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What are green jobs anyway?

November 24th, 2009 · 35 Comments

As anyone not currently dead knows, one of the mantras at Vancouver city hall these days is that Green Jobs are the Economic Future. That has a few insiders scratching their heads, wondering what the heck green jobs mean anyway, as opposed to, say, just jobs that pay money.

Mayor Gregor Robertson really lights up whenever he talks about the subject and there’s been much discussion about ensuring that Vancouver’s industrial areas attract green jobs.

But what are they? Okay, I understand the really big differences. Mining is not green, for the most part (except that it gives us the metals we need to produce our wireless devices, which allow us to avoid using paper, so maybe it is). Building bicycles out of recycled pop cans is green, I suppose.

But often when I hear examples given about what green jobs are, I’m kind of underwhelmed. Typically, what I hear is things like “weatherizing windows to prevent heat loss.” Hmm, seems like just another grunt job reclassified. It reminds me a bit of the way anyone who did anything with a computer became a “high-tech job” during the high-tech boom. Something we don’t hear about so much now.

Or, at the upper end, the jobs seem to be along the lines of architects who do green architecture. So they’re still doing the same job, but a different way. Again, kind of like we’re all doing these days. (You could even say I’m part of the growing green economy since I don’t commute in order to do my journalism jobs any more and I have become very good at not printing things out on paper, because my printer is cranky and erratic and I’m too distracted to go out and buy a new one.)

Anyway, in my quest to learn something and seem less like a Luddite and/or old fogey, I stumbled across this story in the Los Angeles Times, which provides a little context to all of this, including some discussion of the “green jobs myth” and the sterling information that plastics-free sex toys are part of the green-jobs revolution.

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  • John

    Green jobs are the fake, save-the-world jobs that are being created by greedy industrialists and businessmen who are taking advantage of all the dummies in the world.

    People have been conned into thinking that the world is going to fall apart because of global warming.

    The green movement is a lie. Earlier this week, a hacker leaked thousands of emails showing a conspiracy to “hide” the real data on manmade climate change.

    The emails and documents are from the Climate Research Unit at East Anglia University and show how climate change data was fudged and the peer review process skewed to favor the manmade climate change hypothesis.

    Here’s an example:

    “I’ve just completed Mike’s Nature trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years (ie from 1981 onwards) amd from 1961 for Keith’s to hide the decline. ”

    Here’s the story:

    http://noconsensus.wordpress.com/2009/11/19/leaked-foia-files-62-mb-of-gold/

    Green is just the next big government lie to control the population, inject fear into the masses and milk people for every tax dollar they can.

    But try telling that to the tree-hugging, dope-smoking, transit-fare-cheating average Vancouverite.

  • Not Running for Mayor

    I will not get into wether climate change is real or not. though being green just makes sense, especially where there is not a $$$ punishment for doing so.
    As for green jobs, they are exactly as Frances points out, the new tech jobs. My job is now green as I don’t have parking at work and walk to work. I also must double sided print if possible and reuse old sheets for note taking. I don’t do a different job, nor am I really helping the environment, just damaging it less. For that I get a green star which I wear with honour. Go Me! and Go Green Jobs!

  • At a non-profit housing conference in Toronto last year, Mayor David Miller talked about Toronto’s efforts to create….GREEN COLLAR JOBS.

    An example was the energy retrofitting of the tens of thousands of older public and non-profit housing units.

    I liked the term…after all, for decades we have talked of white collar jobs and blue collar jobs. Now people could work at green collar jobs.

    And like most white and blue collar jobs, you don’t have to wear a tie.

  • evilfred

    There’s only so many houses to retrofit. It’s a finite task.

    And what’s so bad about working at a plastic-free sex toy company? I don’t see anything ignoble about it. People buy sex toys, people buy sex toys, people are guilty about not being green, they fill a niche.

  • Bill Smolick

    Starbukcs Baristas wear green aprons. We’ve got a LOT of green jobs in Vancouver!

  • Bill Smolick

    Incidentally, calling “weatherizing windows” a grunt job is pretty insulting. A lot of people consider writing copy for a newspaper a “grunt job.”

    There’s an awful lot of skilled labourers out there. I’m not one of them (I work in I.T.) but that doesn’t lessen the value of their skillset.

  • Tiktaalik

    Are high tech, video game industry jobs green jobs? They’re high paying and they don’t produce carbon emissions. Unfortunately due to BC having no substantial tax benefits when compared to other provinces, Vancouver has been massively losing its “green” video game industry jobs. Even if he wanted to save them I don’t know what Robertson could do. The issue is that other provinces are better supporting their industries through tax breaks at the provincial level. What tools does Robertson have to support the video game industry (or any industry)?

  • Just as note, *many* high-tech jobs are actually pretty bad for carbon emissions: Lots of large computer centers, on 24-7, being additionally cooled for even less green-ness. If your data center is in the states, there’s a very good chance your servers are being powered by coal to boot. High tech runs on the premise of dirt-cheap power (& dirt-cheap bandwidth) to keep costs down. Finding “green” or carbon-neutral hosting is both quite difficult and quite expensive. Yes, computer are getting “greener”, but overall it’s a horribly wasteful industry.

  • spartikus

    Funny, here’s a entire website dedicated to green job postings.

  • Joe Just Joe

    I disagree with any business subsidy, it sucks that other provinces/states are using them to attract businesses. Still doesn’t make it right. They should be outlawed at the international level.

    Video games would probably fit the city’s guideline for being in the green economy, although how green is it for the end user to sit in front of a tv or computer for hours playing games and cosuming kwhs of electricity.

  • shades of green

    I like the notion there are ‘shades of green’. I wouldn’t say that one has a green job because they once printed/used a lot of paper and now they don’t…or that they use to commute and now they work from home….that’s a cop-out. ….here’s some definitions from the www:

    http://www.planetfriendly.net/green-job.html
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green_job

  • Blaffergassted

    And I’m still wondering what this is:

    “cradle-to-cradle manufacturing (no toxic elements and no waste)”

    – From Vancouver, a bright green future,
    page 21.

  • Frances Bula

    Bill — Yikes, I have been politically incorrect about the way I referred to weatherizing windows. But I would actually call journalism “grunt work.” Journalists have always taken great pride in being craftspeople — that’s why they’ve always discouraged any kind of licencing or requirement for a degree in order to work.

  • grounded

    @ Blaffergassted: Cradle to cradle is a process that considers the impacts of a product/ service from its original design through to its disassembly and reuse of its components in other ways. Basically, it attempts to mimic nature where there is no waste and everything is part of a productive nutrient cycle. There’s a great presentation by the founder of the concept here: http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/william_mcdonough_on_cradle_to_cradle_design.html

  • MB

    Five years ago we replaced our old clunker of a fridge with a modern energy efficient one and saw an immediate drop of about 30% in our monthly electrical bill.

    We are halfways through replacing our single pane aluminum windows with more efficient windows to immediate effect.

    I am currently researching whether to replace our 40+ year old gas furnace with a high-efficiency gas job or an air-based heat pump, and am leaning toward the latter because natural gas may be one of the big fuel replacements for gasoline + diesel as the world supply of conventional oil declines and prices escalate over the next decade.

    The same applies to adding a couple of solar panels on the roof which is expected to pay for itself in energy savings on domestic hot water within seven years.

    Our former seven-storey condo building saw an immediate decrease in its monthly electrical bill in the range of $13,000 when it replaced the incandescent lights in the halls and common spaces with compact fluorescents. The savings exceeded the cost in the first month.

    I consider the R&D, manufacturing and installation jobs related to these technologies ‘green’. The customer savings are a bonus.

    BTW, the response by the climate science community to the hacked emails is both measured and professional, and it puts them in the relevant context, something the climate change denialists exercise willful ignorance about.

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/11/the-cru-hack/

    If you’re looking for a response with satire, and from a guy with more than average global warming denial industry thumping street cred, try Googling George Monbiot’s latest column.

  • Feesto

    IT jobs are not necessarily green. My wife works downtown in one of these jobs and their staff are flying all over North America on a regular basis for work.

  • “Video games would probably fit the city’s guideline for being in the green economy, although how green is it for the end user to sit in front of a tv or computer for hours playing games and cosuming kwhs of electricity.”

    Sad to say, but the ‘gaming’ industry is far from green. Consider:

    New hardware to buy on a seemingly annual basis and no way to recycle the old consoles.

    Games that glorify violence, consumption, and wanton destruction of infrastructure.

    Promotion of sedentary recreational activities.

    I’d argue all three of the above are the anti-thesis of ‘green’ values. Of course, I may just be bitter as I contemplate the many quarters that Galaga, Pacman, Joust et al siphoned out of my young adult pocket.

  • Glissando Remmy

    The colour-blind thought of the day:
    “I think abstinence is green. I think NOT picking up after your dog is green. I think en masse conforming is green. I think not working at all is green. I think famine is green. I think persuasion is green. I think not flushing number one is green. I think the colour of money is green, oh wait, it is green. I think pretending to care is green. On Mars, green would actually be red.”

    And now take Canada for example.
    A now “non-green” job is to a tomorrow “green” job the same thing a bum from South America is to a bum from Canada. They both have nothing; but for the one in Canada life is more expensive.

    We live in Vancouver and this keeps us busy.

  • “On Mars, green would actually be red.” ”

    Mars is red, because it’s dead. It’s a lifeless ball of red dirt.

  • Bill Lee

    I agree with John // Nov 24, 2009 at 11:29 pm
    It’s cant, fake slogans because they haven’t thought it out nor care much about the issue. Maybe it’s time to bring back one-year council terms. I don’t think that we should wait for the Grand Metro government and Grand Metro Mayor Diane Watt.

    Green jobs include the thousands of pedicabs as a result of the city tearing up all the roads, to be replaced by wide green swards and mini-farms, after they ban all green house gas and particulate-emitting cars within or through the city. All bus routes are converted to bi-mode trolleys.
    Green jobs include abortion offices, for the one thing that is not green is too many people. Maybe also an infertility chemical in the water.
    Areas such as Kits and Point Grey will be frozen, and as the energy hungry residents die off, their expansive houses would be dismantled and the forest left to recover Point Grey west.
    Chad Skelton in the Vancouver Sun, referenced by FaBula, did a study of the city and how few children there were in many districts, thus leading to the greying of the city.
    Green jobs include the local soy shop, and the city ration-ticket offices for the weekly meat and fish allowance. For it is wellknown that the production of meat is not green enough.

    Green jobs also result from the retrofitting of housing in the city and the requirement that all new housing or licences for housing be passive housing. Linkname: EU agrees to strict climate directive for buildings |
    Environment & Development | Deutsche Welle | 19.11.2009
    URL: http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,,4909626,00.html
    …”Starting at the end of 2020, new buildings erected in the European Union will have to meet strict energy use guidelines. Representatives of the 27 EU member states meeting in Brussels agreed to the terms of The EU directive will require building designs to have higher efficiency standards, allowing them to operate on very little energy.
    In addition, any power that would be required by the building must come from renewable sources.”

    Some people will try to do it themselves to “save” money, and make a hash of it leading to health, electrical, or structural problems. Many will try to evade the Green Gestapo Inspectors maintaining green standards and checking that all new housing on freehold reverts to a 99 year lease on substantial completion of the house.

    The Whistler passive house for Austria is being opened today and the Grope and Flail had an earlier story about it.
    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/british-columbia/austrias-housewarming-gift/article1298077/

    …”The first hurdle? The needed materials weren’t available in Canada. Eventually, every scrap of wood and glass and insulation was shipped by sea and rail to British Columbia in six containers. An Austrian construction crew was also imported.
    ….The cost of all this energy efficiency is steep. The final price tag will top $1-million.

    “The first hurdle?” So everyone in the City must do a corvee of manual labour on the new construction. Suddenly the green trades are created, in demand and exportable to other parts of North America.

    But I’m sure Mme Bula is even now winging her way to and inspection tour of the former Olympic city Innsbruck (24 nut trees on city boulevards as offsets) and to attend the 4th Tiroler Passivhausforum [ URL: http://www.passivhausforum.co.at/index.php?lang=en ] tomorrow.
    Besides the Saturday luge run on the agenda there will be presentations such as:
    * Passive House: building standard by 2011? Realisation of the European Construction Directive in municipalities, cities and countryside by Dipl. Ing. Wolgang Jilek, authorized representative of Styria

    * Sustainable Passive House renovations: New developments in timber construction by Karl Schafferer, Holzbau Schafferer

    * Thermal renovation of existing residential buildings: urbanistic considerations regarding the Passive House standard by Arch. Dipl.-Ing. Rainer Vallentin

    Over here, some should have a look at Edmonton which has a series of very thermal efficient houses in the past year too.

    We expect a story by Mme Bula on the venerable Mason Sewing Machine store on Fraser Street and its thermal adventures with their new building.

    Take care now, and bundle up. The green city doesn’t allow new clothes but encourages re-use of and giving away of used clothing. Also the unraveling of woolens, so need another Callenbach design sweater or scarf and put one on this winter.

  • What are green jobs anyway?

    One word: FRAUD.

    Many words: An excuse for far left-wing loons to pretend they are saving the planet (while collecting)…and all while climate “scientists” are now revealed to have been actively trying to cook the figures and suppress evidence that they are wrong.

    Slowly, slowly, the truth emerges…

  • Bill Lee

    More on the Whistler passive house via
    http://twitter.com/austriahouse

    See a very long paper on Darmstadt houses, with pretty colours diagrams at
    http://www.passivhaustagung.de/Kran/First_Passive_House_Kranichstein_en.html

    Use the English button on this site below, of just use Babelfish.yahoo.com, Google.com/translate or your FoxLingo attachment to read the German pages of: passiv.de/

    It’s too late to make submissions to the May 2010 14th annual conference
    http://www.passivhaustagung.de/vierzehnte/englisch/index_eng.html

  • Glissando Remmy

    “On Mars, green would actually be red.”
    Chris Keam,
    You’ve jumped to conclusion with no parachute too soon. I know what iron oxide is. Rust. On Mars. True. However, you ignored the context.
    “The colour- blind thought of the day” might give you a tip-off.
    The form of colourblindness in which red and green are perceived as identical is the most common type of colourblindness; also known as deuteranopia or Daltonism.
    “On Mars, green would actually be red.” was nothing else but a figure of speech.
    For a Daltonist, green would actually be red. On Mars, of course!
    And yes, satire is one of the services I deliver. Ta ta, my good man!

  • GR:

    Comedy is hard. Not sure you nailed this one. Last time was funnier.

    Alex:
    ‘Climategate’ will have about as much shelf-life as ‘Balloonboy’. I wouldn’t put too much stock in a few emails from scientists who should know better ending up being the smoking gun that somehow disproves the wealth of evidence supporting the human role in climate change.

  • Vlad the Inhaler

    Folks, we now have it on the authority of the nation’s leading climate scientist, AGT, that global warming is in fact a global conspiracy of unprecedented proportions. Let’s lay to rest all doubt to the contrary. We can trust his word on this issue, because his word is God. Really.

    Now if we can just determine the GPS coordinates of the hundreds of nuclear plants and immersion heaters ringing the Arctic Circle melting the sea ice, we can bomb the bejeezus outta them.

    http://www.monbiot.com/archives/2009/11/23/the-knights-carbonic/

  • grounded

    I find the opposition to the idea of ‘green’ jobs quite remarkable and it doesn’t make much sense. As far as I understand them they are basically jobs dedicated to producing renewable energy, increasing energy efficiency and reducing pollution associated with fossil fuel use. Some jobs require a lot of technical expertise (e.g. ‘positive energy’ building design) and others much less so (e.g. painting roofs white). Like most things in today’s marketplace they have been given a “green” label when in fact those jobs have been around for a long time. It’s kind of like Richard Florida’s efforts a few years ago to rebrand everybody with a bachelor’s degree as a member of the ‘creative class’. The difference I see with green jobs going forward is that demand for them will increase as businesses and governments continue to ramp up efficiency efforts and the substituting of renewables for fossil fuels. This will not happen overnight but it is already happening.
    What I find strange is that people would be opposed to the idea of efforts to save and generate cleaner energy while improving air quality. One of the chief characteristics of renewables in cities is their localized nature (they can also be connected to a grid). The sewer heat recovery system at Southeast False Creek is a case in point. The same goes for the district energy systems installed in North Vancouver in 2004 and proposed in the Northeast False Creek development plan. Incidentally, many of these technologies are not new; for example, district energy has been around since ancient Rome’s famous heated baths.
    Local energy production and efficiency also produce substantial operating cost savings for homeowners, businesses, institutions, etc and can improve their resale value. For example, the recent Empire State Building retrofit in NYC is expected to save its owners $4.4 million in energy costs annually and the EnerGuide rating scores are now being used in the marketing of homes in Ontario. This is without even getting into issues around declining fossil fuel supplies (http://tinyurl.com/q4mad5) in a world with growing demand for those resources (e.g. 2 billion+ people in India & China who want comparable standards of living as we have).
    Financial savings, improved market valuation, an expanded local job base, cleaner air and some protection from volatile energy markets all seem like pretty positive aspects of green jobs to me. Will some green jobs or their technologies require subsidies? Certainly. We also subsidize oil and gas in this province in the form of ‘infrastructure credits’ and reduced royalty rates. We used to subsidize the film and video game industries too. Many countries (http://www.canada.com/news/national/Canada+spending+less+green+stimulus+projects+than+other+countries/2027862/story.html?id=2027862) are already on the green job bandwagon and if we don’t get on it too basically we lose because we’ll be buying their technologies and services from their companies in the future.
    Finally, despite thinking that green jobs seem to be a pretty good addition to the existing job base I do have concerns (e.g. high land costs, few local supporting research institutions, lack of senior gov’t support) about whether Vancouver can make itself a viable place for green industry. Hopefully someone else in this great public room has some ideas about the viability part of it.

  • MB

    You’re pretty grounded, Grounded.

    I believe we’ll be searching for ways to make our cities, towns, homes and wheels more efficient through the persuasive economic force of higher energy prices and carbon priceing. It certainly won’t be happening through decisive leadership by our current decision makers. So it’s up to us to force them into decisive followership by leading the way from the ground up.

  • “They damage the credibility of three of four scientists…” yelps Monbiot.

    What a fantastic lie! What those emails show is that some of the chief fluffers for the theories currently making Al Bore a billionaire, are chalk full of manipulated data and obfuscation. What those emails contain, is CLEAR evidence that the principle tenets are fraught with thick fabrication and intentional deceit. The very information contained therein is the very basis of the currently dissolving “Chicken Little” hypotheses being parlayed into doomsterism and apocalypse.

    I do not expect alarmists to do anything more than offer drivel and sanctimony now that the Emperor is nude, but lying is a bit much, ladies.

    The agnostic cries from Keam are as predictable as the churning of a Shanghal coal-burning plant, but to have someone offer Monbiot’s edict and make-believe that these emails are not significant is astounding.

    You’re theocracy of turning the planet into one big hash-brownie bake-off, just went up in smoke.

    And who did it? One of YOU! One of your OWN!

    Keep tilting at those windmills, my darlings. The truth is emerging…finally.

  • I have the sneaking suspicion you’ll be playing the role of the Man of La Mancha in this wee drama Alex.

  • BTW, it’s chock-full not chalk full. What would chalk full even mean? What was Frances saying about the proud tradition of journalists not requiring some kind of certification? Maybe it’s time to change that.

    http://www.randomhouse.com/wotd/index.pperl?date=19980122

  • FBT

    Chris,

    If there were some kind of certification for journalists, I guess you’d be out of a job then wouldn’t you?

    Be careful what you ask for.

  • Pretty sure I could make the cut. I may not be at the top of the heap, but I know the difference between chock and chalk, pique and peak, rein and reign, and a host of other brutal usage errors I see in print all the time.

    Don’t shoot the messenger.

  • So on this topic, I’m giving the A+ to ‘grounded’. I hope I’ll read more of what he or she has to say on other topics.

    On a somewhat related topic, if you didn’t see Miro Cernetig’s CBC documentary The Carbon Hunters, do check it out. It will astound, intrigue and disgust you.

    http://celebedge.ca/ContentPosting_CP-Entertainment_new?newsitemid=202878723&feedname=CP-ENTERTAINMENT&show=False&number=0&showbyline=False&subtitle=&detect=&abc=abc&date=False

  • Blaffergassted