AS OUR NATION struggles with the global economic crisis, President-elect Obama and Congress must find the right measures to stimulate the economy today and invest wisely to create sustained prosperity. Obama recognizes that an extraordinary opportunity exists to restart the economy and combat the threat of global warming by launching a Green New Deal, but our long-term success greatly depends on educating skilled workers for new technical fields.
Obama has outlined an immediate plan to create 2.5 million jobs through green-based initiatives, such as building wind farms and solar panels. This first step must be complemented with a long-term strategy that improves the environmental and economic sustainability of our nation. I believe that through a national green initiative, centered at our nation's public research universities, we can meet this challenge and emerge with a more sustainable environment and economy in the short and longer term.
This national green initiative, which would be launched in coordination with the flagship research universities across the country, would have three parts but one simple goal - building the human and capital infrastructure necessary to compete in the decades ahead, while simultaneously infusing millions of dollars into the private sector right away in building the facilities needed to create tomorrow's green technology breakthroughs.
For this plan to work, these efforts must be aimed at improving the learning environment across the state, and our public research universities are uniquely positioned to drive this effort.
While this idea is, in many ways, very simple, it will require our government and our universities to work closely together, to eliminate unnecessary bureaucracy and to move right away to begin these projects. It will also require our universities to fully engage the community colleges and other higher-educational institutions in a partnership. Most important, it will mean that our entire educational system, from K-12 to graduate schools, will need to contribute to solving the issues that face us.
We must, as a nation, address head-on the issue of energy self-sufficiency while combating global climate change. We must create jobs and financial security now, even as we attempt to prepare for an uncertain future. That won't be easy, but by investing in our future as a way of bolstering our current economy, we'll rise to our challenges today and tomorrow.
Robert C. Holub is chancellor of the University of Massachusetts Amherst.