Building a Green Economy Is No Overnight Feat

To build a green business economy will take a generation  — the next 25 years, explains Bob Pollin, economics professor and founding co-director of the Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. “If we do it right, it can create ongoing job creation,” Pollin says.

Pollin, who is completing a study that will be co-published by the National Resources Defense Council and Green for All this spring about the affect green-collar jobs will have on lower-income communities, predicts there will be one million green collar jobs carried over the next two or three years.

Apollo Alliance sent a proposal to President Barack Obama outlining a $50 billion annual investment over a 10-year period that would create five million green jobs, says Ringo.  These investments would “make sure some people of color would get a piece of that pie,” Ringo says, adding that labor unions will be the nucleus of the green jobs movement.

Dispelling the notion that green-collar jobs are just for tree-huggers or college students, Pollin says the term “green jobs isn’t descriptive enough,” often leading people to believe that “it’s different than any jobs they used to have in the past.”

Green jobs focus on addressing environmental challenges such as global warming, carbon emissions, and fossil fuel usage.

“It’s not esoteric or outside the norm.  It’s regular jobs — carpenters, electricians, engineers and their supervisors,” Pollin explains. “These are jobs in every community for every type of skill level. There will be openings across the board.  The jobs are for everybody.”

Pollin explains that 25% of green jobs to be created are considered lower-wage, paying less than $16 per hour, with a lot of them in the construction and manufacturing fields.  But even if a person starts off in a low-paying job, there will be the opportunity to move up the ladder unlike other industries, Pollin says.

Even with this bit of optimism, Pollin admits that construction and manufacturing jobs haven’t always been welcoming to African Americans. “That is changing overtime but not eradicated since a lot of jobs that are in construction and manufacturing, generally are white occupied,” he says.

Regarding green-collar jobs in the African American community, Pollin says, “I think it’s been modest.  I think over the next three or four months, we’ll see it surging.  But [we’re] also battling the current economic climate and job loss.”  He advises that African American communities be poised to take advantage of these opportunities.