Building Sustainable Careers

After exploring our interests, our potential and the possibilities for our lives, we may find we are happy with the way we express our creative and spiritual energy in the world, or we may wish to forge a new direction. Whatever we choose to do in life, as a career, a calling, a contribution or a craft, for pleasure or for profit, must be sustainable for the Earth. We define the meaning of sustainability, look at future careers that protect, conserve and honour, not exploit, destroy and degrade the Earth, and explore how we can make our life’s work sustainable.

Everything we do has an impact on the environment, so it’s important that whatever we do in life, whether it’s for our basic survival, enjoyment, or creative expression, we must always aim for minimal impact.

Every human being needs access to nutritious food, adequate clothing, affordable shelter and basic education, but what about life beyond the bare essentials? Shouldn’t we all have the same opportunities to express our creativity and experience life?

The standard of living many people have in developed countries cannot be experienced by the entire global population, because these lifestyles are unsustainable. Our current rate of consumption cannot continue indefinitely.

We share the Earth with many life forms with intrinsic value apart from the economic value we place on them as resources for human consumption. Trees provide habitat for animals and birds and remove excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. A tree can be turned into a Stradivarius violin or a brilliantly written book that changes lives. Imagine a world without music and books, or trees and wildlife, or a stable climate?

We must redefine what it means to live well and find a way to live sustainably on the Earth.

Defining sustainability

The Oxford Dictionary of English defines the term ‘sustainable’ as ‘conserving an ecological balance by avoiding depletion of natural resources; and able to be maintained at a certain rate or level’.

When discussing sustainability, we need to define exactly what it is we are trying to sustain. A corporation may talk about ensuring their business is sustainable, but often they are talking about the sustainability of their bottom line, not the environment.

There is a trend towards the inclusion of sustainability principles into corporate operational plans. This is a move in the right direction. There is a growing realization that people want ethical business practices, clean energy, organic ingredients and cruelty-free products.

As Environmental Warriors, when we talk about sustainability, we mean sustainability of the environment. Business needs to be profitable, but creating a sustainable career means that our ideas, business practices and vision must be sustainable for the Earth.

Our lifestyles must be sustainable in the long-term. Economic progress that destroys the environment is not progress. A life is not successful if it costs the life of the Earth.

Finding a balance between living well and environmental integrity is our greatest challenge as human beings.

Future Earth careers

The careers and jobs of the future should support local economies and involve local production using predominantly local resources; and provide people with meaningful work that makes a valuable contribution to their community.

As stewards of the Earth, people will be employed as organic farmers, conservation biologists and forest rangers. We need to move away from corporate control of food, industrial farming and large-scale agriculture, and focus on tending the soil, working with animals and growing food.

We need to make a commitment to the research and development of renewable energy technology including solar, but also utilize the energy potential of people and animals. In Cows Save The Planet, Judith D. Schwartz explores how cows are vital to the restoration of soil and land. Cows can work as draught animals, as they do in traditional farming models.

Our sedentary lifestyles are killing us, so we need to become more active, and return to our nomadic roots, where we physically move ourselves, creating strong bodies, strong minds and strong hearts. We become self-reliant, self-sufficient and self-governing.

We need to move away from corporate monopolies, environmental destruction and cheap, useless, mass-produced plastic items made by machine, and return to artisanal skills, small business, community development and working with our hands.

The authors of The Sixth Wave suggest we need to move away from a manufacturing-based economy to a service-based one. Planned obsolescence, where material things are made to break down after a short time and must be replaced, is unsustainable. Products must be made to last. Fewer raw materials should be extracted from the Earth, and people need to be trained as master repairers.

Modern medicine and science needs to be inclusive of traditional knowledge and indigenous wisdom. We need to take a more holistic view of health, recognizing the ability of the body as a self-healing entity. People should be trained in tactile therapies, so our hands become tools of healing. Research shows that human beings die without affection and touch, so there needs to be increased training and employment in the tactile modalities, including massage, reflexology and bodywork.

We must see the demise of dirty industries that pollute the Earth – toxic chemical manufacturing, industrial plants that pump poisonous chemicals into the environment and pesticide-based agriculture.

Making a career sustainable for the environment

It’s important to donate a portion of what we earn to the greater good. We receive from the Earth our life, our breath and our livelihood. Any amount will do, and it doesn’t have to be monetary. Giving back to the Earth by volunteering our time to help others or donating to a social or environmental cause is an important part of the Environmental Warrior ethos.

How do we make our careers sustainable for the environment?

Photography is a good example of how a career can be made sustainable. I’m a traditionalist when it comes to art, and I prefer film over digital photography, but I have to agree that digital photography is better for the environment.

Photographic film is made from plastic and silver halide salts that don’t biodegrade. Chemicals used in processing film are highly toxic and have to be disposed of as hazardous waste. Home processing often results in harmful chemicals being poured down the drain.

Traditional film photography is extremely wasteful and harmful to the environment. Entire rolls of film need to be developed to get a few good shots. Unwanted film negatives and plastic canisters end up in landfill.

Photographers have made excellent progress in ensuring their careers are more sustainable and environmentally friendly.

Writers can organize to have one tree planted for every book they publish or make their books available through e-publishing avenues. Publishers can use recycled paper and non-toxic, vegetable-based inks in the printing process.

Artists can purchase non-toxic paints, inks and other art materials, buy paper made from recycled materials, and ensure that any water poured down the drain is free from harsh chemicals that can damage the environment.

We need to think about how our work and creative pursuits can be made sustainable for the Earth. Does it pollute or damage the environment to an excessive degree? With a little ingenuity, innovation and inspiration, we can redesign the way we work and create.

© 2015 Environmental Warrior
Photo by Dan-Cristian Pădureț on Unsplash

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