January 23rd, 2009
It’s pretty clear that we’re in uncharted economic waters these days. Unemployment numbers just get worse and worse, stock portfolios continue to tank, and companies formerly at the pinnacle of the US economy flirt with bankruptcy.
At Low Impact Living, we have a pretty strong view into how small green businesses are doing out there, and it isn’t pretty. Part of that has to do with the housing market. New green homes aren’t getting built. Major remodels that often occur when people are prepping their homes for sale or have just purchased a new one are few and far between. And even medium-sized projects are hard to fund due to the evaporation of home equity.
But there’s another disturbing driver that’s starting to rear its ugly head: the shutdown of major green infrastructure projects by governments across the country.
California often leads the way when it comes to major green investments, with CA voters funding billions in bond measures over the past ten years for environmental projects. In mid-December, all of that came to a screeching halt: construction projects across the state were put on indefinite hold to the detriment of the environment. Multi-million dollar projects ranging from urban stormwater treatment to watershed restoration to dam removal are affected, as are the jobs and ecosystems that depend on them. (disclaimer: I’m involved with several projects that were affected).
In New York, the governor’s proposed budget for the next fiscal year cuts off all state funding for zoos, botanical gardens and aquariums. In addition to protecting threatened and endangered species, these facilities often serve as the only open and green space for residents of urban areas. Check out the Wildlife Conservation Society’s funny but poignant plea below:
In Florida, the legislature has proposed suspending the $300M / year Florida Forever program, which is used to fund the acquisition and protection of natural lands throughout the state. Also on the chopping block: $10M per year to clean up the state’s waterways.
And in Colorado, the governor recommended cutting Colorado’s Solar Incentive Program rebates in half and making major cuts to the state’s wastewater and drinking water facilities inspection and groundwater monitoring programs.
I’m sure that you have examples from governments big and small near you (and if you do, please share them via comments below!). The consequences of these cuts are pretty clear: lost jobs, lost open space, and a dirtier environment. Let’s hope that President Obama’s stimulus plan ends up filling these gaps before even more damage is done.
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