Why this Site Exists

On behalf of our 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization Possible Planet (aka the Center for Regenerative Community Solutions), we’re very pleased to host this web site, dedicated to developing NJ’s Green Economy.

The idea grew out of a paper assigned by Professor Matt Polsky, a member of our Board of Trustees, to a class on “Ecology, Economics, & Ethics” at Ramapo College. This is an area that has been of interest to us for many years, and which brought us together as Senior Fellows at the Institute for Sustainable Enterprise at Fairleigh Dickinson University. During our tenure there we collaborated on a number of initiatives, most notably the creation of a paper laying out “a path to sustainable growth” for the state of New Jersey, published by the Institute in 2010.

At the time the idea of “sustainable growth” was something of a controversial one within the sustainability community.  As the paper noted, “Some ecologists and increasingly even some economists are questioning growth per se, and criticizing the standard measures of economic activity such as GDP as failing to distinguish between wasteful practices and real wealth creation.” While we agreed “this distinction is needed,” we also asserted “that growth in real wealth is not only possible but increasingly necessary.” Today it seems even clearer that the clean / green economy, is the path forward to increased human wellbeing and prosperity.

Perhaps naively, we stated that “We agree completely with Governor Christie’s repeated statements that the future growth of the NJ economy is tied to the emergence of a ‘green economy,’ including renewable energy and other emerging green technologies.” We were, however, deeply disappointed by the Christie administration, which quickly changed course with the Governor’s apparent interest in the Presidency and his consequent courting of the Koch Brothers and others with a retrograde agenda.

Subsequently the state was struck by Superstorm Sandy, and suffered severe damage to its economy as well as its shore and its infrastructure. In 2012, under the auspices of our first independent nonprofit, the Center for Leadership in Sustainability, Victoria Zelin and I published a follow-on paper, “Laying a Foundation for Sustainable Growth in New Jersey in the Wake of Hurricane Sandy” (subsequently revised and updated for our new organization, the Center for Regenerative Community Solutions, now operating as Possible Planet.) In it we argued for adopting a regenerative framework, financing an accelerated transition to clean energy, strengthening our local communities, and taking responsibility for restoring and maintaining our ecosystems.

This initiative continues that quest under the banner of the “Green Economy.”1,2 As noted below, New Jersey has something of a checkered history with the idea of a green economy, but Governor Phil Murphy made it a central focus of his campaign, and since taking office has followed through on his promises to rejoin the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) and to support a significant expansion of solar and offshore wind energy. But there’s a lot more that’s needed.

For our purposes here, we see the Green Economy as fundamentally a regenerative, life-based economy, that is in harmony with nature while meeting the needs of people for meaningful jobs and equitable incomes. This is a world that is possible — and increasingly essential, if we are to reverse the course of climate change, habitat disruption, and the loss of the biodiversity that actually sustains all of us. It creates prosperity by restoring the ecosphere to the healthy functioning that creates a surplus for everyone. And as Buckminster Fuller noted, we already have the level of technological innovation that can allow everyone on the planet to live well by cultivating the well-being of the earth.

This is what we are working toward, both locally and globally, by helping to finance the transition to clean energy and increased resilience, by supporting the emergence of a risk-based carbon economy, and by offering alternatives to individuals and communities to collaborate more effectively in ensuring their own sustainable futures. This site is one more way of conveying that kind of possibility for the state of New Jersey.

We are also working to make this site more than just a single report, and to raise questions about what more we could be doing to further a “deep green” agenda. We hope to engage policymakers, civic leaders, and the New Jersey public at large in this discussion. You can subscribe below, and post your comments below that.

Please help us make this a vibrant and relevant site to transform our state.

Jonathan Cloud, Executive Director

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1As noted in the paper, the “green economy” term was apparently first used in 1989 in a report written by a group of environmental economists, entitled “Blueprint for a Sustainable Economy,” but its use was apparently an afterthought, and was only subsequently promoted by the authors in several updated publications.

Writing in 2012, Hussein Abaza, the former chief of the Economics and Trade Branch of the United Nations Development Program, says

The concept of Green Economy is not entirely a new concept. It was first mooted by the London Environmental Economics Centre* (LEEC) in a publication (Blueprint for a Sustainable Economy) in 1989 authored by David Pearce, Anil Markandya, and Ed Barbier. However, at that time the concept did not receive wide acceptance. With the outbreak of the financial crisis in 2007 and the failure of most countries to move onto a sustainable development path, it has become evidently clear that the current development paradigm is not yielding the desired outcomes on all fronts economic, social, and environmental.

Efforts to transition to a sustainable development path and realize the objectives of Agenda 212 have been very modest. A number of reasons appear to have constrained this transition to take place.

One of the reasons for lack of significant progress has been inability to clearly make the business case for investing in the environment. In order to encourage policy and decision makers to invest in the environment, they need to be convinced that such a transition would result in economic benefits as well. These benefits include additional jobs generated, increased output, creation of new market niches and increased trade, and a positive impact on GDP. It is therefore essential to demonstrate that there is a clear relationship between investing in the environment, socioeconomic and sustainable development. Since human welfare should be the ultimate goal for any development strategy, a well-designed sustainable development strategy should result in poverty eradication.

Green Economy could be viewed as an approach that emphasizes these linkages. It could therefore be considered as a tool or vehicle that facilitates the transition to sustainable development.

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) defines the Green Economy as one that results in improved human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities(2010).

Another more elaborate definition of green economy is:

“The Green Economy is one in which the vital linkages among the economy, society, and environment are taken into account and in which the transformation of production processes, and consumption patterns, while contributing to a reduced waste, pollution, and the efficient use of resources, materials, and energy, will revitalize and diversify economies, create decent employment opportunities, promote sustainable trade, reduce poverty, and improve equity and income distribution.”

LEEC is a joint venture established in 1988 by the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) & the department of Economics of University College London (UCL).
** Agenda 21 became a major focal point for right-wing activists in New Jersey and elsewhere in the early twentyteens, who saw it as “a secret United Nations conspiracy to take away U.S. citizens’ personal freedoms and property rights under the guise of sustainable development.” (Claire Sommer, NJPPN, “The Agenda 21 Controversy and Your Town“)

2The concept of the Green Economy also has something of a checkered history in New Jersey as well as elsewhere. Originally identified as one of NJ’s “key industry sectors” in state planning documents during the Corzine Administration, and initially embraced by the Christie administration, it was quickly sidelined by the Governor’s decisions to raid the BPU’s Societal Benefit Fund for the benefit of the State Treasury, and the BPU’s refusal to approve any permits for offshore wind. At the time, the Bureau of Labor Market Information and the Office of Labor Planning and Analysis noted:

Green Economy Cluster

  • Green describes many of the innovations, industry changes and investments designed to develop an economy and infrastruc-ture that employs more efficient, cleaner, sustainable, environmentally friendly and homegrown energy sources.
  • In New Jersey in 2009, the Green economy employed 200,521 workers in three major areas: green energy production/re-newable energy (24.5% of employment), energy efficiency – green building/construction/design (68.0%) and environmental remediation/waste management reduction (7.5%).
  • In 2009, nearly $15.5 billion in total wages were paid by employers in New Jersey’s Green economy cluster.
  • New Jersey has been called the number-one state for renewable energy incentives.
  • The Garden State’s highly regarded Solar Renewable Energy Certificate (SREC) program lets home and business owners sell clean energy credits to utility companies.
  • The federal government recently announced four priority areas for wind projects off the Eastern Seaboard that are being fast-tracked for environmental reviews, one of which is a 550- square mile section off the coast of New Jersey, from Avalon to Barnegat Bay.

Of course, the positions of the federal and state governments have since reversed, with the Trump administration seeking to reinstate offshore fossil-fuel drilling, and the Murphy administration looking to expand renewables.

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