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The panel assembled to discuss the collisions and co-existence of public health and economics began with a question of how the new green economy addresses the connection between those two issues. Pivoting on the promise of green jobs as a solution, William Kelly, author of the book Smogtown, offered that for the prospect of how many jobs will be available and their quality “there may be some disappointment.” For work in creating new transmission lines and building equipment like wind turbines, Kelly argued these are more capital-investment projects than labor-intensive, and the parts for turbines are manufactured more often overseas.

S. David Freeman, incoming deputy mayor of Los Angeles, gave historical context — “green jobs are not a new idea … FDR’s [conservation and environmental work projects] produced more goddamn jobs than you could ever dream of” — but then got clear to the point: “We are in a fight for our lives. … We have ten years to get carbon under control and you’re writing about how much it’s gonna cost. There is not a sense of urgency yet in this country.”

Following Freeman’s lead, Jane Williams, executive director of California Communities Against Toxics, saying, “We will have to see a complete retooling of how we get from place to place and how we use energy. It’s a matter of necessity.” Williams said the press has been off target saying, “Reporting on these issues is often like [reporting about] the cycle of violence, where you know there is a problem happening, but you are so horrified by the magnitude of it that they’re too afraid to get too close to it.” 

Winston Hickox, a partner in California Strategies, made a pro-capital investment argument, which was contrasted from Freeman’s and Williams’ perspectives. He said the missing element in the reportage on climate change deals with incentivizing corporations to take responsibility. “So I think there’s been lack of full development of that fourth leg of the stool, that shareholders should have serious concerns about companies being good citizens, for if not they will be counterproductive.”

The conversation from there moved into an exhilarating debate on cap-and-trade as a means that hopefully encompasses all concerns addressed by the panel. Citing the flaws of the California cap and trade mechanism, Williams, Kelly and Freeman expressed doubt and opposition to it as a solution. More on that debate soon.

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