When millions of Americans were jobless during the Great Depression of the 1930s, the US government created a number of public works programs to get people working as a part of the New Deal. One of those works programs led to the creation of the environmentally focused Civilian Conservation Corps. Now, at a time where college graduates are entering an extremely uncertain job market, it seems it is the perfect moment to create a 21st-century job corps, with climate starring front and center.
It is a progressive idea, but that hardly necessitates that it suffers the same partisan strangulation in the Senate as other attempts at COVID-19 relief. After all, as recently as 2018 — before the phrase “Green New Deal” became widely known — nearly two-thirds of Republicans polled approved of the plan’s substance, which includes a green jobs guarantee.
The price tag would undoubtedly be a partisan sticking point, but we are living in extraordinary times. Mere months ago, the thought of the government signing off on $1,200 government checks for nearly half the country was laughable. And any climate jobs program worth its salt would pay for itself over the long term by reducing carbon emissions and beefing up climate-resilient infrastructure, both of which will reduce the financial damage from future climate disasters.
Projects could include things like planting mangroves, carbon-sucking coastal trees that shield coastlines from the worst effects of hurricanes and storms. Or building out low-carbon transit infrastructure. Or reclaiming wetlands, which act as natural water quality filters. There are hundreds of jobs to be done, and millions of Americans to fill them.
Sierra Garcia, a writer for Grist, makes a compelling case for creating a 21st-century climate corps in response to the current economic downturn. You can see her case in full right here.