Green Jobs - Do They Have to Have a Color?

In this economy does it really matter what color our jobs are? Seriously. There are dark agents afoot. Lurking. Obstructing the possible creation of new jobs based on "green" technology or "green" principals (i.e. "work in agricultural, manufacturing, research and development (R&a... at all costs. There is a green backlash. But this backlash is primarily about semantics.

Illustration: John Shakespeare.
Announce that your company will be creating 250 "green" jobs and rather than being thrilled that there is actual, measureable job growth, a certain contingent of the population will assume that you have just destroyed 500 "real" jobs to get your 250 "green" jobs. And the only way you could have possibly created "green" jobs in this economic environment is by sucking off the tit of the Government Sow.
Can't we just say 250 new JOBS? Do they have to have a COLOR?
A job is a job is a job. Do the millions of unemployed American workers give two s#!ts if their new job is green or not? Hell no. We only care if it will help us pay our bills, stay in our houses, feed our kids, and create the illusion of the possibility of retirement without poverty.

As if a "green" job isn't a "real" job. Puh-leeees!

I hate (yes, H-A-T-E) the term "green." Always have. Always will. It provides a target. A focal point for attacks. Goes back to the "tree-hugger" days. Anti-green has become a rallying cry for the environment-be-damned, tree-hating (if you're not a tree-hugger, then you're a tree-hater, right?), bust-a-nut, "real" Americans. Environmentalist have always stood in the way of good 'ol American progress, don-cha-know? You betcha.

Green is now: everything Al Gore ever did or stood for. Green has been overused and abused in every conceivable way. "Green-washed" marketing campaigns, green "snake oil" salesmen, and disingenuous "green" hucksters. No wonder there's a green backlash. As a concept, "green" has been diluted to the point that is essentially meaningless. It is vague. It's nefarious. It has been pulled, stretched, and loosely applied to such a wide variety of barely qualifying products and processes that everyone is skeptical, to say the least. It creates a cognitive backlash in a lot of people. Like broccoli to a former president:

Awwww, but do I have to take this new job?
Of course. It's green. It's supposed to be good for you.
Awwwww, but I don't LIKE green things! And I don't like things that are good for me - they taste bad!
Hush now. Be quiet and go out there and have no impact on the environment.
But I don't like having no impact! I want to make an impact!

How many people like broccoli? Really? We don't want broccoli, we want jelly beans!
Just not the green ones.

Lately we've heard that the problem is not that there are no good paying jobs, but there is only a lack of well-qualified, well-trained candidates for these so-called "green-collar" jobs. So we've begun training. Green training programs. Hundreds of them. Thousands even. Millions of well trained workers now ready to enter the "green" work force. We've got weatherizers, solar installers, wind turbine maintenance personnel, PV assembly technicians, and on, and on. Problem is: no one has any money to purchase the results of this labor.

Ask a typical homeowner about their "wish" list and you will get something like this (from bankrate.com):

Top 10 remodeling projects for resale:
1. Replace siding -- fiber cement.
2. Replace siding -- vinyl
3. Mid-range window replacement (wood)
4. Minor kitchen remodel
5. Bathroom remodel
6. Upscale window replacement -- vinyl
7. Mid-range window replacement -- vinyl
8. Two-story addition
9. Siding replacement -- foam-backed vinyl
10. Upscale window replacement -- wood

Do you see the "green" in this list? Solar panels? Upgraded insulation? A 95% efficient furnace? On-Demand hot water heater?

Me neither.

But if you look hard you might be able to see some green:
Fiber cement siding - sustainable, long lasting, renewable.
Window replacement - OK, this is probably the LEAST effective thing you can do on a house as far as ROI, but new windows typically do save energy.
Foam backed vinyl - should lead to some energy savings.

The lesson ought to be clear: Job training alone doesn’t create jobs. Demand creates jobs. A robust economy creates jobs. Job training creates a few jobs, but only for the trainers - that's it.
But my point is this: Who Cares what color it is!!!
Should we be creating an new economy base on "Green" principals and products? Absolutely.
Just don't call it "green jobs." Please? Let's just call it jobs. K?


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Tags: Economy, Green, Jobs

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Comment by Nathan Christensen on November 12, 2010 at 1:34pm
I have to agree with a number of your sentiments here, Mark. Terms such as "green", or especially "sustainability" are often times now thrown around as fluff words or marketing tools.

In a matter of speaking, almost any job has the capacity to make an impact on the environment, and isn't that what a "green" job is supposed to do? Have an impact on the environment (for the better)?

You might work as an engineer on the next generation of batteries, but your title probably won't contain the word "green". Just as equally, you could work as an administrative assistant, but if you take the initiative and to put together a recycling program, or see a way in which you can conserve energy, does that make your job less "green"? No.

We often times are too absorbed with titles and industries to realize that ALL industries and ALL jobs in some way can have an impact on the environment. So that leaves it to us, as workers, to find ways to make our jobs green. Find ways to conserve energy. Find ways to reduce waste. Find ways to reduce consumption. If you can do any one or combination of the three items previously mentioned, you've probably just made your job "green" (regardless of what it is or your title), or created your own green job.
Comment by Mark Richardson on November 11, 2010 at 3:56pm
I think that there is a much clearer distinction about what White and Blue collar actually ARE. With Green, not so much, since it encompasses both traditionally white and blue collar occupations.

I just have a fundamental problem with "green" - specifically "green washing." A recent study (I'll see if I can find the link) suggested that of all the products and services that claimed to have some "greenness" 95% of them were either misleading or those claims were based on 'creative' science.

I simply can't agree with hitching an entire new economy on a concept that is fraught with snake oil salesmen.

As a Speech Communications major in college, I do tend to believe that words matter.

And I get a little semantic-al from time to time :-)
Comment by Evan Mills on November 11, 2010 at 2:43pm
Shall we refrain from using the terms "White-" and "Blue-collar" jobs too? ;)

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