This Saturday, April 17, in honor of Earth Day, there will be activities in South L.A. This is a good thing, of course, as all of us should be concerned about the fate of our environment and what we can do to not kill our world and us. Now I’m not going to enjoin the debate about whether climate change is happening or not, I mean, it seems to me the evidence is clear that Polar bears are losing their ice floes, but hey, I’m no expert.
For even the experts are divided…just look at the debate between climatologists who pretty much agree that global warming is happening versus meteorologists, some of whom are TV weather forecasters, who are skeptical. There’s a recent study done by George Mason University and the University of Texas on this divide, with something like a fourth of the weathercasters surveyed agreeing with the statement, “Global warming is a scam.”
But back to South L.A. I’m sure one of the aspects of the celebrations will be about green jobs and green job training. For as this Great Recession has affected the middle class and those with technical skills, it has devastated the job prospects for youth of color, particularly black and brown young folks. The jobless rate for whites in the United States in March was 8.8 percent. For blacks it was nearly double – 16.5 percent; and for Hispanics 12.6 percent. These unemployment rates increased for both minority groups from the previous month – while it stayed steady for whites.
There are efforts here in Los Angeles to create a wellspring of green jobs opportunities in new construction and in regards to retrofitting existing structures, and apprenticeship programs partnering with the building trades. Mindful too that the building trades has traditionally been a white male bastion of workers where it was somebody you knew or your brother or cousin who got you on the job. Though there has been work buy some of the forward thinkers in and outside of organized labor to break down that good ol’ boy system We even have Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa trying to push through his and Councilman Richard Alarcon’s Green Energy Compromise Plan. The plan relies on a one-time only rate increase, and setting aside certain earmarked monies for renewable energy.
Yet the City of Los Angeles is in the midst of one of the worst budget deficits in its history while simultaneously the state of California is damn near broke. On top of forced furloughs and layoffs abounding, there are at least 4,000 city jobs are on the chopping block or facing further curtailing of work hours. Added to that, the Department of Water and Power (DWP) is in a pissing contest with the City. The DWP didn’t turn over some of their surplus to the general fund because it didn’t get the rate increase it wanted from the City Council. As this matter gets wrestled out, notions like a green tax seem like an awfully big rock to push up the deficit hill and get cash-strapped, future uncertain voters or their elected to approve.
Let alone then where does the money come from to fund green jobs programs, particularly as this relates to inner city youth? Is all this green talk just feel good rhetoric? I don’t know, but in my next post, I’ll go looking for a few answers.
Until then, check out these L.A. efforts: