Why You Should Get a Job in Sustainability. And How to Begin the Search.
Today’s newsletter is to give you a lens through which to imagine the future. And to talk about the work that we will choose to do.
I was initially writing this to help college students who are trying to figure out what career path to choose. But the message is equally useful for anyone who is already working, to think about their path forward.
Sustainability is the future of the economy
In the IPCC’s blockbuster report last October they said the world needs a “rapid and far-reaching” transformation in virtually every aspect of society.
The world’s best scientists are telling us that everything needs to change to avoid mass devastation and suffering. The goal is to eliminate our (still rising) greenhouse gas emissions as quickly as possible – hopefully cutting them in half by 2030 and reaching zero by 2050 so we have a chance at limiting warming to 1.5°C.
It may feel like a distant world to us now. But at some point, enough people will start seeing the urgency of the climate crisis with clear eyes.
“Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth.” – Buddha
When this happens – when the truth that this is a civilization-threatening emergency becomes common sense – society will respond appropriately:
Addressing the climate crisis will become the organizing principle of society.
We’re getting closer to this moment every day. I believe it’s inevitable we get there. And between the snowballing climate movement, the (underappreciated) favorable economics, and the increasingly devastating impacts of extreme weather – I believe this turning point will come sooner than we think.
Obviously, this has countless implications and you could talk about any number of interesting things that might happen next (please share any interesting thoughts!)
But I say all this to set the scene through which I think students, and everyone else, should view the future job landscape.
Eliminating emissions and adapting to the effects of the climate crisis will be some of the most valuable things in society. By choosing a career in this space, you’re entering an industry that will likely be around for the next three decades – and likely for the rest of your life in one form or another. Not to mention that these industries are growing, which means there is ample opportunity to excel professionally and make a real impact.
“For many, the most impactful way [to help stop global warming] could be through work.” – Andrew Winston
So, how do you choose what profession to pursue specifically?
Only you can decide this of course. But here’s my two cents.
Take some time to reflect on your skills, experiences, and interests. Think about what gets you excited. Or what really pisses you off.
Seriously, write it all down! These will help to guide you.
(And yes, for those of you that are already working in a different space – your skills are transferrable. You can repurpose your strengths and learn whatever you set your mind to. Our brains are wired for it. Also, companies in most industries need accountants, HR, IT, sales, etc.)
Next, I’d take a peek at the big picture. What are the different problems? What’s the breakdown of society’s greenhouse gas emissions?
If you’re up for it, read this article where I snagged the chart from for more perspective and details.
Then, take a look at Project Drawdown’s top 100 solutions to reverse global warming. They are ranked from the most impactful to the least, with info on cost, savings, and emissions prevented from 2020 to 2050.
Looking at the sources of greenhouse gas emissions and Drawdown’s solutions will give you an idea of what some of the future’s biggest needs are. And what solutions have the most potential to succeed.
When I first started brainstorming what industries and professions will be increasingly needed to bring about a sustainable future, this is what I came up with:
- Any negative emissions solutions (natural like trees and “carbon farming”, as well as new tech)
- Energy storage.
- Water tech and management, desalination.
- Energy efficiency.
- Green buildings (construction, architects, engineers, etc.)
- Mental health care.
- Authors, journalists, art, music.
- Regenerative agriculture, crops that are resilient in extreme weather.
- Educating girls and family planning.
- Afforestation, reforestation. Stopping deforestation.
- Electric vehicles.
- Sustainable investing.
- Environmental-related laws have some catching up to do.
- Social movements.
- Using new tech like AI or blockchain to help solve these problems.
- Sustainability savvy Politicians.
- Clean energy (solar, wind, etc.)
- Anything that helps shifts the food system to a planetary diet and eliminates food waste.
- Urban design.
- Helping people displaced by climate change. Human rights.
- Circular economy – zero waste, plastic alternatives.
- Solving the cement and long-distance travel problems.
- Adaptation to climate impacts.
- Electrifying heating.
- Teaching kids how to solve the problems actually facing society, how to take care of themselves, and being a good role model.
I’m sure there are plenty of more options, but I’ll stop there. Honestly, no matter what work you do, you can start using your influence there today to make it more sustainable and help address the biggest issue of our time.
The bottom line is this
You can find a job that helps to stop global warming if you want to. A job that ultimately helps to protect the people you love and the place you call home.
Not only would it be meaningful work, but it’d be a wise career-move because these are growing industries. Society needs them. Demand for sustainability is baked in by necessity. Heck, we already have US politicians talking about creating millions of jobs and investing trillions of dollars to address the climate crisis. This is just the tip of the iceberg.
Choosing to work in sustainability is a win win…win win win.
There’s a way for everyone to get involved.
You can do meaningful work and make a great living.
You just have to decide to go for it.
Let me know if you want to talk any of this through and please do share it – especially with college students, anyone curious about the space, or anyone trying to figure out what to do with their life.