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There’s benefits to going green

Commentary

Let us go through a journey from the past to the present, and then to the future.

Remember the booming economy due to steel production? While foreign countries needed to rebuild after World War II, we grew rapidly, such as the demand for new cars.

We produced more than half of the world’s steel. Due to foreign competition, efficient technologies, and recycled scrap being used to create steel, we lost that advantage. We shifted away from the manufacturing of goods altogether, to providing services such as banking and media. In 1997, Bethlehem Steel fell out of the Dow; Walmart, Hewlett-Packard and Travelers Insurance were added in.

In our world today, we have a “race with the machines,” as they can be either a substitute or a complement to human labor. Technology does make humans more productive and can also help open avenues to new kinds of work. It has increased standards of living, we have better medical care, better access to information and education, and better ways to communicate and travel than the richest people, in the not-very-distant past. As wonderful as the gains of technology are, they are occurring against rising inequality, a shrinking middle class, and difficulties in finding employment.

From the 1940s to the 1970s, incomes at all levels grew at approximately the same rate in the United States. However, since then, the wealthiest Americans have seen significant gains in their income and share of wealth, whereas the rest of the income distribution has seen much more modest gains.

Automation is the reason; it has both created and taken away jobs, there are both winners and losers.Workers in Silicon Valley, as well as those with backgrounds in statistics and economics, are thriving in the current economy. On the lower side of the skill spectrum, the demand for jobs has fallen drastically or even disappeared.

Middle-skill jobs have been disappearing as well, replaced by lower-skilled jobs. High-skill occupations have, for the most part, been protected because these jobs require more training and more complex skills. However, we simply cannot all be doctors, programmers, and engineers.

And to boot, as America’s middle class has shrunk, we have witnessed an unfortunate opioid epidemic which has ravaged the country. As Voltaire, the famed historian and philosopher, once said, “Work saves us from three great evils: boredom, vice, and need.”

How about finding solutions to the issues while taking advantage of new technology? Fighting and racing against machines will not be fruitful in the long term. We, as human beings, have a say in the matter.

So, our future can be happily in green energy. A Green Collar Economy can create thousands of low- and medium-skill jobs that would help conserve energy; for example, insulating older homes and buildings. Now, these local jobs could not be exported. With appropriate incentives and programs, the jobs could be created in cities and thereby help lift people out of poverty.

Van Jones, a leader in the Green Collar Economy, states this movement can tackle challenges of oil dependence, a lapsed economy, and global warming; thereby, transforming these looming threats into enormous financial opportunities.

There also needs to be low carbon strategies for and from companies. We have examples of this in our country already. Interface, FLOR, a U.S. company, is working towards a system where their waste products are also its manufacturing inputs. Interface’s CEO, Ray Anderson, states, “If we can do it, anyone can. And if anyone can, everyone can.” With the Arctic ice diminishing 12.8% per decade due to the greenhouse effect, we must act now. This moisture does not leave our atmosphere and is causing all types of weather havoc.

How can Dunkirk become a part of the Green Collar Economy? Well, there is a bill that has been passed and is about to be signed by the governor. It is the New York state Climate and Community Protection Act; and, it is America’s most ambitious climate bill yet. One of the points states: Create funding for renewable energy projects; profits from these would be reinvested in green jobs with a focus on marginalized communities. This is an opportunity for Dunkirk and all cities in Chautauqua County. We are a focused marginalized community, devastated by dwindling industry.

Thanks to our current city administration, we have a fresh beginning; new companies, more jobs for people, a refuel to our economy. Let’s continue with a vision to secure and sustain a booming economy again with a Green Collar Economy. We can be the leader, one to look at for a brighter nation.

Natalie Luczkowiak is a Dunkirk resident and member of the Chautauqua-Cattaraugus Women’s Action Group.

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