A few weeks back I summarized Anders Hayden’s book When Green Growth is Not Enough in which he sets up a framework for studying politics and he discourse of the green economy: Business-as-Usual (BAU) vs. Ecological Modernization (EM) vs. Sufficiency.
This week, Jeremy Williams’s blog turned me on to another framework developed by Kate Crowley more than decade back that still proves illustrative today. Crowley, much like Hayden, attempts to separate and clarify different strains of green politics and programs in her review of ‘green jobs.’
Green jobs, defined in part by the Sightline Institute and made prominent by Van Jones, among others, had a moment in the sun around the economic stimulus era of 2008, where the U.S. Congress, the President, and even the Department of Commerce her in Washington State experimented with green stimulus programs to boost clean energy jobs. The conversation on green jobs has not completed slipped, but it has become more of a rhetorical tool then a policy approach in recent years, perhaps as the realization dawned that all jobs must be green jobs for a sustainable future.
Back to the focus of this post, Williams outlines Crowley’s frame work:
Light green tends to focus on tidying up environmental damage rather than fixing it. In Crowley’s words, light green jobs are “afterthoughts that are created by cleaning up and rehabilitating the mess we have made of the environment.”
Mid green takes things a step further by attempting to ‘ecologically modernize’, reforming and reinventing our industrial practices. It aims for greener growth, reducing harm to the environment and seeking to balance the needs of the economy and nature.
Deep green takes nature as its starting point. It is not afraid to pursue objectives that may lead to lower growth or reduced consumption. It is transformative and proactive, preserving and enhancing the natural world.
Crowley, like Hayden, spends a good bit of time focusing on ecological modernization. This idea, which Hayden also labels as “green growth,” is a beacon of promise as Crowley writes in 1999. She believes that by “integrating economic and environmental concerns, [ecological modernization] has enormous job creation potential.” But by the time Hayden is exploring its application, Crowley’s fear that it will be co-opted, like sustainable development before it, to make ecology a subservient add-on to the economy, has already come to pass. Both do see potential in ecological modernization as a bridge from ‘job vs. the environment’ to something better. Unfortunately Crowley can point to few examples in her case study of Australia. But at a minimum, environmentalists would benefit from better understanding what shade of green they are aiming for and plotting a path from light to dark in policy and practice for green jobs and the economy overall, which makes this framing interesting, and perhaps, useful.
Image: Discursive Environmental Policy Eras, by Kate Crowley. Published as “Jobs & Environment: the Double Dividend of Ecological Modernisation” International Journal of Social Economics, Vol 26, No. 7/8/9, pp. 1013-1026.