On July 26, BlueGreen Alliance Executive Director David Foster accepted the 2010 Aspen Institute Energy and Environment Award at the Aspen Environment Forum. The following are his remarks.
Thank you very much.
On behalf of the 10 partner organizations in the BlueGreen Alliance – our two environmental partners, the Sierra Club and Natural Resources Defense Council and our eight union partners who cross the entire gamut of the American economy from the United Steelworkers to the American Federation of Teachers, Communications Workers, the Laborers, Service Employees, Amalgamated Transit Union, Utility Workers, and Sheet Metal Workers, represent over 8.5 million Americans – I’m very pleased to accept this award from The Aspen Institute.
The Aspen Institute represents opinion leaders from around the world, and for those of us who labored hard to create an unlikely marriage of unions and environmental organizations, your recognition of our efforts is an important benchmark of our success.
I am a great believer that an organization succeeds not only because of the hard work of its board, staff and leadership, but because it anticipates important trends and cross currents in our economy.
In that regard, I believe the BlueGreen Alliance is an organization whose time had come. In a tightly connected global economy, where the imperative to solve the climate crisis is interwoven with the aspirations of 6 billion people for a better life, any individual success of either the labor or environmental movements is now dependent upon their mutual success.
Big investments in our pressing environmental challenges are the only viable solution to our systemic economic challenges. Solutions to the current unemployment crisis that exacerbate climate change are ephemeral at best, and push us toward even more dangerous economic crises.
Last week, on the day that the U.S. Senate finally passed legislation restoring unemployment benefits to over 2.5 million Americans, the BlueGreen Alliance and one of its partner unions delivered over 100,000 handwritten letters from Steelworkers all over the United States urging Senators to immediately pass clean energy jobs legislation as the smartest and most effective way to put America back to work.
One of those steelworkers, Dennis Barker, from a steel mill in the hard-bitten town of Granite City, IL, said it this way, “I like to say that we work in green jobs in a smoke stack industry. We can make the steel that goes into wind turbine towers and all the other 8,000 parts and the 250 tons of steel it requires. And thanks to the support of the BlueGreen Alliance and the Sierra Club, Granite City now has the cleanest, coke oven facility in the United States.”
Dennis Barker may work in a smoke stack industry, but he’s building the infrastructure for the clean energy economy. Every blue collar job can have a green purpose. That’s the mission of the BlueGreen Alliance – to turn every job in America into a green job. And in so doing, solve the climate crisis.
Again, thank you very much.