, and growth of one of your children to help the health, well-being and growth of the other?

  • Tim,

    I think the coal relationship could have something to do with the lack of environmental discussion in the primaries. However, that doesn't explain the fact quoted by Jennifer that most Americans are more worried about the economy. Coal doesn't have an add campaign with the general public.

    So politicians aren't going to talk about issues that aren't on their constituents minds. They can't afford to at this point.

    I agree with David. Once the two tickets are established, there will be a bigger debate of the environment. There has to be.

    Another reason politics hasn't been discussing the environment could be that politics is so rooted in old principles that it doesn't know how to address alternative issues during a presidential election. I don't have any data on this, just a thought.

  • This is a good discussion, on many levels. Let me add to David's comment that, perhaps, another reason eviro-issues have not gotten much play has a lot to do with how active the coal industry has been in this electoral cycle. I don't have a citation handy, but I think big coal has already sponsored something like 10-12 of the televised presidential debates thus far. Is this just me being cynical or is there actually some relationship between the two.

    It will be interesting to see if a similar pattern develops in the general election.

  • Enviro-issues will get more play in the general election. They haven't so far because there has been very little difference between the candidates in their respective parties, so there's no controversy for the media to report.

    Once McCain is officially against Obama or Clinton, the differences in opinions will be brought to light. It's interesting – McCain's home state is ideal for both solar and geo-thermal power. I don't know what he's said about that.

    I don't think we're in a position to drop oil or coal yet – we simply have too high a demand for energy. But we can work to diversify the energy portfolio and put renewables on a level playing field when it comes to subsidies, liability (e.g. Price-Anderson Act for nuclear power), and tax treatment (depreciation schedules for equipment and so on). We can also invest in R&D on a much grander scale. NREL could do wonders if we infused it with REAL cash.

  • Thank you for your comments Adam. I agree that when people are losing their homes and living paycheck to paycheck, green ways may be a hard sell; however, that is why I feel we need leadership from our government on this one, so that it is not a personal choice or sacrifice for individuals. It does remind me of Maslow's hierarchy of needs, in which you can't even think about issues beyond your basic needs if those aren't being met. I don't see that the economy and the environment have to be separate issues in the political elections. I think the environment should be seen as the solution to creating new jobs, and the government should lead the way in creating and subsidizing green economic growth. More tax cuts for the rich won't do it!

  • Jennifer – I agree that green jobs are the industry of the future. But it isn't here yet. On the Treehugger and Grist green jobs board, there are maybe 400 jobs posted all over the country. Hardly an economic impact.

    I feel that green is the way of our economies future, but people feel the economic hard times now. Trying to convince people who have fallen on economic hardship to have the courage to suffer a little longer for things to get better for the future is a hard sell.

    An example of people realizing the benefit of waiting is Greensburg Kansas. The town waited to figure out how to re-build green, rather than jumping right in and rebuilding in the old non-sustainable ways. But I am not sure you can convince a population as big as the country to do that.

    When you think about all the foreclosures and people loosing their homes, the environment isn't going to be as high as say, having a home, on their political priority in the upcoming elections.

    What we can do is try to communicate with people on their values level. Maybe we can't sell "green" to them, but we sell "economics" to them through green.

  • I think that the fact that the United Steelworkers and the Sierra Club have joined up to explore the issue of green jobs proves that it can appeal to both sides and solve our current economic crisis. It kind of reminds me of the local issue where I live of out of work loggers finding other forms of employment.

  • Jennifer — I've been disappointed, also, that these issues haven't received more attention, especially in an economic downturn. Furthermore, talk about a way to energize voters of all stripes: we're not just talking about economic growth in general, but jobs that could re-employ many former manufacturing workers, and that, by and large, can't be "offshored." The concept of green collar jobs should appeal to both left and right…