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July 25, 2014
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editorial

Wanted: A ‘clean economy’ revolution


Instead of seeing sustainability and environmental goals as a drain on the economy, public-sector policymakers and private-sector business leaders increasingly will recognize the opportunities that can be created through sustainable economic development. In his report on Sullivan County, Samuelson highlighted the potential for agriculture and new agribusinesses—including the development of a regional food hub and projects to create a red-meat processing facility and a dairy processing plant—as positive steps toward making local farms more profitable (in turn helping to preserve farmland and open space). Such projects rely on growth that is sustainable.

Businesses, towns, and whole regions that lead this new economic revolution stand to prosper. In fact, the new economy has the potential to outperform the old one according to growing numbers of sustainability experts. To make this potential real, governments in partnership with the private sector and non-profits will need to work proactively at unprecedented levels in collaboration and innovation. Work also must be done to raise public awareness and involvement, because a broad base of public support will be essential for success.

Strategies for achieving sustainable economic development include: clustering green businesses together, improving the environmental performance of existing firms, promoting sustainable real estate development (mixed-use, mixed-income, walkable and transit-supported communities), green investment and workforce training to provide employees for green and clean tech jobs. (www.globalurban.org/Sustainable%20Economic%20Development.pdf)

Coal and railroads created America’s first Industrial Revolution. A second one followed, fueled by automobiles and petroleum. Computers, mobile phones and the Internet led a third. This time, the development of a green economy will drive the next revolution—creating new enterprises, new jobs and new wealth.

Those communities that lead the way in the sustainability revolution by emphasizing innovation, efficiency and conservation and by nurturing natural and human assets will put themselves in a better position to participate in the 21st century economy. Those who lag will be left behind.