Like so many others, I want more green jobs in this country. I believe that creating those jobs and transitioning to a green economy delivers on what Americans value most - strengthened national security, revitalized economic competitiveness, and improved quality of life - while it simultaneously tackles our most pressing environmental challenges, be it climate change, water scarcity, or food security (what's up with the mercury pollution in just about every living fish?). Unfortunately, the environmental movement is communicating its green jobs agenda to the American people in entirely the wrong way.
I'm a huge fan of the Apollo Alliance. Jerome Ringo was one of the first guests I invited onto to my radio show. I admire Van Jones and consider him the most dynamic speaker the green movement has to offer. I personally love the idea of committing America to a "man on the moon" type program that harnesses our nation's vast resources and ingenuity in an all out effort to create green jobs. But even though this line of thinking inspires me, I know that the "man on the moon" analogy is a terrible way to convince Americans to support the agenda. Here's why:
1. It sounds expensive because it sounds like an enormous undertaking and this is a very challenging time to sell expensive programs to the American people.
2. It sounds like the government is going to be in charge of it, which sounds like green jobs means socialism and that is distinctly un-American to most Americans.
3. It sounds like asking Americans to imagine a future that doesn't exist. Even though thousands of blue collar and white collar Americans already have green jobs, it sounds like green jobs will only be created one day in the future assuming all goes exceptionally well, which fosters skepticism.
4. It sounds overly alarmist because most Americans don't feel tangibly threatened on a daily basis by climate change in the same way that Americans felt tangibly threatened by nuclear annihilation at the hands of the Soviets at the time when President Kennedy committed America to the man on the moon mission.
The best way to sell green jobs to Americans is to stop talking about them in terms of a "man on the moon" massive undertaking and instead steal a page from the Republican Handbook on "Joe The Plumber" and start trumpeting the individual stories of people and towns all over the United States that are already benefiting from green jobs. Here's why:
1. Green jobs sound much less expensive to create when we routinely hear that hard-working Americans throughout the country already have them.
2. Green jobs sound much less like a left wing socialist plot when we routinely hear that hard-working Americans in both blue and red states already have them.
3. It's very difficult to imagine a green job that doesn't yet exist whereas it's very easy to covet a green job that somebody else already has.
4. It's much easier to generate broad support for more green jobs when we point out that America is in fact already creating them (for more on this kind of issue framing see Nicholas Kristof's article in Outside Magazine).
Take, for example, the town of Ebensburg, Pennsylvania where formerly unemployed steelworkers, whose jobs disappeared overseas, are now fully employed with good benefits in a factory that manufactures wind turbines. Or the Midwestern city of Toledo, Ohio where thousands of workers are back on the job putting their expertise in glass manufacturing to work building next-generation solar panels. Or the Rio Hondo College of Automotive Technology where hundreds of technicians have gained the training necessary to fill jobs maintaining the alternative fuel fleets of municipalities throughout Southern California. Or a corporation like Clorox that might not be thought of as a bastion of green innovation yet where managers working on the Brita, Green Works and Burt's Bees brands are tasked everyday with providing Americans with products that accelerate the green economy (full disclosure, I do spokesperson work for Brita and Green Works and this is precisely the reason why I choose to do so).
For all of these Americans, the green jobs have arrived. And these are exactly the kinds of jobs that many more Americans would like to have. When we sell big environmental agendas by highlighting specific examples of how green initiatives are already working, we make it so much easier for Americans to envision what a positive green future might look like for them. In addition, emphasizing blue collar and white collar jobs that are already green enables the greatest number of Americans to envision how their skills and aspirations align with a green economy. It's still the same green vision for America as the one touted by advocates of an Apollo-like mission, but it's talking about it in terms that are more tangible so Americans can visualize what's in it for them and come to believe that it is indeed possible.