Blue collar jobs and climate change
Wage work doesn't pay like it should, but it could. And we might save the planet if it did.
Welcome to another free edition of The Holler! For new subscribers, this is where we transcribe a couple recent short videos, link the sources, and suggest further reading on the topic.
Stayed tuned for another installment of the paid edition, Rat Tales, which is all about interesting life and times happening in Appalachia along the Ohio River where all the people are above average and are affectionately known as River Rats.
On to the videos.
The Productivity-Pay Gap
Video Transcript with additions
Ok! That's it for class today! Before you go, this graph right here is where the owning class decided around 1973 to take all of your money and create a permanent underclass. That's it! More in my bio. We'll see you tomorrow. Okay. Thank you.
More reading: Economic Policy Institute - The Productivity-Pay Gap.
Starting in the late 1970s, policymakers began dismantling all the policy bulwarks helping to ensure that typical workers’ wages grew with productivity. Excess unemployment was tolerated to keep any chance of inflation in check. Raises in the federal minimum wage became smaller and rarer. Labor law failed to keep pace with growing employer hostility toward unions. Tax rates on top incomes were lowered. And anti-worker deregulatory pushes—from the deregulation of the trucking and airline industries to the retreat of anti-trust policy to the dismantling of financial regulations and more—succeeded again and again.
The Cost of Doing Nothing on Climate Change -Everything
Video transcript with additions:
Social Security, Medicare, the military, the "War on Terror", this is a list of things where each one of them costs almost twice what it would cost to make the electric grid 100% renewable, which is 4.5 trillion dollars.
And oh baby, no military threat holds a candle to how climate change is about to do us dirty. We're on track, by the end of the century, for 4 degrees of warming, where half a dozen natural disasters could strike a community at once, there are millions of refugees walking around, and the damage bill could total $600 trillion, which is double the amount of wealth that exists in the world right now. The whole darn thing, you know? Here’s a quote from David Wallace-Wells, author of The Uninhabitable Earth:
You do not need to contemplate worst-case scenarios to be alarmed; this best-case scenario is alarming enough. Two degrees would be terrible, but it’s better than three, at which point Southern Europe would be in permanent drought, African droughts would last five years on average, and the areas burned annually by wildfires in the United States could quadruple, or worse, from last year’s million-plus acres. And three degrees is much better than four, at which point six natural disasters could strike a single community simultaneously; the number of climate refugees, already in the millions, could grow tenfold, or 20-fold, or more; and, globally, damages from warming could reach $600 trillion — about double all the wealth that exists in the world today. We are on track for more warming still — just above four degrees by 2100, the U.N. estimates. So if optimism is always a matter of perspective, the possibility of four degrees shapes mine.
So there's that. And yet as conflicts have wrapped up, we are dropping trillions on the military and practically nothing on the largest threat. But fuck all that bad news baby! This is our time to shine! This is our Avengers moment where we get together and do... jobs... to kick the climate's ass... change... the climate change...
For more climate news as it should be covered, I highly recommend Emily Atkin’s newsletter HEATED.
Climate Change and Blue Collar Workers
I'm sitting here in coal country, "Frackalachia", where I live, and….. we're not going to solve climate change without blue-collar workers! Okay? It's not a fight between the hippies and coal miners. It is going to cost 4.5 trillion dollars to do one thing - make the electric grid completely 100% renewable in the next 10 years. That's so much money! And we have to do that or we all... not live. Merked. All of us (see above). We need to do the same for industry, agriculture, buildings, transportation, literally everything that lays before your eyes must be upgraded or rebuilt from scratch.
Who has the skills to do that? Coders?Accountants? No. Somebody who knows that Milwaukee is a thing that fits in your hand. There is actually endless blue-collar work to be done that can save us from us.
More reading: How to decarbonize America — and create 25 million jobs.
Most of the jobs required to decarbonize are skilled technician jobs. You don’t need a PhD — you probably don’t even need a university degree. They look like construction jobs. They look like manufacturing jobs. And critically, they look like a lot of retrofitting jobs because we just we can’t build everything new; we have to retrofit our homes. We have to retrofit a lot of things. And so I think there’s more than enough employment for everyone.
The other interesting thing is that the future is going to be a lot of energy generated in your local community because that cuts down on the transmission distribution costs. So it’s a lot of putting solar cells on your church roof, on your school roof, on the housing roofs. It’s retrofitting all of those buildings. And those are jobs that can’t be offshored — that can’t be done in China or Mexico. They will be in every zip code in North America.
That’s all for now.
Stay tuned for Rat Tales.