June 6, 2009 at 10:15 pm #76644
So… why aren’t there more green jobs? I don’t mean high-government level, and I don’t mean interning or volunteering at a nature center. I mean real, regular, middle-class green jobs that pay well enough to support families.
It strikes me that with all the talk about the decadence of unions, this is one area that could stand to unionize sometime in the not-too-distant future. Trouble is, a strike accomplishes what?
People who work toward keeping our world clean and running, and cleaning up the external costs created by other businesses, are not paid well because they’re supposedly doing it “just because it feels good”, as if that puts food on the table.
What it seems to come down to is this: the environment isn’t a product, and therefore no one wants to pay to have it maintained. But I’m sick of getting paid to wreck it some more with every job I take, and I want some real alternatives.June 7, 2009 at 2:30 am #278519
TaraKMemberLogin to Send PM
Well, I think there just may be a shortage of companies who have come up with creative means. No, the environment isn’t a product, but feeling good is. A lot of green companies are selling a sense of responsibility, affect, and feel-good-about-yourself type vibe. Why pay two dollars more for this toilet paper (that feels less soft)? To feel better about yourself. So that product is out there. And there’s no shame in selling that. We love buying happiness; why not buy happy things that help the environment?
I do think, though, that the eco-trend is in a weird position right now. While it’s still hot (and we’d like it to stay that way), people are also looking to make financial cuts wherever possible, which can mean cutting back on the eco-friendly products in exchange for the discounted prices of the harmful ones. Fore eco-products (and their jobs) to succeed, then, they need to also compete with their prices. The future of green products and green jobs will embrace those that cash in on the “save money and trees” idea. A lot of them have been doing that for some time. People really seem to be capitalizing on the DIY-green movement lately, as opposed to the flashy green consultants of the beginning. DIY-green products/services allow for the sense of goodwill as well as financial reward and pride in personal accomplishment.June 7, 2009 at 10:01 am #278520
OK, so, why do we pay more for this toilet paper? I am very wary of greenwashing. But I do agree, a sort of “added value” environmentalism, on top of the products we already use, is useful and tempting, particularly if economical.
But what I see here is an essential blindspot, or bottleneck in our economy. That is, we know that the environment is falling apart (this is still open to debate, but according to me and those whom I trust, it is falling apart), but at the same time, our entire economy has been predicated upon the environment’s unending use. Our economy has been predicated upon a limitless expanse of externalized costs, and now that those costs have come home, we are experiencing a strange sensation.
That is– that the very things that make the most environmental sense— that is, the things that DON’T externalize costs– cost MORE. The very things that, for instance, during World War II, would have cost LESS. The very things that would save us money, and dovetail right into our economic goals. Right now. We are seeing that. We are still at the vanguard, after all these years we are at the vanguard of environmental awareness, when it comes to employment.
I don’t know what to do about this. People can start in small ways. Every movement must have instigators. But I am afraid the small ways will be things like Whole Foods, which frankly, creeps me out. Or things like pledges to “plant trees”. Or very low-paid jobs. I don’t want to, once again, be at the forefront of something I can’t make a living off of. I am sick of it. Give me a damned pork chop, for chrissakes! We need things to be local. We need things to come from everyday people, and not ONLY from big government or big companies. And not only from well-off people, or white people. So in that respect, DIY is good. But DIY on a large scale. We won’t be able to be vanguards alone.
But to see… to see the big picture… that’s what we need. I think we need education. There were so many suppositions I had about “environmentalism” before I knew anything about where I lived, before I knew that it was an entity. That this is a real place, with real intelligence. This place has organized itself for millions of years before I got here. So has every place. Every place is its own unique entity, its own unique intimacy. That is a pretty big truth to swallow. But a truth nonetheless. There are biological patterns at work here that I am powerless to comprehend, because they are older than I can comprehend. I have no reference for them.
And what I’m saying is, I want a job doing that. Whatever serves that, that’s what I want. Not to fight, not to petition, but just to earnestly work, from 9-5, for my lifetime.
My family raised buildings, we raised crops, I’d do whatever it takes.June 7, 2009 at 12:32 pm #278521
Frida KahluaMemberLogin to Send PM
Manatee wrote >>
Every movement must have instigators.
Well, this is a lot to take in with my morning coffee, but I smell a revolution, which I can never resist. I think you are right – we do need things to come from everyday people, who identify a need or market, then figure out how to make it green. At one time, I entertained thoughts about starting my own cleaning company, using only green products…(I think someone is already doing that now – I am good with ideas, not so much with follow-through.)
A couple of years ago, one of my best-friends, who has multiple chemical sensitivities & fibromyalgia, was forced to go on medical leave when the well-known green company (ironically)that she works for, painted her office. She had given them the names of a couple of less toxic brands in advance, but a popular name-brand was on sale, so they went with that. Well, this makes me think, there is a market out there for people who don’t want poison walls…
And, as for raising crops…I don’t know where you live, but I am from the southwest, where I lived and worked with Native Americans for years. I believe the only hope for the plight of the rez is to be self-sustaining (Navajo Nation fought casinos for years.) I always thought that they should raise jojoba beans on that land.
Anyhow, I like the way you think…this reminds me of one of my favorite quotes:
Ã¢â‚¬ËœNever doubt that a small, group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.Ã¢â‚¬â„¢
Ã¢â‚¬â€ Margaret Mead
Oh yeah, and “Be the change you wish to see in the world” Gandhi – or Yoda, I forget… (just kidding!)June 7, 2009 at 2:07 pm #278522
Frida KahluaMemberLogin to Send PM
ps. 2nd cup of coffee + glance in the mirror made me wonder why I didn’t mention this in my first post as an example of a need or market for green products!
Well,I have been wanting to color my hair, but am loathe to use box hair dyes, as I’m convinced this is what killed Jackie O…
So, for the past few months I have used steeped sage leaves, coffee and even blackstrap molasses as a natural alternatives, with mixed results. Anyhow, yesterday I drove past an Indian/Asian market, and thought I’d pop in and get some henna. (WFM does sell a fine natural vegetable dye, as well as henna, but I did not want to go there.)
Anyhow, I did find some henna, but, 16 hrs later, can I just say that it is ALMOST NEVER a good idea to put something permanent on your head when all the wording on the box is in another language. Unless, of course, you speak that language.
I think it is safe to say now that I can identify the Hindi word for “Calico.”
My point is, my friend, look around you – there are ideas everywhere. :-)June 8, 2009 at 6:08 am #278523
Well, what’s a “green job?”
Are the workers employed at the First Solar manufacturing plant in Toledo working a green job? The factory itself isn’t the cleanest facility in industrial history, after all. Not all of the materials that go into solar panels are environmentally safe. However, they’re producing solar panels that may take the edge off the hunger for new coal plants and help make suburbs full of ranch houses (lots of roof without much volume underneath) substantially more sustainable than they are now.
Is your garden-variety banker, software engineer, insurance agent, etc. a green job? All of those people are working in generally low-emission industries (and it’s largely because we have become increasingly reliant on such people to drive our economy that we can even talk about things like emissions targets … if our economy were still as dependent on heavy industry as America in the 1950s or China today, I can guarantee that that wouldn’t be the case). However, their job description generally doesn’t involve actively working on the environment.
Are people working in freight rail working green jobs? Freight rail produces substantially less emissions per ton-mile than air or truck freight, but freight trains still burn a lot of diesel fuel.
My main point is simply that almost all of the results of any statistic about how many “green” jobs we have and/or will have are determined by the people who get to write the definition of a “green job.” You determine the answer by how you define its terms.June 8, 2009 at 11:55 am #278524
Gram, I do agree that there are, shall we say, certain “shades” of greenness. And I think there is a lot of value in doing our regular jobs, but greener. But that’s not exactly what I’m talking about here. I am talking about actively working toward sustainability and solving for environmental pattern, as the MAIN focus of one’s workhours. For a large sector of employees.
As a global culture, we have not yet reached the tipping point where this can happen yet. But I hope it does.
I think it is outrageous that our culture has positioned itself in such a way that this actual, real work that needs to be done has no pay structure available to it. And the danger is that the only potential employer would be large corporations, or the government, neither one of which seems to have a vested interest in keeping the biological life of our planet in working order. And that large corporations, and the government, right now seem more concerned with covering their asse(t)s than investing in clean, responsible communites.
And Gram, before we get into a protracted discussion about that, I’ll just say that I agree with David Harvey: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HkTMO93Jyp0
…although that clip cuts off right before he suggests that we may need to get to a 0% growth in the economy, that is, maintain, but not grow. Which sounds, to me, analogous to recycling.June 8, 2009 at 12:35 pm #278525
Well, I think we all know by now that I disagree with you with respect to the urgency of our environmental problems, so the fact that the government and big business are not actively foregoing more economic growth to deal with minuscule threats doesn’t concern me the way it does you. That said, we don’t need to have that discussion to answer your question. We *do* need definitions of “green job” that are within the same ballpark as each other’s.
Seeing your definition, I can’t necessarily say we’ve come any closer, because “working toward sustainability and solving [for environmental pattern?]” doesn’t mean much more to me than “green.” I’m sure that people working at that First Solar plant, or at a heavy industrial factory forging windmill blades, etc. would all call themselves that. There are advocates for the nuclear industry that would say that jobs building and running nuclear power plants would meet that definition, and there are others who claim the mantle of environmentalism who recoil in horror at the thought of nuclear power being considered “green.”
It sounds like you’re using a very narrow definition of “green,” to the point where I’m almost not sure what kind of job could be performed in an urban environment to qualify. Curbside recycling truck driver? Recycling plant manager? Park botanist or horticulturist?
EDIT: P.S. I watched that David Harvey clip and it didn’t seem to have much to do with green jobs or threats to the environment at all.June 8, 2009 at 12:38 pm #278526
I would think, that the solution be that everyone think about green business, rather than having one department or a person championing it. To set aside a ‘green job’ is like setting aside a guy who doesn’t litter. It’s a way of living and an outlook, not a police forceJune 8, 2009 at 12:58 pm #278527
I don’t disagree that some of the jobs you’ve mentioned, Gram, would fall under my definition of “green jobs”. I don’t support nuclear, but doubtless, environmentalists who do would consider a life’s work in the nuclear industry a good job.
I’m not just referring to urban environments, but to ALL environments. Not just in Columbus, or the U.S., but everywhere. The fact that capital circulates around the globe, but that there is next to no concerted global environmental oversight and maintenance, is astounding. Did you know that, without volunteers, there would be almost no one overseeing the health of our waterways? WATER. According to James T. Kirk, it’s something enjoyed by carbon-based life.
And Tenzo: exactly. That is why this is such a sticky wicket. But a wicket we are going to have to address. Right now we are doing the equivalent of putting up a white picket fence to stop a tsunami. Meanwhile, we all keep plugging away at the widget factory.June 8, 2009 at 1:28 pm #278528
Manatee: I know you were referring to all environments, but I was specifically making the point about urban environments because focusing on that illustrates just how hard it is to get the kind of employment growth in the sector that you’re seeking. The majority of the American population lives in cities. Columbus even not including its suburbs is well north of 700,000. Where do you find green jobs for them in the city? Or do you intend that everyone move out into the country?June 8, 2009 at 2:15 pm #278529
I get you. Okay, well first, I’d back the truck up quite a few stops. I am just brainstorming here, and communicating what I perceive to be a pretty dire demand, with no supply. Trouble is, this demand won’t pay in dollars up front. There’s our bottleneck.
I don’t mean “create jobs” with the stroke of a fairy wand, or government program.
It does strike me that cities are idea and communication centers, as averse to direct land-use policy implementation centers.
But even in the cities, we could be doing so much better. In Columbus, we could certainly start with the rivers. We could reinstall native species in abandoned or low-income areas. We could allot a much larger percentage of land to community gardens, and pay a small community-led staff to oversee them. I think what Local Matters is doing is fantastic.
On the imaginative side, I always envision this as a sewing problem. Or alternately, the way a wound is knitted back together. First, you make large, ungainly basting stitches, or staunch the bleeding. Make large, bridgelike efforts. They will by necessity, be a little ungainly, homely, and grassroots. But they will be true to the larger pattern we wish to put in place. For instance, if we are looking for a new nickname for our city, then why not “River City”? This is akin to the “Indie Arts Capital” effort. They didn’t just slap a name on something, there was and is much concerted work put into that, and I’d argue that we’ve seen very definite benefits. Or, take a look at the investment in Lincoln Theater. There’s a cultural bridge, installed to knit the divide created by the freeway.
I’d like to see our city, and cities in general, be the locus for these kinds of efforts. Make big strides, make big plans. These plans are not to be too idealistic, but to set the bar for the quality of life for all living things.
Then, once we get the ball rolling, continue to guage the needs of each specific, intimate biological community. This is the kind of problem-solving that has not been a strength of our culture, and I’d suggest, has been almost completely absent from our culture for quite sometime. This will call for both grassroots efforts, and efforts from larger financial entities, to bridge this very real divide. And many, many presuppositions will have to be turned upside-down.
For instance, if an individual is making the maintenance of biological life their life’s work, perhaps they should be supported in some way by the culture at large. Reeks of socialism, but hey, the banks and car companies sure don’t have any problems pulling up to that gravy train. And what benefit do we see from that? Negligible.
I don’t really want to argue, petition, any of that. I just want to show up, and punch my timecard, and get to work. And I hope I can figure out a way to do just that, and that I can be an example for others when I do.
I really appreciate tossing this ball around with you guys!June 8, 2009 at 3:32 pm #278530
I have an article on my desk about green jobs.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics; Green construction jobs come with a 20% wage premium.
So while there may be no ‘Green Czar’ jobs available at companies, the experience and background do command higher wages.June 8, 2009 at 3:56 pm #278531
The new stimulus package provides for $11 billion for a smart electrical grid and $4.5 billion for greening office buildings. Combine that with the increased capital depreciation allowance for businesses that spend less than $800,000 in equipment.
OK, I may be changing my mind about the ‘green czar’ position.
Do your homework on the new tax incentives. With some creative financing and a good amount of power point skill you may be able to show companies how the hiring of a ‘green czar’ will save them money.
I’ve always found the best way to get a gig is show them that the net effect of hiring you is savingsJune 8, 2009 at 3:59 pm #278532
Haha, “green czar”. I don’t know about a czar, per se, but some kind of underlying infrastructure would be nice.
This is good to hear, though. Got to get my gears turning…