Tucson is ideal locale for a ‘Green New Deal’

posted Thursday, November 6, 2008        

Tucson is ideal locale for a ‘Green New Deal’
By David Schaller, published November 6, 2008
Tucson has not been immune to the great economic turmoil of the past year. In recent weeks, the crisis hit home as retail and home sales plunged, financial institutions were shaken, budgets cut and jobs lost.
The first thing to get thrown overboard in rough economic times – often even in good economic times – is the environment. Not so fast this time, many are saying.
Syndicated columnist Thomas Friedman and billionaire George Soros have recently joined a growing chorus calling for us to turn today’s grim conditions into a betterment opportunity through an urgent move to a new, green energy economy.
A “Green New Deal” in Tucson would capture local wealth, create jobs that cannot be outsourced, and address both climate uncertainties and declining oil reserves that lurk in the shadows and grow more apparent every day.
Here’s why we won’t be returning to business-as-usual policies and practices anytime soon and why the environment this time will be the asset it should have been all along.
The rapid evaporation of paper wealth and credit over the past months will not reappear. The mirage of derivative and housing-bubble wealth cannot be regained as if it was a dropped wallet on the street.
The downsizing under way will, for a decade or more, check further investment in capital-intensive, speculative, non-sustainable enterprises – everything from $10 billion nuclear plants to energy-inefficient cars and houses that no one wants to buy anymore.
Many forecast that there could be more than 10 million unemployed Americans by the first quarter of 2009. Government will likely respond with a WPA-type jobs program to get people back to work.
The question to address now is what kind of jobs we want to create. Just north of us in Colorado, national and international industry giants are creating more than 2,400 new high-skill jobs based solely around wind-energy manufacturing.
We can do the same here, quickly, with solar energy as our drawing card.
Let’s tell Washington that we want our economic-recovery program to be a sustainability jobs program and begin now to identify the crucial infrastructure needs that could easily be a part of such a future.
A skilled Tucson craftsman won’t likely object to getting paid a living wage for building energy-efficient homes, water-harvesting systems, modern transit nodes, electric vehicle recharging stations or solar arrays.
A local Realtor won’t mind selling an energy-efficient home, and our banks won’t mind lending money to qualified buyers whose houses are safer to finance because they have lower utility bills.
If we do this right, we can draw upon local wealth and keep it local, create thousands of green-collar jobs and do well by our environment. We will see our local ecological assets providing us the way out of this mess rather than being the convenient scapegoat that they often are.
An economic-recovery strategy that aims to create millions of jobs via a Green New Deal will have mutually reinforcing benefits of energy security, community wealth generation and resilience.
We no longer have to settle for a solution for some and hope for a trickle-down effect for the rest. The new, green-energy economy is truly an economy that lifts all the proverbial boats, even in the desert.
Write to the David Schaller at david.schaller@tucsonaz.gov.

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