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May 9, 2012 / Green America

Strategy #6: Renewing Old Infrastructure, and Fair Wages for Labor Intensive Services

The booklet “Saving the Titanic” was originally published by Paul Freundlich, founder of Green America (formerly Co-op America).   It contains a dozen green strategies for our society to avoid the “icebergs” of climate change, nuclear catastrophe, economic collapse, and other ills.  Today, we excerpt Solution #6, and over the coming days, we’ll share the rest of Paul’s solutions:

Deteriorating physical infrastructure is a critical issue in many countries, perhaps most seriously in the USA, where natural disasters have dramatically illustrated the tragic consequences of neglect. While the construction industry poured resources into building McMansions, there were bridges, tunnels, rails, sewers, electric cable, and gas lines ready to col-lapse or explode. In the USA, recession generated some political will to invest in public works that was vitiated by an emphasis on propping up the financial sector. Around the world, there is a critical need for sustainable forestry to fight the battle against global warming.

How: Governmental investment in infrastructure, and increasing minimum wages. An army of workers to rebuild our nations, with environmental efficiency paramount; a corps of workers to plant trees and preserve aquifers.

Result: Paying workers fair wages for work that is needed is the best way to democratize economies and provide both hope and the basis of consumption. Public works programs, financed by national governments and international lending (a re-directed IMF and World Bank), achieve a full-employment eco-omy while shoring up vital services and renewing the environment. Many less skilled jobs can be performed through National Service, also serving as a bridge to full employment.

Probability: The political bankruptcy of national governments is visible in Lagos and Mexico City, and then there was the in-ept, verging on criminal response to Hurricane Katrina. Even in a sophisticated and risk averse economy like Japan, the exposure of fallibility in nuclear facilities was a sobering message delivered by the 2011 tsunami. Nevertheless, the dual priorities of endangered critical resources and the need for spreading wealth are compelling arguments for governmental interventions.

In the days that follow, we’ll post the rest of Paul’s 12 strategies for righting the ship.

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