The Legislature Should Budget At Least $100 Million For The Green Job 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.

Heather Kimball

Heather Kimball owns a consulting firm supporting communication for science-based policy and decision-making on the issues of climate change. She is also with Think B.I.G.

Noel Morin

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

Olivia Grodzka

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

Jeannette Gurung

Jeannette Gurung is a founder and executive director of Women Organizing for Change in Agriculture and Natural Resource Management, a Hawaii-based international non-profit.

As the pandemic lockdowns began here in Hawaii in April of 2020, we wrote an essay calling for all in Hawaii to think about how to make our islands more resilient to disasters of all sorts, including economic turmoil, hurricanes, tsunamis, possible wars, etc.

One year later, we’ve seen how bad it can be when events outside of our islands unfold in ways that directly and indirectly affect us.

Thankfully, the virus has had a relatively muted impact on our residents. But the indirect effects have been heavy. Hawaii is now facing the highest unemployment rate in the nation. We previously had the lowest unemployment rate in the nation.

This heavy impact is mainly because of our over-reliance on specific industries like tourism, which comprises about 25% of our economy in normal times.

We can’t turn on a dime and create a new economy that is not reliant on tourism. We’ll likely return to a high level of reliance on tourism and the economic risks that this brings if we don’t intervene. It’s built into our economy in many ways and that will take years to transform.

We Must Diversify

If we tackle this necessary transformation now, however, in a serious way and at the scale required, we can reasonably expect that within a few years, we’ll start to see other sectors of our economy rise in terms of jobs and economic activity. This will diversify our economy and reduce the risks associated with the over-dependence on a few sectors like tourism.

Hawaii is about to take a significant step forward in this needed transformation by passing the Green Job Corps program (HB 1176) into law. This bill recently passed through all Senate and House committees and will soon head to Governor David Ige’s desk for his signature.

Among the many jobs for which the Green Job Corps would allocate funding are jobs in support of Hawaii’s forests and watersheds. Nathan Eagle/Civil Beat

We strongly support this bill. We played a role in its creation and have done our best to rally support for it along the way. We strongly support its focus on green and resiliency sector jobs and training programs. This program is modeled after the Civilian Conservation Corps that hired so many unemployed people in the 1930s and 1940s and built so many lasting buildings and trails in National Parks and other locations around the country.

The key thing left to do is to “think big” and fund this new program in a big way. We recommend at least $100 million for the first two years of the program and eventually to use the federal dollars that Congress has and will appropriate for these purposes to make it permanent.

The kinds of jobs it will fund are described in the bill itself:

“The creation of a state-administered green job corps program would provide Hawaii residents who were economically impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic with opportunities to learn new skills and increase their prospects of employment within the resiliency and green sectors, including local agriculture, conservation, climate adaptation, renewable energy, cesspool conversion and technology industries.”

These are good jobs, and they are the jobs of the future. They will help make Hawaii a more resilient, equitable and sustainable place.

We urge all concerned citizens to write or call their state senator or representative and ask them to fund this new program with at least $100 million for the first two years. This is a reasonable down payment for our state’s future.

Community Voices aims to encourage broad discussion on many topics of community interest. It’s kind of a cross between Letters to the Editor and op-eds. This is your space to talk about important issues or interesting people who are making a difference in our world. Column lengths should be no more than 800 words and we need a photo of the author and a bio. We welcome video commentary and other multimedia formats. Send to news@civilbeat.org. The opinions and information expressed in Community Voices are solely those of the authors and not Civil Beat.


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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.

Heather Kimball

Heather Kimball owns a consulting firm supporting communication for science-based policy and decision-making on the issues of climate change. She is also with Think B.I.G.

Noel Morin

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

Olivia Grodzka

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

Jeannette Gurung

Jeannette Gurung is a founder and executive director of Women Organizing for Change in Agriculture and Natural Resource Management, a Hawaii-based international non-profit.


Latest Comments (0)

Government paying for jobs using taxpayer money is not substainable diversifying.

davewil3 · 1 year ago

I wholeheartedly agree with this article. We need to go big or face destruction. If we simply catered to tourists and ignore their carbon footprint, we will be digging our own hole which we will be unable to get out of. If we shift our economy to go green, we will force the tourists and others to adhere to our Greening economy.

Scotty_Poppins · 1 year ago

A $100 million is California’s budget for their green team; we are not California.  Their economy is roughly 33 times larger than hours so it be best if we funded our group with about $3 million . . .

Harvey · 1 year ago

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IDEAS is the place you'll find essays, analysis and opinion on every aspect of life and public affairs in Hawaii. We want to showcase smart ideas about the future of Hawaii, from the state's sharpest thinkers, to stretch our collective thinking about a problem or an issue. Email news@civilbeat.org to submit an idea.

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