Sunday, April 18, 2021

A youth ‘climate corps’ could help ‘green’ America


When the pandemic ends, we will realize that there’s still work to be done, particularly to mitigate the effects of climate change.

An op-ed in Yale Environment 360 suggests the US create a “Civilian Climate Corps” like the one deployed during the Great Depression in the first part of the 20th century. The CCC used young men as volunteers and worked on natural resources projects across the country.

AmeriCorps volunteer with Virginia State Parks (Service Year Alliance / Flickr Creative Commons)

The big question seems to be what such a youth corps would look like: “Joe Biden’s campaign has one plan, the Biden-Sanders Unity Task Force has another. Think tanks have written a couple. And Congress has produced at least seven that I could find,” writes Daniel Munczek Edelman, who is the associate director of strategy and operations at the think tank Next100.

Mr Edelman proposes modeling any new Civilian Conservation Corps, or climate corps, after AmeriCorps, or even folding it into the AmeriCorps infrastructure. “To rapidly grow a Corps large enough to meaningfully address both youth unemployment and climate change, policymakers should launch it through an expansion of AmeriCorps, strengthening that federal public service program while building on its benefits for participants and taxpayers,” he writes.

The Depression-era CCC was plagued with problems of equity, he notes, often forcing leaders in the program to separate White and Black volunteer units. But as long as any new corps takes that into account, evidence from the 30s indicates that participation in the program not only would make America greener and friendlier to energy sources that aren’t derived from fossil fuels but from renewable materials or technology, but would also improve the lives of the volunteers.

The improvements to federal lands from the CCC, he writes, “established the national parks system as we know it today, allowing millions more Americans access to the outdoors. Recent research also suggests the original CCC benefited those who served in it tremendously, helping to boost their lifetime earnings and long-term health.”

Paul Katula
Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.


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