Sunday, February 01, 2009

The Green Jobs Delusion?

We are hearing much lately about the heralding of green jobs. Green jobs will put people to work and ‘fix’ our environment. It all sounds exciting in the sense that it is hopeful instead of not hopeful. During our Season of Recession, hope is not discontent. “President Obama just made a big step toward the green goals he set on the campaign trail, announcing a task force that would address an economic stimulus for the middle class that focuses on green jobs” from Green Jobs First Topic For Biden's New Task Force – 01/31/09 The Huffington Post.

However, in this recession there are not a whole lot of jobs to begin with let alone ‘green jobs.’ I know, I’ve been looking for them. What you get when you search for ‘green jobs’ in the online job search sites is something akin to what you would get if you typed, “losing weight” or “happiness.” Is the green wave of jobs delusional? Something we really want but isn’t there? After all, you get an infinite number of links to “green jobs” because “green jobs” have been peppered into the Meta codes (secret search code words used in web sites to hijack search engines) and incorporated into the text of all these sites. Not because you will find employment there, but because it will get people to stop at their site. So, are green jobs—making money helping the environment via a concrete title, like ‘software engineer’—real? Not even the Great Google can find a green job if it doesn’t exist.

I think they do exist in the corporeal world if you mean a chemical engineer who is able to develop photovoltaic cells or an installer who installs solar panels; instead of satellite dishes or that new HDTV you just bought. I am not so sure they exist if you mean someone who has been trained explicitly for a green job with credentials in this field. Much of what I am hearing is ‘shovel ready’ municipal projects that have long been in the works and now will be labeled ‘green.’ Is the new job revolution merely a metaphoric green façade on traditional infrastructure upkeep?

At this point, you are probably thinking that I’m merely playing with semantics. Green jobs may be simply a euphemism for employment that can be labeled environmentally friendly. For, there are green buildings inspectors who are trained to inspect the quality of a building’s energy efficiency and along with it are credentials in the form of a certificate that you can include in your resume. These people can likely find a green job. Alternatively, there are people who have in their life experiences (volunteer work for environmental groups or being an environmental educator, like a forest ranger) labored for a sustainable environment and they (without some other degrees or credentials) are unlikely to find a green job.

This tortured use of ‘green jobs’ is not simply semantics: I believe green jobs are out there and they are force to be dealt with, like the Internet. In the Rochester area, the Center of Environmental Information has already developed an Upstate Green Business Network, which “is a network of businesses, institutions and organizations that share a mutual concern for the state of our environment.” Also, I have created a web page that deals with the latest news on green jobs coming in our area and long list of business ready to train and place you in a green job, called Green Business.

What a career councilor at an area college told me is that I should get ready for the next great wave of employment moving into the job sector. A couple of decades ago there were no degrees in computer engineering, but those who worked with computers were readying themselves for the emerging markets. When the computer market exploded, they were ready to take advantage of the boon. But, for the majority of those now seeking this particular turn in the job market, we need training programs that result in credentials we can hold in our hands and take to an employer.

My thought: Green jobs are here now and more are coming—like a tsunami. Be ready. Brush up your resume and use those experiences you have earned to move in a new direction, a sustainable course for both you and our environment. Start by going here and telling Vice President Joe Biden, chair of President Obama’s task force on creating a strong middle class, your ideas on how green jobs can help you and our environment: A Strong Middle Class. Opportunity is knocking, answer the door.

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