Education for a Clean Energy Economy

from Wildlife Promise

As a former humanities student and avowed right-brainer, I sometimes wonder whether my education couldn’t have been more, well, useful.

Don’t get me wrong: it was nice to spend four years analyzing Paul Gauguin paintings and Alfred Hitchcock movies. I just wish my schooling could have better prepared me for a life of DOING.

Luckily, more than a hundred colleges and organizations are calling on Congress to help people be a vital part of the coming clean energy economy rather than watching from the sidelines. They want strong energy legislation, with a special emphasis on training and educating the pros of tomorrow, be they engineers, architects, or scientists.

Wednesday, the National Wildlife Federation and our partners delivered a letter to Congress signed by groups representing community colleges, universities, and education consortiums, all pushing for a bill that invests in new energy technology and training. The list is impressive: 130 strong, everything from the Pocatello Zoo to the Temple University Student Peace Alliance (full list of orgs here). To put it mildly, this is a goal with broad appeal. More on that in a second.

Behind the scenes, college presidents and other bigwigs met with congressional offices, highlighting the importance of a pollution-limiting, economy-stimulating, education-driving plan.

On the environmental side:

“Now is the time to pass climate legislation that invests in new clean energy technology and solutions. At the same time we must invest in our nation’s education and training infrastructure—at every level—to ensure Americans are prepared for the new jobs that will be created by the climate bill. This is what the college presidents are in Washington to support today,” said Kevin Coyle, Vice President for Education and Training at the National Wildlife Federation. “To ensure America’s competitiveness in a global economy, we must prepare the next generation through curricula, training and programming that incorporates clean energy and sustainability,”

On the college side:

“The clean energy economy is our future, and further investment through the climate bill is essential. Every profession and sector will be affected by this green transformation. America’s community colleges can be a vital resource to prepare the workforce of tomorrow,” said George R. Boggs, President and CEO of the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), the primary advocacy organization for the nation’s almost 1,200 community colleges.

Key point, that; the broad appeal. Every profession and sector. Not just solar panel installers, a common refrain among defeatists. In the words of Jim Elder, director of the Campaign for Environmental Literacy, we’ll also be needing–and needing to train–carpenters, engineers steelworkers, scientists, entrepreneurs, small business owners, et al. I wonder if there’s any room for blogger-cum-nonprofit workers…

A special emphasis on education and training might also help fly the flag for the broader economic possibilities of legislation. Worriers: this won’t limit us. A clean energy economy–with a stronger training infrastructure–offers us our best chance at continuing to be competitive in the international marketplace.

You can view the full letter here.

Photo via Flickr’s TogetherGreen