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Is There a Green Career in Your Future?

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Modern society is based on a Big Lie: that it is possible for humans to be separate from -- and be superior to -- the rest of nature.

The delusion that we can continue to suicidally trash our planetary life-support systems and exploit nature's seemingly endless resources without respect for natural limits is at the core of our many current global and economic crises.

As ecological economist Herman Daly reminds us: "the economy is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the environment." Destroy the environment and you remove the foundation for true prosperity.

Every sector of our modern global economy is built on the shaky foundation of the Big Lie, which is why we see depletion and even collapse in so many fields -- the extraction industries, industrial-chemical agriculture, debt-based finance, factory-model education...

But as the old economy starts to fade all around us, the green shoots of a new sustainable economy are pushing up through the soil -- and that's where you want to position yourself.

Does your career have a future?

You've seen how much things have changed in just the last 5 years. In the next 5, 10 or 20 years, will we still need someone to do what you're doing right now?

I urge my career counseling clients to begin the process of transitioning from the waning old economy into the emerging sustainable world as soon as they can.

But this doesn't mean that we'll all be working on organic farms, building green buildings or installing windmills -- delightful as that may sound.

Here's how to start on your own career transition: choose an economic sector that interests you - perhaps banking, education, food, social services or some other area. Then ask yourself how the Big Lie has been active in this arena. How has the field become disconnected from nature, natural limits and natural ways of living? And what would this sector look like if we started to do things in a smarter, greener way?

For example, in medicine the Big Lie has been that corporate-based, high-tech health care would create wellness. The assumption was that we didn't need to work in partnership with nature and our bodies in our search for healing. We just needed industrial medicine to provide an (expensive!) silver bullet when our biological "machines" broke down.

But as we all now realize, old-style medicine just hasn't delivered on its promises of national good health and wellbeing. Health care became just another commodity in a market economy and Big Pharma, Big Insurance, Big high tech plus Big chemical agriculture have all put profit before health with predictable results. Yes, we've had some amazing benefits from this system (laser surgery or antibiotics, for example) but the goal of good public health has eluded us and our unsustainable medical system is nearing collapse. Even if we patch it together with Band-Aids or magically figure out how to endlessly pay for ever-more-expensive procedures and drugs, we've nearly reached the end of the road with Twentieth-Century medicine.

The sustainable alternative -- truly integrative medicine where individualized, unhurried patient care is primary and high tech is a last resort, not a first choice -- is now growing rapidly. It takes a wider view of health that includes a healthy planet, healthy food, traditional healing methods and a more natural way of living. Dr. Andrew Weil is perhaps the best-known exponent of this new, sustainable medicine.

But of course medicine isn't the only sector of our economy undergoing this revolution towards sustainability. Almost every occupation is in some stage of a similar transition and yours is probably one of them. To avoid becoming redundant road kill in a collapsing job economy, do your own analysis of your field so you can see the dead ends and avoid getting caught in them. Chart your course for the future by exploring or creating sustainable ways of meeting whatever basic human need your field addresses: health, education, clothing, travel, energy, family wellbeing, transportation, etc.

I believe that if you position yourself at or near the "green" cutting edge of whatever arena you're in or want to be in -- you can enjoy an inspiring, meaningful career with a truly sustainable future.

To learn more about green careers, read the Green Careers Resource Guide (Fall 2009) by Jim Cassio.

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