The US is creating jobs to tackle the climate emergency: could this approach work around the world?
3 min read
1 day ago
In 1933, amid the Great Depression that followed the stock market crash of 1929, with youth unemployment at record levels, the government of Franklin D. Roosevelt launched the Civilian Conservation Corps, an arguably paternalistic initiative (by today’s standards) that hired unemployed and unmarried young people between the ages of 18 and 25, paid them a salary of $30 a month (equivalent to about $678 in today’s dollars) of which they had to send $25 to their families, provided them with housing, clothing and food, and put them to do unskilled physical labor for the creation and conservation of national parks and natural spaces.
The program, which also had a version for veterans and another for Native Americans, became, with some three million participants, the most popular of the so-called New Deal, an ambitious set of measures that revolutionized the American economy.
Millions of young people worked on those projects to improve and maintain roads and trails, clear brush, deal with insect plagues and fight fires in America’s national parks and forests. Today, the National Park Service, which resulted in large part from that work, welcomes more than 330 million visitors annually to the nation’s 419 national parks and 154 national forests. It was also said that the young participants improved their physical condition and morale by working in the countryside, as well as their employability by learning various trades that they could later perform when they re-entered the job market. The initiative lasted until 1942, when the country’s entry into World War II meant that most of the young people were drafted.
In 2023, the Biden administration has taken that program as a model and launched the American Climate Corps, a much smaller initiative for the moment, which will offer employment and training to some 20,000 young people with no prior educational or experience requirements, who will receive a package consisting of housing, transportation, clothing, a living allowance and health benefits equivalent to about $15 per hour. The idea is that these young people will develop jobs ranging from forest clearing, aimed at preventing the increasingly frequent and virulent fires, to other work in various ecosystems…