The New “New Deal”?

I remember when, as a reporter for The News, I learned about a nonprofit program that taught underprivileged youths a new skill: washing driveways and parking lots with water pressure. I remember thinking, “Whaaaa? We’re in a desert and THIS is the great SKILL you’re teaching our underprivileged youths?”

I wondered why we progressive types couldn’t always think of everything. You know? Why can’t those serving underprivileged youths come up with some environmentally friendly way for them to make money and learn a trade?

But alas, my question has been answered. It turns out that making the environment healthier, or at least reducing our impact, is a way to help poor people out, too. From the small scale (buying in bulk cuts down on packaging and saves money) to the large scale (passing fuel regulations so asthma won’t be a right of passage for kids in the South Bronx), greening our lifestyle will help the poor.

And now a new campaign is coming full force, with an aim to train poor kids in ‘green-collar’ jobs, which in a recent NY Times article says are the types of jobs that don’t (read: can’t) get outsourced – retrofitting buildings to use less energy and be more fit for the elements. These jobs are stuck here. And they need to get done. And they take skill to do. The Green for All campaign is asking Congress for money so that kids from low-income families will be trained in something useful.

This reminds me of The New Deal for America during the Great Depression. You know, when FDR helped out the middle and lower classes by creating governmental jobs to get the shit done that needed to get done – stuff like building our national highway system that we all roadtrip on now.

There are many things to say about the New Deal (like how Roosevelt flip-flopped from his campaign of no new taxes to the reality of the depression’s effect on most Americans). But mainly, from what I can tell, it was a successful program that saved a lot of people from poverty.

So, wouldn’t it be cool if this Green for All, and other programs like it, came about and helped bring the America of today out of its economic hardship and into a bright, new, sustainable future?

I just love the feeling of hope, and the ingenuity of people in times of crisis.

—Natalie

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