A recent article from the New York Times, courtesy of green correspondent Kate Galbraith, highlighted the shift in opportunity for professionals with experience in environmental policy. With a presidential administration so much more committed to tackling issues of ecological stewardship the need for more green veterans continues to rise. Galbraith points to college professors and state level administrators as ripe pickings for higher federal posts. This reminds us that as we highlight the opportunities for national sustainability to generate job growth, one of the most valuable products needed by a maturing market is experienced human capital. At the same time, the move is a bit of a double-edged sword.
On one hand the ascension of weathered industry leaders to higher posts adds another link in the value chain for green policy jobs. The profession adds depth to an attractive appearance that may help to coerce more bright and dedicated souls to join its ranks. No industry can ever have enough of that. It is reasonable to believe that our country can make more progress with a governmental cadre that is more knowledgeable of how to mend its environmental shortcomings.
On the other hand, we are stealing intellectual capital from a sector that does not have a great deal to spare. Education in particular suffers from a shortage of programs in sustainability largely due to the fact that it is so difficult to tempt professionals away from the private sector where compensation is higher. While having political leaders that are well versed in the environment is clearly important it is also hard to impose progressive laws on a population not educated enough in the issues to truly embrace them. Capitol Hill is a place for helping to guide the public, but it is not often the best forum for teaching the public.
Where are these icons of sustainability best suited to level the greatest impact in a field that still has a long way to grow? We have to wonder if educators and local politicians do more for the spreading of knowledge than federal policy-makers. To teach or to lead–the debate could last for hours but hopefully rising demand will eventually yield enough greenies to go around.