Climate Change Looms Large: We need a Work Progress Administration to Create Jobs & Build Climate Safe Communities

Laurie Schoeman
3 min readNov 16, 2020
Flooded Homes near Houston Texas following Hurricane Harvey 2017

2020 is on track to be the hottest and most volatile decade in modern times. 3m acres+ of land is burning out of control in California, Oregon, Washington and Colorado; Iowa and Utah have suffered calamitous wind storms damaging homes and agriculture; and at present Hurricane Sally bounds towards New Orleans with 5 more storms in tow. This is occurring when every single household across the nation, that has a home, is sheltering in place from the COVID-19 virus. The need for safe and resilient affordable housing across the nation has never been more profound. Yet, according to the world’s leading climatologists-we are only getting started and sadly our nation is sorely prepared for a one-inch rain event, let alone an extreme flood.

When President Roosevelt launched the Works Progress Administration in 1935, with the nation’s first female Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins, it was intended to kickstart the depressed economy and address the critical infrastructure and institutional needs of the nation. Under his administration he launched several grand federal employment which collectively employed 15–19 million direct jobs and tens of millions more supporting positions, and constructed some of the great public works this country still depends on today — the Hoover Dam, LaGuardia Airport, the Lincoln Tunnel and constructing 2,500 hospitals, 5,900 schools, 1,000 airport fields and 29,000 units of affordable housing. His administration demonstrated visionary leadership that got the nation on its feet again.

We need to stand the WPA back up to fortify the nation’s climate vulnerable housing and communities from the ravages of floods, fires and earthquakes and re-employ millions of workers that have been laid off from the economic downturn.

Top Priorities should include:

Safe and Affordable Housing Construction. The demand for safe, resilient and affordable housing is more critical than ever. Nearly 38 million households nationwide are paying more than 30% of their incomes on housing, close to 600K Americans sleep on the sleeps every night and impacts from floods and fires threaten millions of units and the displacement of millions of households. There are a wide variety of strategies and trades that can be deployed to preserve existing housing stock and Keep Housing and Communities safe.

Fortification of Nation’s Energy Grid: Dependency on centralized water and energy grid distribution has grown cumbersome to manage and maintain in areas of extreme fire and flood risk. It will be critical to invest in decentralizing electrical grids where feasible to handle the changing conditions and habits of households, businesses and institutions in rural, tribal and island communities.

Land Management: West Coast fires have burned over 3million acres of land as of this date-land that is now charred and will not be able to manage large quantities of stormwater and will lead to flooding below. Workforce will be needed to reshape land sites to allow for stormwater and flooding management, drought resistance and fire wise land use. Planting and landscaping can be accelerated, through the utilization of innovative agricultural methods like hydroponics.

This initiative will require leveraging investment of federal, state and local governments, in conjunction with tax incentives and private sector investment to afford a problem of this scale. The return on investment will be a safer more resilient infrastructure and communities, critical housing support, and reduce the climate displacement of millions of Americans. With partnership from all sectors — private, public, healthcare, profit and civic this program will prepare this nation for a century of risk that is coming forward. We need a moonshot to get the country back on solid footing — because the changing climate-is only getting started.



Laurie Schoeman

Entrepreneurial multi-sector sustainability leader committed to increasing the strength and resilience of communities facing risks from climate change. .