I’m in Pittsburgh, PA this week for Good Jobs, Green Jobs: A National Green Jobs Conference. Although we are only half way through the event, I have a few insights to share tonight.
As the conference started this morning, it was immediately clear that this gathering was a bit different from most. The conference has been coordinated by Blue Green Alliance, a strategic partnership between the United Steelworkers and the Sierra Club. Not an alliance I would have imagined! Would you?
The groups that came together to convene this meeting include a number of other unions, environmental advocacy groups, businesses, foundations, academic institutions, selected cities and states. As noted by a number of speakers, at first glance these groups might not seem to have much in common…except for one thing. The environment and the need to find ways to reduce greenhouse gases.
I must say it was quite an experience to see the hear the Executive Director of the Sierra Club at the beginning of the day and the Assistant to the International President of the United Steelworkers at the end of the day. Turns out the United Steelworkers have been actively advocating on environmental issues for several decades, often taking a position against that of their employers. Each issue they take up aligns with their goal to improve the safety and well being of their members. In fact, they identified global warning as a threat to the economy and their workers in 1990, long before most people were even aware of the issue.
As Charlotte Brody of Commonweal began introducing Katrina Landis the COO of BP Alternative Energy, she noted that when you are comfortable with all the people at a collaborative table, your team is not likely to make much progress. There’s not enough differences to reach forward to find new common ground. The value of the team that has come together to talk about good, well-paying, stable green jobs is likely to succeed for the very fact that they do come to the table from such diverse positions.
R.T. Rybak, Mayor of Minneapolis, MN, shared something else that has stuck with me all day. He said that when he speaks to adult audiences, they see jobs, climate change, and the Iraq war as three distinct issues. When he speaks to young people they see all three of these topics as part of the same issue. We must take a more holistic view of the situation to see that our use of energy is harming the environment and causing us to be at war. Furthermore, if we keep going at the rate we are, we are going to run out of fuel which is not going to do much for our overall economy or lifestyle.
The key to understanding the green jobs situation is to see the big picture. One group of people cannot come together to solve one element of this problem. We must all come together to find a solution that takes all of these issues into account. The speakers are making quite a case that the green economy is a big part of that solution. I’ll share more of my insights from the conference next week.
For now, I’m signing off. There’s another full day of presenters tomorrow.