Guest essay by Eric Worrall
Nobody in the Gen Z climate cadre the Guardian interviewed wants to get their hands dirty – the careers listed are mostly about convincing other people do the work.
‘No point in anything else’: Gen Z members flock to climate careers
Colleges offer support as young people aim to devote their lives to battling the crisis
Mon 6 Sep 2021 20.00 AEST
California is facing a drought so devastating, some publications call it “biblical”. Colorado now has “fire years” instead of “fire seasons”. Miami, which sees more dramatic hurricanes each year, is contemplating building a huge seawall in one of the city’s most scenic tourist districts to protect it from storm surges.
“Once you learn how damaged the world’s ecosystems are, it’s not really something you can unsee,” says Rachel Larrivee, 23, a sustainability consultant based in Boston. “To me, there’s no point in pursuing a career – or life for that matter – in any other area.”
Larrivee is one of countless members of Gen Z, a generation that roughly encompasses young people under 25, who are responding to the planet’s rapidly changing climate by committing their lives to finding a solution. Survey after survey shows young people are not just incorporating new climate-conscious behaviors into their day-to-day lives – they’re in it for the long haul. College administrators say surging numbers of students are pursuing environmental-related degrees and careers that were once considered irresponsible, romantic flights of fancy compared to more “stable” paths like business, medicine, or law.Why won’t US TV news say ‘climate change’?Mark HertsgaardRead more
“I cannot imagine a career that isn’t connected to even just being a small part of a solution,” says Mimi Ausland, 25, the founder of Free the Ocean, a company that aims to leverage small actions to remove plastic from the ocean.
“My goal is to use the lens of literature and philosophy to study and hopefully help repair humans’ relationship to our environments,” they say.
A 2020 USC survey found that 64% of undergraduate students are “very interested” in on-campus sustainability, while 27% are “interested”. They’re also practicing what they preach: 33% of survey respondents say they participate in sustainability activities “daily” and 27% report weekly sustainability practices.
I’m pretty sure “the lens of literature and philosophy” won’t help solve the currently insurmountable engineering impediments to creating a 100% renewable energy powered future. But it sure sounds like a path to a life of well funded government or lobbyist expenses paid conferences, international travel, a comfortable office, a sexy sounding job title, and no heavy lifting.