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Lynne Plambeck: the future of green jobs

Environmentally Speaking

Posted: June 3, 2009 10:07 p.m.
Updated: June 4, 2009 4:55 a.m.
The future of ‘green’ jobs

Last week I attended a conference in San Jose aimed at building workforce partnerships.  

Sponsored by the APOLLO Alliance, several labor organizations and the Employment Development Department, among other groups, joined speakers on environmental issues surrounding climate change and jobs stimulus funding — I just couldn’t resist the mix. I wondered how all these folks would react to these new ideas.

Although the ideas weren’t new for the environmental community, I was surprised and thrilled to see how the new stimulus funding was re-shaping the thinking of these generally more conservative working groups.

Presentations included not only a high road to good jobs in green industries, but also the reasons why such jobs would not only help the economy, but also help our communities as a whole.

Examples included “weatherization” stimulus funding used to create jobs and training young plumbers and electricians by re-fitting senior housing in Babylon, N.Y.

The emphasis was not only on the excellent job vocational training provided, but also on the environmental benefits of reducing the carbon footprint of these older homes, and the benefits to society of helping its senior citizens.

Another panel discussed the implementation of Los Angeles’ groundbreaking ordinance to retrofit an estimated 1,000 city buildings.

It included a speaker from the University of California, Los Angeles’ Community Scholars program that tries to meld labor and community activism with university research and city policies.

A panel discussing how labor and environmentalists are engaging in regional climate policy promoted the advantages of incorporating the new “LEEDS” building standards (which reduce energy use and ensure higher water efficiency) into new construction and why that was important to
workers as well as the community.  

Many of us have been concerned about how the billions of dollars in stimulus funding would trickle into our communities and just exactly what infrastructure it would fund.

We all hoped that it would end up in new jobs producing solar panels and wind turbines, repairing roads and rebuilding schools.

But I have to say, I had never imagined a “weatherization” program to retrofit older buildings as a means to train young workers. This is exciting.

How about “weatherizing” some of our older school buildings?

Is our city looking at stimulus money for retrofitting municipal buildings as officials are in Los Angeles?

Why is our own City Council not requiring LEEDS standards for our new commercial projects, such as the medical office buildings approved next to the hospital and the commercial buildings on Sierra Highway and Newhall Avenue?

I am starting to feel that Santa Clarita is really behind the times in the same way General Motors was in its refusal to update its car lines to cleaner, more efficient vehicles.

GM just declared bankruptcy. I can only hope that our Council’s hard-headed refusal to look at our own sustainability issues surrounding water supply and green building standards won’t lead our community down a similar path.

The overall theme of this conference was a new direction in both hope and partnerships.

It focused on providing labor with all the wonderful reasons that could and should bring us together, as communities and as a nation, in new partnerships to promote sustainability.   

If labor unions can discuss climate change and green buildings in its apprenticeship program, businesses cannot be far behind.

It’s a whole new world out there. And it is definitely getting greener.

Lynne Plambeck is president of the Santa Clarita Organization for Planning and the Environment (SCOPE) and a Santa Clarita resident. Her column reflects her own views and not necessarily those of The Signal. “Environmentally Speaking” appears Thursdays in The Signal and rotates among local environmentalists.


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