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New Paper from PSR-LA: Public Health and the Green Economy

Physicians for Social Responsibility is proud to announce our new publication, Public Health and the Green Economy. In this concept paper, we set out to explore the question: How can the new green economy reduce toxic exposures, improve access to safer alternatives, while offering more Californians a way out of poverty? In our mission to protect health, we have been inspired and challenged to think about how policy change can connect to green jobs development and the reduction of toxic exposures in communities and workplaces.

In this paper we address key questions such as: What are the barriers to low-income families benefiting from sustainable economic development? What type of state and federal policies can better address the health, economic and environmental needs of low-income communities and communities of color? What type of support is needed to ensure these policies are passed and then implemented?

Central to the paper is expanding upon what it means to have a green job, and how developing this understanding can help California’s economy. Building upon the current success of the energy sector and its green job development, we need to expand the concept of what it means to develop, create or work in a green job. How about a business making all natural, vegan cosmetics? Can a business developing safer, home cleaning products be considered green? What about a farmer growing sustainable, pesticide-free vegetables? The answer is yes- all of these jobs can also be considered green. Though, to date many of these job sectors have been overlooked in our discussion of the new green economy.

Policy approaches must address the barriers that low-income families face in gaining access to sustainable economic development. How can local, state or national policy better address the health, economic and environmental needs of low-income communities and communities of color? These should be questions that are asked by policymakers when developing green economic programs.

We also make new recommendations to policymakers and stakeholders on how to move forward with the development of green jobs and sustainable communities. These recommendations include:

  1. Continue to invest in California’s Green Chemistry Initiative.
  2. Redefine our education system to include green chemistry and sustainability education at all levels.
  3. Incentivize private institutions to purchase green products and services through tax incentives or other forms of support.
  4. Improve training opportunities for small businesses to enter into the green job market.
  5. Increase government funding for small green businesses in low-income and other disadvantaged communities including funding of transition and start-up.
  6. Increase allocation of federal conservation funds to small- and medium sized organic and transitioning farmers.
  7. Provide mentoring opportunities for small businesses and individuals that will assist them in navigating the highly bureaucratic process of starting a green business.

We believe these recommendations offer policymakers and other key stakeholders strong proposals in moving forward with the development of true green jobs and sustainable communities. Read this paper (PDF).

By Kathy Attar, MPH. “Food and the Need for Green Jobs” section by Margaret Reeves and Laxmi Gandi of PANNA. Case study interviews with Agriculture and Land-based Training Association members and staff, and Karen Heisler Co-owner of Mission Pies, also completed by Margaret Reeves and Laxmi Gandi. This paper was made possible through support from the Clarence Heller Foundation. Many thanks to Bruce Hirsch for his advice and encouragement.

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