Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Should You Bet Your Career on Green?

Of course, green will be big... for a while.

People are entering green careers in droves, but I predict that, over the next decade, when the ambiguity about the climate change science becomes better publicized, the full costs and pains of trying to address it are revealed, and improved nuclear and clean coal technology increase our energy independence, green job openings will drop, leaving countless green-trained people looking for the next politically correct fad bandwagon to jump on. I'm not certain about that, but I am sure that choosing to train for a green career isn't as sure a bet as the advocates would have us believe.


Anonymous said...

My previous job had become very concerned with this before I left. They were building a new main office and wanted the building to be green. Their customers wanted to know if the products they sold were green and if the waste was discarded in an environmentally friendly manner. They put up expensive solar panels. The owner wanted the warehouse facility wanted to recycle more.

One not-green thing they did: they saved every e-mail and fax. Printed on brand new not-recycled paper. I know because one of my jobs was to file them all. Another one: almost everybody drove, nobody carpooled, and only one person had a hybrid car. Only a few, including myself, relied on supposedly greener, and a whole lot slower, public transportation.

By the way, the only way most people would recycle were the aluminum cans, because those would be cashed in for a pizza lunch every couple of months. At least that green activity had a quick and tangible payoff.

I have a feeling that the only way we will go green en masse is if:

1. We're forced to do so. I understand that's already on the horizon with light bulbs.

2. It's cheaper to do so now. Going green costs a lot of money to start, and the payoff may not come immediately.

3. It makes us feel good, like we've accomplished something. It happens more than I'd like to believe. The "South Park" episode on hybrid cars had several grains of truth, in my opinion.

4. Like with my pizza example, there's something in it for us. A good immediate incentive, like saving on gas with a hybrid, might convince more people to do green things.

5. It's taught to young children, both in school, at home, and in the media. Just like it's done now. If this continues, the next generation won't know any better.

As for jobs, the only way I can see green being really profitable is if you're in it for a short term. Perhaps if you're an entrepreneurial type who can profit and move on quickly after the trend fades, you'll do well.

shouldbeeasy said...

In the technology development area of the green business, I worry that there will be an adjustment sooner- in the next 2-3 years. Materials science (solar, batteries, fuel cells) and related technologies need long development times (5-10 years) and I think investors, accustomed to shorter software and internet development cycles, will lose patience.

Even if we question global warming, I think energy security issues will remain a major motivator to reduce oil consumption. It may take 30-60 years for these security issues to abate.

Anonymous said...

Whatever you choose to believe about climate change, the fact is that what you call "green" is more than just a fad. Oil supplies are limited. This is a fact. We will run out. When that happens, how will we fuel ourselves? Will we resort to bicycles & horse-drawn carriages? No air conditioner? Walk around naked, or wearing hemp sacks? We will need some alternative way to power all the things we need to power. This is why "green" careers such as solar panel engineers, green architects, and energy efficiency consultants are so important. As the population grows, it becomes even more important to use less energy, to take up less space. It just makes things more pleasant for everyone. And it's not just about global warming, but also about our health. Pollution. Lung cancer. Whatever your favorite disease, environmental stuff plays a big part of that. Green isn't a fad. It's simply a movement toward better efficiency and more thoughtfulness. As long as the population keeps growing, so will the need for people in green careers. And as technology keeps improving, so too will clean technology. As a career counselor, you should attend some clean tech events to learn more about the field so you can credibly advise your clients about this.


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