Thursday, August 6, 2009

Defining Green Jobs

There are many definitions of what is the green economy. Van Jones in his popular book The Green Collar Economy talks about energy, transportation, water, waste and land management. In a blog, Carl Burkett adds green buildings to the list.

Geographic Information System (GIS) analyst made the top ten on the Green Jobs List of the Environmental Careers Organization of Canada. I mention it because our local community college is offering a course of study. GIS was not in my vocabulary before a conversation with the college president at a recent Workforce Investment Board Meeting.

I like what the UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme) Background Paper on Green Jobs stated in 2008.
http://www.unep.org/labour_environment/PDFs/Green-Jobs-Background-paper-18-01-08.pdf

“Greater efficiency in the use of energy, water, and materials is a core objective. The critical question is where to draw the line between efficient and inefficient practices. A low threshold will define a greater number of jobs as green, but may yield an illusion of progress. Given technological progress and the urgent need for improvement, the dividing line between efficient and inefficient must rise over time. Hence, “green jobs” is a relative and highly dynamic concept—in other words there will be “shades of green” in employment.”

Indeed, “greenwashing” is a fairly new term applied when marketing comes into play without a substantial set of corresponding actions. And of course there are websites that will measure the sincerity of each claim to being Green and clearly there is a movement to be on the green bandwagon. www.greenwashing.com

On the good side I place companies like The New Belgium Brewing Company in the Green category and not just because they are the first wind powered brewery in the United States. They are employee owned and spout values about being less wasteful, more efficient, reusing and recycling, being fiscally transparent and personally responsible. www.newbelgium.com

Of course I have heard the rhetoric from the champions of oil and the call to drill at home. And I have listened to the ethanol debate. Despite “green marketing,” I have heard that the cost is still too high, that we use as much energy to produce ethanol as we get and that gas mileage drops. All this while world hunger is further exacerbated by a corn shortage. It was a joy to my heart to watch the video about Valcent’s closed loop algae growing system that is suggesting a real 21st century alternative. Companies Researching Biodiesel Algae

EMSI (Economic Marketing Specialist Inc.) in "A Look at Green Occupations" suggests that it is results, not the type of efforts that define work in the new economy. The consensus among those economists who address these issues is that the designation “green” turns not on the specific tasks associated with an occupation, but rather on the specific outcome of an occupational effort. Accordingly, green jobs result in green investments. Green investments aim to drive households, companies and governments to act in more “environmentally stable” ways (e.g. reduce pollution, increase energy efficiency, curb carbon emissions, improve air, soil and water quality, etc) www.economicmodeling.com

So the building designer, the accountant who get financing, the electrician and carpenter who do the installation and the helper who does caulking and insulation all get to place “green” in front of their title if the building is solar powered. Obviously many people already have the technical skills necessary to participate in the green economy. It is the shift in consciousness that needs to fully take place.

Visiting our local One Stop Career Center we have people worried about paying their mortgage and feeding their family. They are scared, looking for answers. I cannot afford to be one of the individuals spreading negativity. I feel the need to understand the changes that are taking place and do the research necessary to help both employers and employees move in the directions necessary to participate in the new economy. Everyone sees the economic crises. Our environmental issues are glaring. We have mismanaged dreadfully and the clock is ticking. I choose to believe that now is the time to move forward, embrace further education and help create the shift in consciousness.

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