Hawaii Needs A Green Jobs Corps - Honolulu Civil Beat


About the Authors

Tam Hunt

Tam Hunt is a lawyer and activist based on the Big Island. He is co-founder of Think B.I.G. and a board member for the Hawaii Electric Vehicle association.

Noel Morin

Noel Morin is a civic leader and environmental advocate. He is with Citizens’ Climate Lobby Hawaii.

Heather Kimball

Heather Kimball owns a consulting firm supporting communication for science-based policy and decision-making on the issues of climate change.

Bill Bugbee

Bill Bugbee is executive director of BeyondKona.com. He is a board member of the Hawaii EV Association.

Olivia Grodzka

Olivia Grodzka came to Hawaii for the jackfruit (literally) and stayed because of the hospitality and lifestyle.


Hawaii is facing record unemployment levels — the worst in the nation and the worst in U.S. history. How are we going to dig ourselves out of this hole?

A new green jobs program could be a large part of restoring our society and our economy. Like the Civilian Conservation Corps created by President Franklin Roosevelt with the help of a willing Congress in the 1930s, a new Green Jobs Corps could be created with federal leadership, or could be created at the state or county level first.

In fact, the new Biden administration has recently announced plans to create a Civilian Climate Corps Initiative as part of a package of policies to address climate change, energy, resilience and the economy.

This is great news at the federal level and we hope that local and state policymakers are able to tie new green jobs programs in with these federal efforts.

We are promoting a Big Island version of the Green Jobs Corps and hope that this idea can be extended to other islands also.

A new resolution is scheduled to be heard by the Hawaii County Council in February, which would create a Green Jobs Corps that expands upon existing efforts by groups like Kupu that generally offer green jobs for youth but that are expanding to include adults because of the pandemic and massive unemployment among adults.

Among the many trades that could be part of a Green Jobs Corps: Solar technicians to install solar on county and other public buildings and parking lots. Doug Murray/FPL

The kind of green jobs we envision for employing large numbers of our unemployed and able-bodied people include:

  • Solar technicians to install solar on county and other public buildings and parking lots
  • EV charging technicians to install and maintain EV chargers around the island for the growing number of EVs we need to transition away from fossil fuels
  • Energy efficiency technicians to install energy efficient lighting, A/C and windows in public and private buildings
  • Trail crews to maintain and improve existing trails and to create a significant new network of trails and bike paths around the island, making walking, biking, jogging and skating throughout the island a real possibility
  • Facilities crews to maintain and improve county, state and federal park facilities and to build new recreation and park facilities like basketball courts, tennis courts, swimming pools, playgrounds, etc.
  • Farming and gardening crews to maintain, improve and create new community gardens on public lands and to teach courses in local sustainable agriculture and permaculture
  • Recycling and upcycling crews to improve our recycling rates and reduce solid waste
  • Educators for all ages and educational levels to teach about green energy, green transportation, better waste management, parks and trails maintenance, and local agriculture and permaculture
  • And many others as long as they will improve our island’s sustainability, equity and resiliency (the three objectives of our Think B.I.G. initiative)

There are some great models for a new Green Jobs Corps already up and running here in Hawaii. Kupu, as mentioned above, runs green jobs programs for our youth. We recommend permanently expanding this program beyond youth programs in order to help the large numbers of adults who are out of work and would appreciate the chance for new green jobs.

Here on the Big Island we have many able-bodied adults eager to work on great projects that benefit their community and their environment. Resilience, equity and sustainability are our guiding principles for developing these new green jobs programs.

A large first step toward the Green Jobs Corps becoming reality happened on Feb. 2 when a key County Council subcommittee unanimously approved the draft jobs resolution (Res. 35-21), due to the leadership of Ashley Kierkiwicz and other councilmembers. The full council will vote shortly and the measure is expected to pass, given the strong support in committee.

We’re excited to see what results from the growing recognition at the local, state and federal level of the urgency and promise of new green jobs.

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About the Authors

Tam Hunt

Tam Hunt is a lawyer and activist based on the Big Island. He is co-founder of Think B.I.G. and a board member for the Hawaii Electric Vehicle association.

Noel Morin

Noel Morin is a civic leader and environmental advocate. He is with Citizens’ Climate Lobby Hawaii.

Heather Kimball

Heather Kimball owns a consulting firm supporting communication for science-based policy and decision-making on the issues of climate change.

Bill Bugbee

Bill Bugbee is executive director of BeyondKona.com. He is a board member of the Hawaii EV Association.

Olivia Grodzka

Olivia Grodzka came to Hawaii for the jackfruit (literally) and stayed because of the hospitality and lifestyle.


Latest Comments (0)

An absolutely wonderful article with great ideas! This could easily be created. There are so many people willing to put forth time and effort into any one of these projects in order to help the environment, their community, their long-term health, and their pocket book.Every legislature should be required to read this article and put these measures into bills immediately. Our entire future is at stake.

Scotty_Poppins · 1 year ago

Sign me up! This is exactly the sort of work I have been looking for and would be thrilled to do...something important, necessary, and that will make a difference here.

pahoa_blonde · 1 year ago

I am a big fan of this idea to the extent that it take people off unemployment insurance and welfare and improves the overall use of public funds. The basic premise of public works is that it is in public interest to, say, pay $4k for work that creates $3k in public value to someone who is currently unemployed rather than pay that person $2k to do nothing. It is better yet if getting this job done through public works eliminates the need to hire a contractor who would charge the government $20k to get the same amount of work done. However, this proposal is certain to face a huge headwind from the unions, which will go out of their way to stop it in its tracks, sabotage it, or co-opt it and turn it to their sole benefit.

Chiquita · 1 year ago

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