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Wanted: A ‘clean economy’ revolution

June 5, 2013

Recently we read with great interest Sullivan County Legislative Chair Scott Samuelson’s State of the County Report, in which he called for sustainable economic development to be the foundation for our future. We agree that sustainable development is a necessity, but not everyone agrees on the term’s meaning. As we see it, without environmental preservation factored in, no economic development plan can be truly sustainable.

The ultimate goal of economic development is to improve the economic security of a geographic place. Policymakers and others work to facilitate activities that support the community’s health, safety and social well-being; address infrastructure needs; invest in human capital; and foster regional collaboration (sometimes also regional competition). Seen broadly, economic development is about more than just jobs creation, though fashioning a climate that will create jobs plays an indispensable part.

When Samuelson adds the word “sustainable” in front of the phrase “economic development,” we hope he is talking about a “clean economy,” i.e. one that will bring green jobs, sustainable jobs, jobs with low-carbon footprints, jobs that will pay people a living wage. We see the economy of the 21st century being transformed with green businesses leading the way, creating jobs around clean environmental technologies, conservation, resource efficiency, renewable energy generation, pollution prevention, waste minimization and recycling. This “clean economy” has huge potential for growth, but it will require leaving behind business-as-usual thinking.

According to a resource guide for sustainable communities developed in 2011 for the Climate Leadership Academy on Sustainable Economic Development (www.iscvt.org/who_we_are/publications/Resource-Guide-Sustainable-Economi...), “developing a sustainable economy will require a dramatic transition, ‘from an old economy that is high-carbon, high-pollution, waste-intensive and ecologically disruptive, to a new economy that is low- or zero-carbon, low-pollution, energy/resource efficient and ecologically supportive.’” (www.globalurban.org/Sustainable%20Economic%20Development.pdf) As the world changes due to planet-altering events like global warming, peak oil and environmental degradation transformation is inevitable.