This past weekend I was working in the gardens out at Pullen Farm digging paths and leveling off rows in the newfound heat when I met a young man with an interesting story. He was in the garden to achieve his volunteer hours for the Bio 103 Saving Planet Earth class. After a few minutes of digging and shoveling I sparked up a conversation with him. He told me he was in the Occupational Safety and Health program here on campus (one of the best in the country) and he was going to be working for a construction company when he got out of school. But this is not just any construction company. This one constructs and erects windmills all around the country, helping build wind farms and move our country toward energy independence.
Of course recent reports have come out showing a spike in green economy jobs, especially in the realm of renewable energy. This does not bode well for the fossil fuel industries in this country, but their death is long overdue.
I was told two students from the University will be working in windmill construction after the semester is over and my only response is, why not more? I know the University wants students to get good paying jobs when they leave, no matter where they end up. But we should be looking and encouraging students to find jobs that are both ecologically and economically sustainable. As Bob Dylan once sang, “The times they are a changin’.”
It was noted in a Rolling Stones article by Jeff Goodell titled “Has Big Coal Lost Its Power?” that in three recent speeches on the future of energy in America President Obama did not once mention coal. Not to mention Oregon and Washington have both become the first coal-free states in the country.
This must certainly have the coal lobby shaking in its boots. But it is no secret coal is running out and half of what we do have is being shipped to China. Just as it is no secret oil is the biggest threat to our national security. In fact the only reliable fossil fuel in America is natural gas, but even its extraction method is coming under heat.
Most importantly, the rise in green economy jobs is not exclusive to blue states. Just last year the Tennessee Department of Labor projected more than 10,000 green jobs by 2014. In a study by Pew Charitable Trusts Kentucky had more than 9,000 clean energy jobs. That was before the recession. But the economy is making a comeback and the University would have to be blind not to see these new opportunities opening up for students.
So let’s be diligent in steering students toward making a healthier, cheaper and more sustainable economy.