By Dr. Sekou Franklin

The emergence of a grass-roots movement pushing for green economic solutions to climate change and poverty has been a surprising development. This movement believes environmentally sustainable policies and the shift to a clean energy economy can lead to reduction of pollution and greenhouse gases. It also believes green-collar employment – family-supporting jobs in the clean and renewable energy sector – must be accessible to residents of economically distressed communities.

The Green-Collar Jobs Task Force of Nashville-Davidson County (a network of environmentalists, work-force development professionals, and social justice activists) was formed in 2008 to advocate for an inclusive green economy. In meetings with state and local officials, task force members have pushed for green work-force training programs modeled after similar initiatives in Chicago, IL; Washington, DC; Oakland, CA; Providence, RI; Boston, MA; Portland, OR; and Newark, NJ. These programs share a common thread: As public-private partnerships, they provide work force development (vocational training, wraparound services, career coaching, environmental literacy) in the clean energy sector for underemployed workers and veterans, formerly incarcerated persons, transitional housing residents, low-income women, and workers with language barriers.

Sadly, no major city in the Southeast has a public, privately backed, green training program targeting the aforementioned populations, even though it is the most polluted and poorest region in the country.

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