The Environment and Jobs

salmon_creek.JPGWe can talk a lot about the atrocities that have been committed to our environment, from poisoning water sources with oil and chemical spills and waste dumping to the toxic exhaust that permeates our atmosphere and causes health problems such as emphysema, cancer, birth defects, to pouring literally tons of carbon in the atmosphere and accelerating the Earth's climate change processes.

We say these things must stop, and that we must conserve our environment so that we can have better health, appreciate our natural surroundings, and be more connected with our planet. We say that we must save our planet because it is the only one we have.

Unfortunately, we've been saying things like that for decades and that message isn't enough to truly make the changes we need. Certainly, because of the actions of environmental activists we progressed with conservation and clean up efforts and regulations (so much so that some claim the environment is clean now and we can stop. It isn't. We can't). Perhaps, to do build on that work, we should highlight some more of the benefits of paying more attention to our environment, specifically economic benefits.

The most obvious job creator right now is working to develop and install renewable energy projects. This creates manufacturing, construction, installation, engineering, research, development, and sales jobs right away. In New York State we have had some unfortunate experiences with a few companies that could provide renewable energy jobs, but we've also had some excellent experiences as well. There are a host of competing solar companies right now, with homeowner tax incentives to help defray the cost of going solar, and more people are getting quotes and buying into this industry, which will only make it more lucrative and affordable. Similarly, there are opportunities for wind generators to be constructed, and good incentive for more areas to invest there as well. A simple job search shows the many opportunities available for jobs in renewable energy.

Renewable energy does not just create jobs; it creates an opportunity for consumers to lower their energy costs in the long run. This, in turn, allows for money to be spent elsewhere in the economy and stimulates growth. It also cuts down on carbon emissions, which can help to slow the rate of climate change and thus the costly effects that climate change is already having on us. Cutting down fossil fuel burning emissions also helps to have cleaner air, water, and soil, and decreases the health effects of pollution, and so cuts health care costs.

The ever present and looming argument against investing in renewable energy has always been the cost, and too few have been supportive of the federal government subsidizing renewables in order to get them implemented quicker. There has been arguments that the government would then be picking winners and losers in the energy market. Truly though, the government has been doing that for decades by subsidizing fossil fuel industries and perpetuating a need for fossil fuel development while stifling development of renewable industries. This could, and should, change.

While addressing climate change we can talk about ways to further mitigate the effects of the greater amount of carbon in the atmosphere. We can encourage planting and nurturing of broad leaf trees. Trees are the greatest consumer of atmospheric carbon on the planet, and we have taken this away with deforestation. There can be great incentives for landowners from urban to rural to plant on their property, with the effect of beautifying their investment, making it worth more, while contributing to the fight against climate change. For some areas there may even be companies put to work for reforestation.

park.JPGEcotourism should also be encouraged as much as possible as it creates jobs in outdoors industry manufacture (such as bicycles, tents, hiking equipment, etc...) as well as jobs for park and recreation areas. Central New York alone can be a great area to explore and escape to. Encouraging birding, sport fishing, hiking, bicycling, camping, or just having an afternoon at the park can encourage jobs from guides to area maintenance to concessions and equipment sales and rentals. Aside from creating employment, encouraging outdoor hobbies also reduces health care costs by encouraging active and healthy lifestyles.

Agriculture benefits immensely from more environmentally sustainable approaches to farming. Farmers can reduce their costs of fertilizers, use irrigation more wisely, and get healthier yields to start with. Encouraging farms to produce more diverse foods benefits the farm from selling more produce to local consumers, but also allows the demand of local consumers to be satisfied. The diverse crops also mitigate the carbon in the atmosphere, and so can contribute to decreasing the rate of climate change. If the farms are selling more locally, then transportation costs can be reduced and carbon emissions due to transportation can be reduced. We can encourage more farms to cultivate beehives and ensure better pollination and better produce yields. If farms also set some land aside for solar or wind projects, they may find a new revenue stream to help their operations. Add to that planting areas of forest to maintain, and give tax credits or grants for doing so, they reduce their overall operational costs.

All of this benefits everyone in our society eventually in a very real economic way, and rather than a trickle down effect, it has more to do with building higher from a stronger foundation. By encouraging environmentally friendly and sustainable industry, we not only reduce many ill health and climate effects, we reduce several costs related to healthcare and energy production, and create sustainable jobs. That is a very real and positive approach for America. That's what we should be voting for.

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