THE BLOG

Playing Our Part in Developing a Green Economy

02/21/2013 07:15 am ET | Updated Apr 23, 2013

There's a scene in the Lion King movie where Simba's father, Mufasa, takes the boy lion to Pride Rock, where they survey the beautiful and extensive plains of the Pride Lands. Mufasa tells Simba that one day this will be his kingdom.

But after Simba's uncle, Scar, murders Mufasa, the Pride Lands become a desolate landscape where there is no food or water for the wildlife.

Like all good movies, the story had a happy ending: Simba became the rightful King, the fertility of the Pride Lands was restored, sales at the box office reached record highs and we all went home with a warm glow, certain in the knowledge that this was fiction and anyway it was all about a faraway place.

It's a bit like when we talk about our planet. We are living on it, watching the scenes of our everyday lives being played out, but for many people, the idea that the environment is in danger from the overuse of natural resources, wasteful production and consumption, feels like some outlandish Hollywood script, something so far off that we don't need to worry about it now.

Well, the drawings for the Lion King were based on one of the national parks in Kenya -- a region that is already experiencing the very real effects of environmental degradation -- deforestation, water shortages and escalating prices for food, energy and other commodities.

But it's not just Africa. Not so long ago, here in the United States, we experienced the devastation of Hurricane Sandy. Before that, it was Katrina. The reality is with us and will be even more pronounced for the next generation who'll have to cope with the consequences.

I believe that art is a powerful force for change and has a key role to play in helping the global economy move toward a greener future. Artists, can touch millions of people with a song, a book, a movie -- even one about a talking lion.

The time to act is now. We need sustainable, low-carbon economies that create more and better jobs, particularly for young people who have borne the brunt of the global economic crisis.

Going green means reducing our consumption of energy and raw materials, limiting greenhouse gas emissions, minimizing waste and pollution and protecting and restoring our ecosystems.

These are not pie-in-the-sky ideas -- tens of millions of green jobs have already been created around the world and the number is growing. In the US, for instance, over three million people are employed in environmental goods and services.

In the developing world too -- which has been affected most by climate change -- many young people are also looking at how they can build a sustainable future.

Just like the creative processes that are needed to make a movie, they have come up with some great ideas, like low-consumption energy light bulbs, pioneered by a student in China; a solar panel project developed by a group of Kenyan women and an iron that uses hot water instead of electricity or charcoal, developed by a group of school children in Kenya.

Whether we are on the big screen or on the small stage, we can all play our part.

This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and The International Labour Organization in recognition of the latter's Green Jobs programme. The ILO's Green Jobs Programme provides analysis and policy guidance to help promote a fair globalization and the development of sustainable enterprises and economies, which are efficient, socially just, and environmentally sound.