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< Prev   CONTENTS   Next > The False Dichotomy Between Jobs and the Environment

We often see the false dichotomy between jobs and the environment appearing in media coverage. But over time, the media debate is shifting to include a green-job theme. A green job, also called a green-collar job, is, according to the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) (2008):

Work in agricultural, manufacturing, research and development (R & D), administrative, and service activities that contribute(s) substantially to preserving or restoring environmental quality. Specifically, but not exclusively, this includes jobs that help to protect ecosystems and biodiversity; reduce energy, materials, and water consumption through high efficiency strategies; de-carbonize the economy; and minimize or altogether avoid generation of all forms of waste and pollution.

In 2007 the UNEP, the International Labor Organization, and the International Trade Union Confederation jointly launched the Green Jobs Initiative. Simultaneously, the symbolic institutionalization of green jobs occurred within one of the dominant institutions of our culture—the government. The 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) included provisions for new jobs in industries such as energy, utilities, construction, and manufacturing with a focus toward energy efficiency and more environmentally friendly practices. Worldwide, an estimated eight million green jobs have evolved in sustainable organizing and changes are occurring in fields including consultancies, public relations, marketing, design, manufacturing, and engineering (Mitra and Buzzanell 2015).

But still, a false dichotomy may or may not be reinforced by the interpersonal communication occurring within social groups:

The manner in which we see our environment depends largely on what we are looking for in it. But what we look for is not just an individual or idiosyncratic matter—it depends on our cultural conditioning, our accustomed social roles, and our definition of the situation from which we relate to the environment. (Cohen 1976, p. 49)

Boulder, CO, is a town which has intentionally sought to negate the false dichotomy between jobs and the environment according to David Driskell, Boulder's Executive Director of Community Planning and Sustainability:

[We] really stay away from any kind of attitude that you have got to choose between the environment and jobs. I think Boulder is a great example of a place that has refused to frame things that way. And as a result it has a very successful economy because it offers a great quality of life. When people created the Open Space program [a local land conservation program] they weren't doing it as an economic development tool—they were trying to preserve the landscape. But that's our signature. That's why people want to be here.

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