Then-Senator Al Gore, writing in E‘s November/December 1991 issue on the eve of his election to the vice presidency, discussed what he called the “false trade-off” between jobs and environmental progress, a major point of contention then surrounding a number of controversies, including opposition to logging in the Pacific Northwest (remember the spotted owl?), which threatened to displace loggers.
Gore was a visionary 20 years ago, as much as he’s been in recent years in recognizing the looming specter of global warming and calling us all to duty. And with our hearing that call we’ve come full circle in proving that Al was as right then as he is now: Environmental change will not only not hurt jobs, it will create them. But for the first time, it’s not only the greens who are touting this message.
Labor unions, once distrustful of environmentalists, and of any green legislation that they saw as a threat to everything from mining to manufacturing jobs, now recognize that the clean energy sector is the very source for new, skilled jobs, and the last great hope for growing labor’s numbers and future. The two groups are building a bridge together, through the Blue Green Alliance, an organization founded by the Sierra Club and the United Steelworkers. Says Teamsters President James P. Hoffa: “We have been forced to make a false choice in the past—good jobs or a clean environment…Well, look what happened—we let the big corporations pollute and the jobs went overseas anyway. But today is a new day.” The mistrust is not entirely gone—and the struggle to unionize renewable energy jobs remains—but by forging an alliance the two groups are setting the stage for rebuilding an American workforce that benefits both people and the planet.
And time is running out. That’s the sentiment following world leaders on their way to Copenhagen this December for the 15th UN Climate Change Conference (COP15). With a pro-green Obama administration and significant public pressure, COP15 represents a major opportunity for nations to craft a successor to the Kyoto Treaty, which failed to produce any real reductions in emissions. In fact, the world doesn’t need another Kyoto, it needs a much tougher agreement—one that includes not only the U.S., but reins in the pollution of the rapidly expanding economies of China and India, too. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon put it in stark terms: “Our foot is stuck on the accelerator and we are heading toward an abyss.” The world will be watching as leading nations, we hope, establish a new course.
E Magazine has been following the efforts of the environmental movement for the past two decades, and in our next issue our independent, nonprofit publication will celebrate its 20th anniversary, at the same time that Earth Day turns 40. It is a turning point for us, and a critical one for the planet. Beginning with that issue, I”ll yield this page to E editor Brita Belli and focus more on growing the reach of the magazine, overseeing a redesign of both E and emagazine.com. Stay tuned.