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Holocene 2021  •  19 May 2021

When I Grow up I Want a Green Job

By Anna Thieben & Jordan Lynch
When I Grow up I Want a Green Job

Let’s begin with a simple concept‭: ‬a just transition‭. ‬It’s a shift to a climate-resilient‭, ‬fossil-fuel-free society in which we place the needs of the working-class community at the forefront‭. ‬It’s not just about decommissioning mines and sewing fields of solar panels‭, ‬it’s about ensuring that within this transition‭, ‬no worker is left without a job‭, ‬or without the skills to find stable employment‭.‬

Green jobs should fit snugly within the framework of a just transition‭. ‬It is important to note that a‭ ‬‘green job’ applies to any type of employment that does not actively‭,‬ or indirectly‭, ‬fuel climate change‭. ‬Your teachers have green jobs‭. ‬Nurses‭, ‬bus drivers‭, ‬bartenders‭, ‬and tourguides all have green jobs‭. ‬These services are needed to help communities affected by climate change‭, ‬and thus the elusive‭ ‬‘green job’‭ ‬title applies‭.‬

So‭, ‬what does a just transition demand of green jobs‭?‬

There’s a reason why Australians who work in mines are paid so exorbitantly‭; ‬the job is danger-ous‭. ‬It exposes you to toxins‭, ‬and takes you away from family for long periods‭ ‬of time‭. ‬Unless we actively fight for workers’‭ ‬rights‭, ‬green jobs of the future could easily become exploitative‭. ‬Earlier this year‭, ‬230‭ ‬casual staff working on a solar project in Wandoan‭, ‬Queensland were fired via text message‭. ‬

Was it a green job‭? ‬Yes‭.‬

Did they have job security‭? ‬Absolutely the fuck not‭.‬

The envisioned‭ ‬‘green jobs’‭ ‬need to be secure‭, ‬safe‭,‬ and long lasting‭. ‬They need to be in unionised workplaces‭, ‬and resilient to the threat of auto‭-‬ mation and casualisation‭. ‬This means that workers will have power over their situation‭, ‬and are not just cogs in the means of production‭.‬‭ ‬

Climate change is making everyone’s life more challenging‭, ‬and will continue to do so‭. ‬But it’s the communities and workers on the front line who feel its effects the strongest‭. ‬In the summer of 2019‭, ‬fires raged across Australia‭, ‬and over 150,000 volunteer firefighters across the nation fought on the blazing battleground‭. ‬They worked day and night in unbearable temperatures‭, ‬undercompen‭-‬ sated and understaffed‭. ‬Many fire-fighting units are under-resourced‭, ‬and health risks such as lung damage are widespread‭. ‬Volunteer Firefighters give their time with no guarantee that their employers would be sympathetic to them taking compensation for their efforts‭.‬‭ ‬

They should be more than just the idolised heroes of our nation‭ ‬—‭ ‬firies should be recognised as workers with green jobs who deserve job security‭, ‬ protection‭, ‬and fair compensation‭.‬

Who do we blame‮…‬‭? ‬The government‭. ‬Again‭.‬‭ ‬

Jobs in regional communities are few and far between‭. ‬It is illogical to demand that a worker chooses unemployment over a job in‭ ‬the fossil fuel industry‭. ‬As such‭, ‬please don’t blame your coal-miner uncle for climate change‭! ‬Don’t think bad of him if he happens to be an environmental activist too‭. ‬These positions are not mutually exclusive‭.‬

Instead of blaming your dear uncle‭, ‬throw all your shade at the corporations profiting off the‭ ‬ exploitation of their workers and the land‭. ‬Blame companies‭ ‬—‭ ‬such as mining giant Adani and gas-overlord Santos‭ ‬—‭ ‬who operate on a capitalist model of greed and exploitation‭, ‬and are the common enemy of environmental activists and workers alike‭. ‬These companies and systems capit‭-‬ alise on the extraction economy and force workers into unsafe‭, ‬unhealthy‭, ‬and polluting industries‭. ‬

Proving that we are not just government-hating lefties with no actual goals‭!‬

For a just transition‭ ‬—‭ ‬abundant with stable‭, ‬unionised green jobs‭ ‬—‭ ‬we must‭, ‬as a nation‭, ‬invest in public renewable systems and stop all funding for new fossil fuel projects‭. ‬It’s obvious‭, ‬honestly‭. ‬We need to stop putting public money into the pockets of mining CEOs and funding a‭ ‬‘gas lead recovery’‭ ‬that’ll give fossil fuels a new boost of life in this nation‭. ‬Instead‭, ‬how about we provide proper funding to essential workers and establish a publicly owned‭, ‬renewable energy grid‭. ‬

This already-existing social system has been pio-neered by democratic Scandinavian countries‭. ‬The idea is that recovery from an‭ ‬economic crisis‭ (‬such as COVID-19‭) ‬does not have to come at the expense of the climate and our society‭.‬ Australia should emerge from the COVID-19‭ ‬pandemic with plans to invest in public renewable energy programs‭, ‬public transport‭, ‬health‭, ‬and education‭. ‬This will both sustain green jobs‭,‬ while setting us on the path to economic and diplomatic reward‭, ‬as we will not be left behind in the worldwide advancement of renewable technologies‭, ‬and will become respected in the global coalition for climate action‭.‬

Simple‭, ‬yes‭...?‬

Getting overwhelmed with corrupt‭ ‬ political arguments‭? ‬Also‭, ‬yes‭...‬

Green jobs cannot be expected of the future‭. ‬Alongside climate action‭, ‬they must be fought for from the grassroots and won‭.‬


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