I've been reading Heather Rogers' excellent book Gone Tomorrow: The Hidden Life of Garbage. In it, she points out that it has long been industry's strategy to pit labor against what the industrialists say will be the negative economic consequences of reducing resource use to keep safe our planetary home.
Rogers writes, "The common refrain--that reduced consumption necessarily meant declining production triggering inevitable job losses--veiled manufacturers' real concerns: lower profits."
I suspect we are going to hear more and more of this argument moving forward, especially since we are hearing that a recession is starting. But the fact of the matter is, far from causing the loss of jobs, maintaining human health, happiness and security by taking care of our planetary home can actually create jobs.
The real question is whether money in the economy is spent on things like fossil fuel, which harms our health and allows money to go into shareholder pockets, or on human labor, which spreads the money out more evenly.
Rogers points out an example of this false jobs/environment dichotomy in her discussion of our country's first ever bottle bill, passed in Oregon in 1972. Beverage and container producers argued that the environmental effects would be nil and that it would cause economic meltdown--job losses.
In fact, according to Rogers, a year after the bill's enactment, auditors found that "roadside litter was down 35 percent by volume; 385 million fewer beverage containers were consumed due to increased reuse and recycling; energy savings were sufficient to heat 50,000 Oregon homes..."
And guess what else? Jobs increased.
The biggest trick the industrialists have is to falsely pit the well-being of the people against the health of our planet. But the truth of the matter is this, with proper motivation and good planning, even when it comes to jobs, a happier planet makes for happier people.
Colin Beavan (that's me!) is now leading a conversation about finding a happy, helpful life at Colinbeavan.com. If you want to know how people are breaking out and and finding authentic, meaningful lives that help our world, check it out the blog here and sign up to join the conversation here.