Vote Earth

Ten by Earth Day 2021: Creating a clean workforce through the Climate Conservation Corps

The‌ ‌legacy‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌first‌ ‌Earth‌ ‌Day‌ ‌in‌ ‌1970‌ ‌is‌ ‌rooted‌ ‌in‌ ‌the‌ ‌sweeping‌ ‌environmen‌tal laws and regulations that followed as a result.  Much of this legislation is now under threat today. In honor of the 50th anniversary, and now with less than 50 days until the November election, EARTHDAY.ORG is rolling out the policy initiatives we want to see within the first 100 days of the next Administration, by Earth Day 2021.

This blog is the seventh in our series and focuses on providing young Americans with paid opportunities to address the climate crisis in their own communities and at large. 

Climate change is no longer an impending doom. Its terrifying effects are being felt all over the world, most recently with the drastic tropical storms in the southeastern United States and raging fires of the West coast. We must act now — something the youth have been saying for years. 

The energy of the youth shouldn’t stop at protests and demonstrations, but instead be harnessed in a green workforce. A dramatic increase in clean jobs in the climate space can and must be accomplished through government organized programs for young civilians. 

This isn’t likely to happen you say? Well, let’s take a gander at a similar program enacted by the Roosevelt administration’s New Deal… 

President Roosevelt established the original Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in 1933 during the peak of the Great Depression as a federal work relief program. The CCC employed 3 million young men to build up and restore America’s natural beauties and resources, including many of the parks we love and benefit from today. These men built roads and bridges, developed trails and campgrounds, worked on soil conservation, planted trees and much more. 

Yosemite National Park, one of the iconic American parks that is currently being threatened by record-breaking fires out West, is a keen example of a park that flourished under this program. However, imminent threats of climate change are making these parks and other natural spaces practically uninhabitable. 

We must also acknowledge that the CCC had many flaws. For starters, the program almost exclusively hired single men between the ages of 18 and 25 and completely prohibited women from participating. And although the program clearly stated that “no discrimination shall be made on account of race, color, and creed”, segregation was routinely practiced in the Corps camps and working conditions, particularly in the South.

The Civilian Conservation Corps has a far from perfect legacy, despite accomplishing amazing feats and giving jobs to millions of unemployed men. But, it does provide an effective framework to consider as we face a climate crisis paired with the COVID-19 economic crisis. Clean jobs are needed, and fast, and we can accomplish even greater success than the original CCC if we learn from its shortcomings in equity and justice.  

EARTHDAY.ORG urges the next Administration to establish the Climate Conservation Corps in order to provide young Americans with the opportunity to create sustainability solutions in communities everywhere, build expertise in climate mitigation and resilience, achieve sustainable economic development, learn new skills to assist in future employment and build healthy pollution-free communities.

It is essential that young people within the communities most at risk are not only finally heard, but also have the chance to work and lead in the climate space. The Climate Conservation Corps can employ and train low-income and disadvantaged youth to put their skills to work.

The upcoming General Election in the United States has the potential to shape our environments, health and safety for generations to come. Your opinion matters — so take the time right now to check your registration status and commit to #VoteEarth.