“But Jobs” does not justify every project

We constantly hear of various industries such as oil and gas argue “but it will cost jobs” or “it will create more jobs” as an smokescreen for the continued plundering of the environment or other destructive activities.

Every large project, even the most destructive, creates jobs. This does NOT necessarily mean that they are a good thing. Neither of my grandfathers lived to be 50. They died early of lung disease, caused by their jobs (mining and cotton mills).

The paper mills upstream of Grassy Narrows brought jobs, mostly to workers brought in from afar, but now a second generation of First Nations people are now dying there because of mercury poisoning caused by the paper mills upstream of their drinking and fishing waters, never cleaned up in spite of the fact that we’ve known it was there for 20 years.

Oddly enough, the robotics and artificial intelligence industries argue that their destruction of jobs is not a problem because the economy has always recovered and generated new jobs to replace those that were lost. If that is true, by the same argument the jobs in destructive industries which haven’t even been created yet can be replaced by other jobs in less destructive industries.

The creation of jobs is certainly an argument in favour of starting a new project, but there are questions to be asked:

  • Not “how many jobs” because sometimes the majority are short-term for initial construction. Perhaps “how many person-years in first 20 years and how many dollars will be paid per person-year”? This should only be direct jobs, including those employed and jobs directly due to supplying to the project, not jobs as a result of spending by the people with direct jobs. The other jobs (local retail workers, doctors, councils,…) generated by the spending and taxes from the directly employed are already covered by the dollars paid per person-year.
  • What is the expected risk to workers in lost life-expectancy or injury and illness above the population base rate?

We can also add the benefits to the community from the project. This can be measured by the profits made and taxes paid by the organizations involved.

We must deduct any impact on the environment, including the loss of any extracted raw materials to future generations and health impact on other humans, nearby and distant.

This is unlikely to be a complete list, but we need to move past having proponents of every project accusing the other side of being evil job-killers.