The Green Job Frame, a Loose Cheeks Special Feature

About a hundred people, many of them from Merced, got an education in UC intellectual bankruptcy this week at the old Merced Theatre during a forum on "Green Jobs." The event was organized by Kenny, the Monster UC Merced Faculty Spouse, and it featured a trio of top Bay Area speakers on everything green. After the Monster got the computers started (computer inadequacy is a hallmark of Monster Shows), we entered the world of "Framing and Reframing," a rhetorical confection created by UC Berkeley's Chomsky-Lite, Prof. George Lakoff.

The Monster framed it like this: the environmental debate is always framed as an environmental protection argument, yet we need thousands of new jobs but if the environment collapses, human health and safety also collapses; ergo, we need "green jobs." QED, it's a "no brainer" for Merced to seek these "green" industries and jobs.This "framing" of the question unleashed the speakers to bay after the elusive "green job."

Merced City Councilman John Carlisle, the only member of the panel that did not indulge in "framing" lingo, described the situation in Merced in dire terms -- gangs, bad air quality, teen pregnancy, etc. -- all the products of poverty in this weird county, which has among the nation's least affordable housing, its highest foreclosure rate and is among the five poorest counties in the state. For "a community already in need of help,"

Carlisle wants "green jobs." In his definition of "green jobs," however, the audience got its first intimation that it was going to get had that evening. "Green jobs," according to Carlisle and others on the stage have good employers, good benefits, upward mobility, and meaningful work -- for starters. Carlisle's election apparently owed quite a bit to the work of the sponsors of the Green Job event. In this context, we can understand his utopian affection. Otherwise, he seems to be a pretty level-headed retired probation

Nwamaka Agbo, from the Oakland-based Ella Baker Center, made an excellent presentation on the Center's efforts to get more "green-collar jobs" in Oakland, Berkeley, Emeryville and Richmond, pointing out that poor communities of color also care about the environment but have more immediate worries. She defined "eco-apartheid" in West Oakland near the port, presenting the dichotomy of "organic food v. no food at all." "Eco-equity" means the incorporation of everyone into the environmental movement. We thought Agbo's presentation would have been equally interesting and relevant to Merced if she had been talking about Brooklyn or Compton, but we now live in the home of UC Merced, so we must gratefully
accept its total framing of our lives as we so gratefully accepted the finance, insurance and real estate framing of our economy in recent years.

"The environmental conversation lacks racial analysis," Agbo bravely asserted against the entire history of the environmental justice movement in an evening definitely not devoted to discussion of CEQA suits in Planada. (One of the event sponsors later tried to “reframe” what Agbo said, but Loose Cheeks, “framing-deficient," didn't get it.)

Marc Stout represented the Bigshot Entrepreneur wing of "green jobs," a flak for Cleantech, "a utility-scale power-plant project developer." He said construction and maintenance of future solar farms will require thousands of workers. He mentioned figures. He described a 40-acre facility near Mendota (unfinished) and a 640-acre solar farm his company is planning for the San Joaquin Valley.

The only interesting thing he said was that Germany, a cold, northern European country, employs a half a million of its citizens in the solar business. Siemens, the German global conglomerate, is the largest player in this market, according to other sources, but Germany is probably absorbing most of what it produces. Japanese solar technology dominates the US market at the moment, but Siemens’ India-made panels sold here reportedly have quality problems. It is interesting to note that in the cornucopia of “green jobs” Stout touted, manufacturing solar panels or any other "green" technology was absent. The entire industry seems to be gearing up for its Conquest of America on off-shored manufacturing.

Although, according to Stout, hundreds of thousands of jobs will be available soon for construction and maintenance of solar farms, about twice as many jobs will be available off-shore plants to make solar panels. Stout did not indicate if all this solar power injected onto the grid will in any way lower utility rates and not just make money for the utility companies and solar entrepreneurs like himself (and, of course,
those thousands of construction and maintenance personnel, who will all be US citizens and working for Bay Area-level wages and protected by strong unions.)

It was with the presentation by Cheryl Brown of the UC Berkeley Labor Center that we entered into the full vedanta of what it means to be "green."

"Green jobs are quality jobs," she said. And, although that was about as far as she went to defining green in mere layperson's language, she said she thought that some concept of "sustainability" should be included and that a quality job meant one that might last.

That would knock out solar farm construction work. Stout never broke down the figures on numbers of jobs between construction and maintenance. Asians will manufacture the panels.

While we have heard and largely approved of the new verb, "to greenwash," to describe what corporations are doing to claim to be environmentally friendly, it was Brown who brought back to our hick consciousness the verb, "to green," languishing in the shadows since the 1970's gerund, The Greening of America.

Brown's "framing" was dead on arrival, but it twitched along obliviously anyway. Quality jobs apparently mean that we must "unionize in the market-driven green solution." Well, we dunno. But, to use an older Berkeley term, we had a " flashback." We don't think Cesar Chavez' dying words in Yuma were, "Unionize in the market-driven green solution!"

Brown cavorted around the various bills in Congress and the state Capitol and the innumerable institutions out there doing something "to green" industry and jobs, claiming that the East Bay is to become the "Silicon Valley of green stuff."

Loose Cheeks left before all the questions from the audience were finished because they weren't questions. They were living ads for various "green" and "greenwashed" groups and public institutions.

However, in the hoopla before the event and during the event, we noted only two references to agriculture. In the Merced Sun-Star's editorial boosting the event, editors referred to "stagnant agriculture." At the "green jobs" forum, agriculture was treated solely as land available for the placement of large numbers of solar panels and as a very minor source of air pollution (less than 10 percent, versus construction, the worst polluter at 40 percent).

One of the sponsors of the event, the carpet-bagger professional opponents of the WalMart distribution center project, once again increased the threat to their cause and our environment. Having done very little but kiss the posteriors of politicians and the press since they arrived, the City of Merced has totally suckered the WalMart Action Team into making "positive contributions" instead of simply and coherently opposing the project.

They were overjoyed that the City's economic development director was in the audience. They don't like Quintero much because they feel he doesn't always listen to them. That could be because Quintero actually knows something about the employment situation in Merced. He made more sense than anyone on the panel when he said Merced contains many "line workers" who need a job tomorrow and certainly cannot afford to go through lengthy "green job" training programs, assuming government funds are made available for them. All the panelists and some of the "questioners" mentioned the sainted state Sen. Darryl
Steinberg's bill to provide $3 billion for "green job" training. Clue: Steinberg has made an entire career out of haphazard, ill-timed defenses of politically correct causes.

Thoroughly engrossed in the process of allowing UC to completely “reframe” their reality, Kenny the Monster and his sponsors never thought to include anyone on the panel who actually knew anything about the San Joaquin Valley environment or its labor history. For this act of appeasement, they were rewarded: the Sun-Star didn’t even send a reporter to cover the event.

Loose Cheeks left the performance at the old theatre in a disordered state. How is it that you come to "green" Merced without talking about its natural resources? How does that work? Presumably, UC Merced and Kenny Monster will reframe it for us us all in the finest Goodbar/Valley Hopefuls style.

Loose Cheeks learned the next day that Merced County Planning Commissioner Etc. Cindy Lashbrook said something about not wanting all the farmland filled with solar panels. This is reported to have made the posterior-kissing crowd nervous, for which we applaud the Commissioner of Many Hats.

Meanwhile, to respond to Quintero's excellent question: house the homeless in foreclosed, empty homes and hire the unemployed to mow those lawns and maintain those gardens. That would provide permanent housing for the homeless and work for those gardeners for the rest of their lives. With water, the grass and the gardens would once again be "green."

As for the Walmart "opponents," the asthma coalition and the local Sierra Clubbers who sponsored the event, Loose Cheeks wanted to remind them and their Florida-based employers, knucklehead labor goons, that you don't stop environmentally destructive development by sucking up to the land-use officials that approve the projects, and the job of opponents does not include providing "positive" solutions. That’s the business of the government and its good friends in private enterprise.

RE: [WMAT_Leadership] MSS: Forum to tout green growth‏
From: on behalf of Diana Westmoreland Pedrozo
Sent: Thu 5/15/08 4:26 PM
To: 'Kenny Mostern' (;;;;; 'Nick Robinson'

Just wanted to let you know that I will not be able to attend tonight. Thank you for bringing this issue to the forefront. If I can be of assistance in any future endeavors please let me know. I am sitting on the board of the San Joaquin Valley Clean Energy Organization formed last year through the Housing, Land Use and AG Committee of the San Joaquin Valley Partnership and green jobs is an important component of addressing energy and air quality issues here in the Valley.
Good Luck!
Diana Westmoreland Pedrozo
(Executive Director Merced County Farm Bureau, President California Women for Agriculture, Top Henchette Supervisor Deidre Kelsey reelection campaign, Etc.--ed.)

--A.J. Gangle