FEATURE ARTICLE - WINTER 2009
7 Fixes from the Green Economy
Bold solutions from the green economy are the antidote
to the broken economy—and can repair the damage and create a world that
works for all.
Everyone now understands that the economy is broken. What our
members and readers have known for years— that the economy is not working
for people and the planet—is now playing out on Wall Street and Main
Street every day.
While many name the mortgage and
credit-default-swap crises as culprits, they are only the most recent
results of an economy with fatal design flaws. These design defects range
from a dependence on growth, consumerism, and the structure of money to
the short-term focus of today’s markets, and policy goals that are focused
on growing Gross National Product. Yet, when GNP growth includes a whole
set of “bads”—from sweatshop labor to manufacturing toxic chemicals—every
dollar of GNP growth actually reduces wellbeing for people and the
Taken together, these fatal flaws systematically
create economic injustice, poverty, and environmental crises.
It doesn’t have to be that way. The green economy
offers solutions that are the antidote to the current breakdown.
Green America members have been trailblazers for
green economic solutions for years. We now have a teachable moment to be
bold in stepping up with these solutions for long-term change toward
sustainability—and helping people through tough times. Now these green
economy solutions are more important than ever.
Simply put, we need to move from greed to
Here are seven green economy solutions to today’s
1. Green Energy—Green Jobs
A crucial starting place to
rejuvenate our economy is to focus on energy—for the sake of the economy
and the environment. It is time to call in the superheroes of the green
energy revolution—energy efficiency, solar and wind power, and plug-in
hybrids—and put their synergies to work with rapid, largescale deployment.
This is a powerful way to jumpstart the economy, energy independence, job
creation (with jobs that can’t be outsourced), and the victory over the
climate crisis. The five green-energy keys are rapid, large-scale
• Energy efficiency—moving toward 50 percent
savings in five years.
• Solar and wind—getting to an all-renewable
• Plug-in electric hybrid vehicles (PHEVs)—getting
to at least 20 percent of the US vehicle fleet in ten years.
• Smart grid—rebuilding our aging electric grid
with a smart grid that makes it easy to scale up energy efficiency and
• New national and state electric utility
regulation and building codes that make it easy to scale up with
efficiency, renewables, and PHEVs.
This year, Green America is
launching Project LEAP—our Low-carbon Energy Acceleration Plan—to show how
to combine these superheroes for real economic prosperity, energy
security, and 80–90 percent greenhouse gas reduction. We shared this with
our allies on President Obama’s incoming team (along with our idea for the
financing mechanism; see #2 below). But you don’t have to wait for
Washington—use Green America resources to get started today:
• Guide to Efficiency
• Solar how-to
articles, and interviews with the solar leaders of our Green Busienss
• Solar High
Impact National Energy (SHINE) Plan. [PDF]
• Utility Solar
Assessment (USA) Study. [PDF]
Clean Energy Victory Bonds
we going to pay for this green energy revolution? Green America and our
allies at Clean Edge propose Clean Energy Victory Bonds. Modeled after
victory bonds in World War II, Americans would buy these bonds from the
federal government to invest in large-scale deployment of green energy
projects, with particular emphasis in low-income communities that are
hardest hit by the broken economy. These would be long-term bonds, which
would pay an annual interest rate, based in part on the energy and energy
savings that the bonds generate. During WWII, Americans bought over $185
billion in bonds—that would be almost $2 trillion in today’s dollars.
Millions of people are looking for a way to help
the country right now. During the townhall- style presidential debate, one
person posed this question to the then-candidates: "What would you ask us
Green America’s answer: Invest in Clean Energy
Victory Bonds so our country can start building the clean-energy
infrastructure and get people to work in good, green jobs, right now.
Sign up for the Green America
e-newsletter to help advance these and our other green energy policy
measures all year long.
Reduce, Reuse, Rethink
lightly on the Earth, saving resources and money, reducing inequality, and
sharing —jobs, property, ideas, and opportunities—are the principles
crucial to restructuring our economy. This economic breakdown is, in part,
due to living beyond our means—as a nation and, in too many cases, as
individuals. With the enormous national and consumer debt weighing us
down, we won’t be able to spend our way out of this economic problem. From
planting gardens to conserving energy to swapping clothes to making
gifts—these green economy basics will help us move to an economy that
works for all.
As Dr. Juliet Schor, economist and author,
puts it, “We’ve lost the ability to profitably ... grow our way out of
recession. The usual kinds of consumer spending (cars, electronics,
furniture, apparel, travel) degrade vital eco-systems and have an economic
cost. Business-as-usual puts us deeper into an economic hole.”
Ultimately, we need an economy that’s not
dependent on growth and consumerism. So it’s time to rethink living
over-consumptive lifestyles, and turn to the principles of elegant
simplicity—what Green Americans have known all along.
Green, Fair Trade, and Local
we do buy, it is essential that those purchases shift from the
conventional economy to the green and local economy—so that every dollar
helps solve social and environmental problems, not create them. What we
spend our money on—and refuse to buy—does matter. Expanding the green
economy is fundamental to the transition to an economy that works for
people and the planet. Moving dollars away from conventional agribusiness
and toward supporting local workers and local, organic farmers creates
more justice and sustainability.
Use the National Green
Pages™ to make as many
of your purchases as possible from the green economy. Turn to Green
America all year long for ways to be intentional with your money—to help
create a better economy with the choices you make every day.
All over the
county, community investing banks, credit unions, and loan funds that
serve hardhit communities are strong, while the biggest banks—from
Washington Mutual to CitiGroup —required bailouts. The basic principles of
community investing keep the community investing institutions strong:
Lenders and borrowers know each other. Lenders invest in the success of
their borrowers—with training and technical assistance along with loans.
And the people who provide the capital to the lenders expect reasonable,
not speculative, rates of return. If all banks followed these principles,
the economy wouldn’t be in the mess it’s in today.
You can provide capital to community
investing banks and credit unions—it’s as easy as opening a federally
insured account. Check out the community
investing section of our Web site to get started.
When you own
stock, you are a shareowner and have the right and responsibility to
advise management to clean up its act. Had General Motors listened to its
activist shareholders, it would have invested in the efficient and
electric cars that would have prevented the need for a bailout from
bankruptcy. Had CitiGroup listened to its activist shareowners, it would
have steered clear of the faulty mortgage practices that brought it to its
knees. Activist shareholders are key to reforming companies—from
jumpstarting them on the energy revolution to addressing executive
compensation to stopping the corruption created by corporate lobbying—for
the transition to the new economy. Let’s up the ante.
“Whatever the problem,” says Dr. Lynnaea
Lumbard, psychologist and interfaith minister, “community is the answer.”
Connected, resilient communities help people get through tough times—and
celebrate during good times. Now is the time to get started. Get to know
your neighbors. Do a neighborhood skills inventory—so people can help each
other fix their roofs, repair their bikes, mend a torn coat—saving money
and building community. Plan a community garden, a neighborhood garage
sale, or clothing
swap. Start a dinner or home improvement co-op. (Get more ideas and
The Time is Now
It looks like we have a huge opportunity on our hands—a global
economic breakdown that is teaching us that we are all interdependent.
There’s no “there” to escape to, so we all might as well figure out how to
live together —and transition our economy to one that protects vulnerable
people and our vulnerable planet. Stay tuned to Real Green all
year long. We look forward to working with you on turning today’s problems
into opportunities for a more just, sustainable, and joyful world.