How About Reviving the Civilian Conservation Corps?Breaking News
tags: New Deal, Public works, Civilian Conservation Corps, CCC
In 1933, with the country deep in the Great Depression, the United States government created the Civilian Conservation Corps, a work program that gave young men jobs transforming the American landscape. They built trails and roads, fought fires, and maintained critical infrastructure, among many, many other projects.
“The CCC was absolutely massive,” says environmental economist Mark Paul of the New College of Florida. At its peak, it employed half a million workers—over its nine-year lifetime, the total figure was 3 million, about 5 percent of the US male population at the time. “So it’s really a kind of hallmark program in American history that provided youth with economic opportunity while bringing them close to nature,” he continues.
In 2020, we face massive unemployment and a host of environmental problems that need fixing: wildfires in the West, flood-prone areas along the Gulf of Mexico, all manner of dams on the verge of collapse. Nearly a century after the original CCC came into being, some folks argue it’s time to bring it back. So say Americans themselves: recent polling shows that 80 percent of Democrats and 74 percent of Republicans favor a return of the CCC. Joe Biden has proposed something akin to the CCC if elected: the Civilian Climate Corps. Workers would manage forests, restore ecosystems, and even remove invasive species. In September, Illinois Senator Dick Durbin introduced the RENEW Conservation Corps Act, which would spend $55.8 billion over five years to put a million Americans back to work, doing things like wildlife surveys and monitoring water quality. And last year, Ohio Representative Marcy Kaptur introduced the 21st Century Civilian Conservation Corps Act, which has yet to pass the House, but proposes rehabilitating environments and updating trails and facilities throughout the country’s natural spaces.
Kaptur sees some participants as working in their local communities, while others up for travel might move around the United States. “If we give them an opportunity to broaden their horizons, and at the same time restore America in some of its hidden corners and neglected places, what a great gift to the future,” she says. “I don’t know a single person—including my own father, who worked for the Civilian Conservation Corps as a very young man—who wasn’t changed and elevated by that experience.”
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