Climate Corner: Climate Corps a place to learn skills, duty and responsibility

May 4, 2024

Jean Ambrose

I’m a student of history. In times like these, it gives me hope to look at other times when the future seemed dim to remember that we’re not novices in confronting great challenges. While each era has its unique circumstances, there are many lessons to be learned from past leaders. You need to know and spread the word about the rebirth of one of the best ideas we’ve ever had, the Civilian Conservation Corps, or CCC.

There aren’t many people left who lived during the Great Depression. We worry about the economy today; it is hard to imagine that in 1932, 25% of the workforce was unemployed nationally. The stock market had lost 89% of its value. In some West Virginia counties, 80% of the workforce was unemployed.

Newly elected Franklin Roosevelt proposed the CCC to Congress two weeks after he was inaugurated March 4, 1933. He signed an executive order establishing the new agency on April 5, 1933, and the first camp opened on April 17! By July 1933, only three months later, nearly 300,000 unemployed and unmarried young men were working at more than 1,400 CCC camps. There would be 69 camps of 150 – 200 men each in WV.

In every state we still see the legacy of that idea. More than 3,000,000 young men (and a few women) would serve through the CCC in the ten years before Pearl Harbor. This is when our wonderful state park system had its start. Hawks Nest, Holly River, Cacapon, Watoga, Babcock and Lost River parks were created by the CCC, as well as many state forests and protected areas like Dolly Sods.

In the 1930s much of the land had been devastated by clear-cutting of timber and by poor agricultural practices of small farmers. The environmental problems being created by today’s climate disruptions seem ready made for a new CCC to marshal this generation to answer the call to service. At a time when too many think that their freedom to do what they want supersedes all else, concepts of duty, responsibility, and citizenship have been pushed aside, especially in our public discourse. World War II was our grandparents’ wake up call to serve. Today, the global climate emergency requires a similar response.

The American Climate Corps — the new CCC — opened for business officially on Earth Day last week. The ACC is a groundbreaking, workforce training and service initiative that will put tens of thousands of Americans to work fighting the impacts of climate change today while training tomorrow’s clean energy and climate-resilient workforce. In partnership with local governments and community-based organizations, there are more than 2,000 service positions currently open on the ACC website,, with more being added daily. Opportunities are available in several types of organizations including federal agencies; state, local, and Tribal governments; non-profits; and state-based climate corps.

Some require BA degree, such as the Innovator Fellow program of the U.S. Dept. of Energy. Paying $27.46 an hour, 75 Fellows are being recruited for service around the country. Fellows get relocation expenses and serve one-year terms with the option to renew for a second year.

Many positions only require a high school diploma. Length of service may be part time or full time, from just the summer to a year or more. Basic benefits offered include a scholarship that can be used for student debt or for post-secondary learning, health care, and a living stipend. Some offer relocation expenses, housing, and childcare. It is disappointing that there are no positions yet offered in WV, but there are some close by in bordering states. One exciting opportunity for ages 18 – 26 is team-based at four regional training campuses. Corps member teams are sent out to work at a variety of projects in a multistate region, so you get to see the country and meet others with very different backgrounds, united by the ideal of making the world a better place.

If you are interested in getting hands-on experience in tomorrow’s clean energy and climate resilient workforce, this short-term experience will give you a leg up on other job applicants, as well as special access to federal positions after your term of service. Most have no age requirements. Many people hate the idea of working at a desk; with the Climate Corps you can be outside building trails and parks, restoring coastal and inland watersheds, assisting with disaster response and firefighting, or installing solar panels or weatherizing homes. In addition to those hands-on skills, you will be equipped with the career training and skills to make change, change we can breathe, see, feel, and touch, like our state park system.

Help get this opportunity to those who can take advantage of it. (My son took a break between high school and college to serve in AmeriCorps and was then ready to be in school again.) Look at for the wealth of exciting choices. Talk to your children and grandchildren about having an adventure they’ll remember all their lives with pride and an awakened sense of duty, responsibility, and hope for a better future.


Jean Ambrose talks to her 5-year-old granddaughter Adena about taking care of the Earth.