One hundred days ago, President Barack Obama took the oath of office with an overwhelming mandate from America’s youth. Two out of every three citizens under the age of 30 voted for Obama in the 2008 election. We demanded change and Obama promised it. We demanded green jobs, strong climate policy, a safer and more prosperous future, and we came 12,000 strong to DC to make sure he and his administration heard us.
The demand to get involved building a greener, more sustainable future is there, but the supply of opportunities has not been. Over the last eight years, we’ve missed countless chances to invest in a clean energy economy, in science and engineering, and in green jobs for America’s youth. But things have begun to change. There are at least three major signs of progress to report on this front in just the first 100 days of President Obama’s administration:
- The American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, which will create millions of new jobs and fund programs like the recently launched Youth Conservation Corps that will put 15,000 young people to work “resurrecting the treasures of America”
- The creation of a Clean Energy Service Corps as part of the Serve America Act that will engage tens of thousands of youth in moving America towards energy independence
- A new national energy education initiative announced yesterday that will inspire and train young Americans “to tackle the single most important challenge of their generation — the need to develop cheap, abundant, clean energy and accelerate the transition to a low carbon economy.” Among it’s many aims, this initiative will:
- Invest $777 million in 46 Energy Frontier Research Centers to address the fundamental scientific roadblocks to clean energy and energy security
- Establish a $5 billion “Race To The Top” fund to encourage states to improve the quality and supply of math and science teachers
- Launch RE-ENERGYSE (REgaining our ENERGY Science and Engineering Edge) to empower young men and women to invent and commercialize advanced energy technologies
These are huge accomplishments. The supply is beginning to meet demand, but we still have a long way to go. There remains tremendous untapped desire among young people for green jobs and green opportunities – see a recent LA Times article on the surging demand for clean energy careers or Bob Herbert’s powerful op-ed last June about the 4 million “disconnected youth,” 16 to 24, “who are not in school and basically have no hope of finding work”.
President Obama knows that “energy is this generation’s great project” and as long as there is demand for more jobs researching geothermal technology, installing solar panels, weatherizing homes, and conserving our natural resources, we need to increase the supply of opportunities.
There is no “silver bullet.” As Bill McKibben likes to say, we need “silver buckshot”. We need to marshall all the human potential in this great country to address these challenges. I applaud President Obama on an extremely successful 100 days, but I ask for more. The young people of America are ready and willing to serve. Let’s give them the opportunity.
This entry is cross-posted at It’s Getting Hot In Here.