Re-Framing Our Future with a Green Collar Economy

Greener Economy

Lydia is just a city gal hoping to make the world a greener and fairer place! Her column ‘Greener Economy’ will talk about some of the economic and political solutions that will help create a more equitable society as well as more liveable conditions for current and future generations. Stay tuned!

Climate change threatens to undo most developmental progress made thus far, increase food and water insecurity and widen the disparities between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’.

Without a doubt, more and more people have begun to acknowledge the importance of environmental conservation, but the lack of political and corporate action relative to the quick deterioration of our planet is alarming.

This lies, in large part, within the ideology behind our current economic structure, driven by greed and short-sightedness. Neoliberalism has reduced its people to mere consumers, money-generators, prioritising monetary gain with a general disregard for well being of the global population. With every new product made, companies and their factories continue to pollute the air we breathe and the food and water we consume, and governments don’t seem very keen on stopping them from pumping money into the economy.

For the survival of mankind, we need drastic change.

This column has explored the very way in which current structures often fail on environmental and humanitarian grounds. From this point we have a choice. We can choose to view these issues as an inconvenient challenge, or alternatively, as a unique opportunity to re-think our future. I propose that, to subvert current trends, a new paradigm that integrates environment and equity considerations within our economy must be established. As Van Jones writes in his book The Green Collar Economy, this will benefit not only the environment, but more importantly change the lives of those who are most in need.

This framework logically stresses that unavoidable obstacles like climate change must be addressed properly, and sooner rather than later. Unnecessary government spending – for example on public health and food and water provision – made in efforts to quick-fix the repercussions of environmental depletion will drain governments of their assets. The further we get from being able to solve the original problem, the more we will have to spend on tackling its consequences, and the harder it will become to solve the problem itself.

The first series of changes must be made by governments, who have an opportunity to make tangible commitments to this philosophy. Whilst they do acknowledge environmental issues by establishing environmental laws and protection policies, there is still not enough action. Current legislation treats conservation and economic growth as separate entities when the two must actually go hand-in-hand. Politicians cannot continue to deceive the people into thinking that economic prosperity and environmental conservation are mutually exclusive.

Effective policies must be established and sternly enforced so that corporations are obliged to take responsibility for their carbon footprint and polluting production methods. Australia’s Carbon Tax was such one example. Ideally these policies would be enforced in line with international expectations outlined in the Paris Agreement. On the flip side, funding should be provided to corporations that try to transition to environmentally friendly production methods and incentivise green growth.

There is an opportunity for all future development to occur in ways that refrain from following in the footsteps of developed nations like the United States who has built its economy on an unsustainable over-dependence on crude oil. We have the capacity to learn from and adopt successful environmental policies of countries such as Finland that not only aim to conserve its environment, but also emphasise the importance of investing in green technology.

Corporations also play a crucial role in reordering our economy and changing patterns of modern consumerism. However, as they are legally bound to prioritise profit increase for shareholders, many use unsustainable production methods that are lower in cost and create greater short-term yield. For example, power generated by coal is much cheaper than installing solar panels that will produce as much energy.

But more and more companies seem to realise that greater environmental consciousness improves their own competitiveness. Improved corporate ethics become their selling-point to prospective investors and customers. Companies must continue this change by increasing energy efficiency and working towards a complete shift to renewable energy, whilst reducing carbon footprint in production and post-production as much as possible.

Some have already started on this path and continue to announce long-term plans to invest in environmentally-friendly projects. Last year, Tesla showcased its new solar roof tile that gathers roughly the same amount of solar power as traditional solar panels. Soon to be available to the greater public, some experts say that this new technology has the power to revolutionise several industries.

Without an active civil society, government and corporate entities cannot be held accountable. As citizens, we have the right and responsibility to demand better policies from the government. As consumers, we have the right and responsibility to demand sustainably produced goods and services. At the end of the day, it is also the people that must change. Notions such as ‘one person won’t make a difference’ have the chance to be replaced by a culture that integrates sustainable living into the norm.

A Green Collar Economy is the remedy that this money-driven world is desperately in need of. A shift in focus to prioritise environmental conservation within our economy will benefit the environment.  However, this shift does not only refer to our efforts to stop polar ice caps from melting and to save our furry arctic friends, but also refers to helping those who fall victim to our insatiable consumption patterns. By re-framing our ambitions towards a more equitable society we’re giving everyone an equal chance at finding happiness in life.