With the increasing demand for eco-friendly goods and services, have we taken the environment out of ‘green’ jobs?
Green seems to be the word of the decade. With increasing concern about the state of the environment more people are looking at the environment sector for full-time jobs rather than just something to pursue as a passion on the side. Everything, from food to air-conditioners to factories, seems to bear the green/organic/eco-friendly tag. As the demand for environmentally safe goods increases, so does the tribe of people working in this sector. While several people enter this field with an intention of making a change and saving the world, many do so just to meet this rising demand.
Educational institutes are also waking up to the importance of environment studies and are accordingly setting up courses with an ‘eco’ bent. Architectural and engineering colleges across the country are incorporating green design into their curricula. Though no institute in India offers environmental management or environment law courses as yet, they are increasingly popular subjects abroad.
But people in the field are less enthusiastic about the sector becoming popular with job-seekers. Pankaj Kumar, who is the territory manager at a large international environmental organisation, is of the opinion that people are now joining for the money as opposed to earlier, when passion was the driving force for people who worked in this field. Kumar says, “Earlier, when we advertised a job opening, a long line of people used to turn up. Now, hardly two or three people, who are not even qualified, turn up. Most view it as just another job and have no interest in making a difference.”
He feels the disconnect is due to the education system here. “Most youngsters opt for professional courses and many end up getting their degrees from average colleges. As a result, when they don’t get a job, they apply to environmental organisations without any awareness about the issue.”
Kumar remains positive about the outlook for environment organisations though. “We have started reaching out to colleges but we aren’t getting the kind of response we want. We will keep pushing but the change needs to happen at the school level. Children should be educated about alternative careers.”
Environmental activist Nityanand Jayaraman agrees. “Children are told that by switching off one light bulb or planting one tree, they can save the world. Schools should explain the complexity of the issue facing us today,” he says.
Nityanand says that while the total proportion of jobs in the sector has not increased, there are more avenues to enter the field. However, he feels that ‘green’ is a much abused word. “More people and industries are cashing in on the ‘green’ tag. While encouraging people to consume more ‘green’ products, they are ignoring the fact that overconsumption is one of the main problems that caused the environment crisis.”
He continues, “I work with a lot of youngsters, most of whom have their hearts in the right place and want to make a change. There is another breed that opts for such jobs because it is a feel-good option.” It doesn’t make sense to pay obscene amounts of money to employees in a field where it is important that they understand and are passionate about the subject, he adds.
At the end of the day, it is important to realise that the environmental crisis is a socio-economical problem, not a cash cow to be exploited.
Green job is mainly defined as work in agricultural, manufacturing, research and development, administrative and service activities that contribute substantially to preserving or restoring environmental quality, she said.
An environmental professional reviews the direct and indirect impact of products on the ecology and devise strategies to protect the atmosphere.
Green jobs can either be white or blue-collar in sectors like agriculture, manufacturing, research and development, administration and service activities like IT and finance.