While most of the world celebrates International Workers’ Day in May, the US recognizes Labor Day in September. On Monday, September 6, we pay tribute to the American labor movement and all workers. 

The Climate Justice, specifically the Building Decarbonization movement, must align with the notion of creating new jobs. Jobs that are sustainable so people can have a future with a career path, and a future on Mother Earth. Careers that pay a living wage, not a ‘working-poor’ wage.  A wage that builds generational wealth and cooperative economics that benefit communities, not capitalists. 

This is also back to school time. As a part of our advocacy, we must analyze what is missing from our educational system. This is the perfect opportunity to look at STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) and how trades like wood shop classes should be centered in the education system. I remember being told by my high school guidance counselor to prepare to go to college I have to make wonderful grades to obtain scholarships, so I can achieve the American dream. Well, I should have listened to my father: he said I should consider getting a trade first. I say this because obtaining a college degree is wonderful, however many Americans like myself are drowning in student loan debt. We should steer new generations into skilled trades like clean energy installers, contractors, entrepreneurs, educators and so on. A college education shouldn’t be the only option. 

This all relates to transitioning into a different workforce. We must consider what a new world of sustainable work would look like. Talking about Climate Justice or Climate Action is not for real if we do not put it into practice. People need jobs, meaningful work that will change their lives. 

A just transition aligns Labor and the Environmental movements’ efforts to Clean Energy. Yes, it combats climate change, and it is an essential framework to advance our economics to a regenerative economy. This transition looks at the current economy that we’ve been indoctrinated into–the capitalism system. The extractive economy that continues to take away from people. The system that has exploited Mother Earth for her resources. The system is built on enslaved people’s labor.  We can’t use the same system to create a new wave of jobs and expect to make social change. This is not sustainable or equitable. Let’s move away from fossil fuels towards sustainable trades, towards careers that eliminate climate change, towards regeneration instead of extraction.

After record numbers of tropical storms, hurricanes, and tornados we must think about resilient housing infrastructure, disaster preparedness and mitigation, and the individuals who will be impacted. As we advance building decarbonization, we can build resilience in planning strategies for natural and human-caused disasters. We must create resilience plans to ensure adaptations of existing buildings and new constructions.

What would it look like to reimagine our labor as well as our energy and infrastructure? How can we prepare for the shifting work of urban planners, electricians, contractors, building managers, heating and cooling manufactures, and other careers related to Building Decarbonization? Let’s thank the Labor movement for the prosperity and protections it has secured so far, and keep working to answer these questions in a world full of change and potential.

-Marnese Jackson

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