MATT POLSKY / NJ ENVIRONMENT NEWS – I recently collaborated with students in my Sustainable Economics course at Ramapo College to write a proposal to Governor Murphy for a green economy in New Jersey. “Green economy” and “green jobs” are not new terms, but our proposal takes them in new directions. Typically, green jobs refer to solar and wind installers, recycling and efficiency jobs. But, perhaps surprisingly, conventional green jobs may not be the largest category of jobs in a fuller green economy.
Our proposal offers a vision of what a green economy could ultimately be. The principal purpose of a green economy would be as a creative way to address serious environmental and, increasingly, social problems. It may be the most viable response if environmental and social conflicts, and resource shortages, worsen in the future. Alternatively, New Jersey could decide to lead the U.S. and join much of the rest of the world in pursuing the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals. If so, we would need new ways to actually do so.
A big part of the effort is the inclusion of sustainable business, taking advantage of such surprising actions as the establishment of zero-emissions goals, taking actions to conserve biodiversity, CEOs resigning in protest from Presidential Advisory Boards and objecting to U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement.
A green economy could become a major goal of economic policy in New Jersey. It could grow to include nearly all sectors and potentially most companies within those sectors. While mostly voluntary, companies that do not choose to participate will in the long run risk competitive pressure from those that do, as well as consumer disfavor.
Another feature is the need to discuss a number of underlying attitudinal obstacles, called “mindset barriers,” which prevent gatekeepers from seriously considering a green economy and other bold new ideas. In addition to a general lack of awareness of sustainable business, another is an apparently widely shared belief that “There is nothing new under the sun,” therefore no need to consider new possibilities. A third is that while there is wide acceptance that “We can have both a clean environment and healthy economy at the same time,” we may not agree on what that means. We don’t try to reconcile what we don’t recognize.
The main recommendation, of many provided, is for the Governor and key senior managers to accept an ambitious and comprehensive goal of, and approach to, a green economy. They should make clear that this is the direction of state economic policy, something no other state has done to this degree.
Matt Polsky is a Ph.D. student in Sustainability at Erasmus University in the Netherlands and has been an adjunct instructor at several New Jersey universities.