As little as a decade ago if someone offered you the opportunity to earn a green college degree you may have questioned the rationale of rewarding thousands of dollars in tuition and endless hours of study time with a moldy diploma.

Ten eco-consciously lived years later you undoubtedly can ascertain that a green college degree is one that is environmentally aware, a degree  that will likely lead to career opportunities in one of the numerous areas of the still expanding Green Industry.  (You have sure gotten smart in the past ten years, you should reward yourself with a crunchy taco ASAP!)

Tragedies such as the most recent oil spill in the Gulf, serve to highlight urgency of creating a more sustainable way of living worldwide.  This urgency is being met by colleges and universities across the country by a noticeable spike in the number and variety of green majors which are being offered  over the past few years. While many of these institutions have been offering eco-minded courses for decades, these new additions to the curriculum are of note because they broaden the scope of where this eco knowledge can be considered applicable.

If you thought that environmental careers were limited to Scientist or can collector, you have been sadly misinformed. Eco-friendly degrees and the career paths they inspire can be as varying and unique as your more run of the mill degrees. (Philosophy majors, I am looking at you. Sorry that they have not discovered a way to make droning on and on  more eco-friendly, for the time being you are certified ROTM- “Run of the mill” for you folks playing at home. I kid, you need to philosophize how to take a joke! Zing.)

Environmental Law Degrees: If you have always fantasized about objecting to a hostile witness or having a side bar with an intense no-nonsense judge, you do not have to flush your aspirations down the dream toilet just because of your  environmental ethics. Green Lawyers are in high demand due to increases in environmental policies and the arguments that these new policies can sometimes entail. “You want the green…you can’t handle the green!” You may want to practice yelling that, just in case.

Environmental Engineering Degrees
: If you plan on coasting through college on your beer pong skills and good looks alone this complex degree is not for you. The  intricate learning process  of becoming an Environmental Engineer includes fully understanding the intricacies of  numerous environmental factors, including :water and air pollution control, waste disposal, recycling public health concerns and comprehending the environmental impact of future construction projects. This focus of study is offered at prestigious schools such as MIT, which does not stand for “May I Take… that test later?” Serious candidates need only apply. Don’t worry, I am sure a degree in Environmental Beer Chugging will come about eventually.

Environmental Health Science Degree
: If you, like Whitney Houston, are a firm believer that the children are the future you may be interested in pursuing a degree that helps you understand the role the environment plays in the health of humans. Your work will not only ensure that these mystery children in question live to see the future, but you will assist in the wellness of general public by making sure that their environment is one they can healthily thrive in.

Sustainable Business Degrees
: If your first words as a baby were, “Buy low, sell high!” you don’t have to squash your aspirations of being a true wheeler and dealer of the business world to leave your pesky environmentally conscious side appeased. Now you can learn how to manage business affairs with a mind for the environment and a knowledge of key sustainable principles that will help you run an ethical company that will leave you saying, “Buy used, sell sustainable!”

Countless other Green Majors are currently available or in the process of being developed. In 2007 Arizona State University introduced its School of Sustainability, which offers both Bachelors and Graduate degrees of Science and Art in the area of sustainability. Green Education is not limited to four-year degrees, many schools offer certificate programs, such as  Kalamazoo Valley Community College of Michigan which has a twenty-four week program that trains people in having the skills to operate wind turbines.

No matter what focus is chosen, green degrees allow students to prepare for not only their futures, but the future of the world- one in which the environment is no longer ignored or seen as inconsequential but is treated with the respect it deserves.

-Meghan Hurley

Detroit, once a modern city thriving with industry, is sadly decaying and often reported as one of America’s most dangerous cities.  Parts of the city will remind one of the ghost towns of the west with whole city blocks left abandoned and forgotten by time.  However, there is a faction of the community, which has now turned mainstream,  pushing to do something unheard of! They are proposing the city’s economically ravished neighborhoods be turned back into farmland. The new farms will produce crops not only to feed the city’s population but to generate revenue. An idea on this scale has never been attempted before and would be an amazing feat if actualized.

The idea to turn urban landscape back to original farmland was first proposed in the 90’s when Detroit was already a city falling to ruin. However, with the latest recession, the city has seen the fallout play out tenfold. With the retreat of the automobile industry, the city has little left to fuel its economy and has some residents scavenging the urban landscape for food: even turning to rodent meat at times. There are no concrete details as of yet, the basic plan is to demolish largely abandoned neighborhoods and turn them into cultivating farmland. The city would be re-structured to include an Urban Core at the center and urban pockets and farmland stretching out around the core. New Geography did a great article and provided maps and pictures of the New Detroit plan. Commuters that once drove through miles upon miles of suburban and urban sprawl could possibly commute through miles of pristine farmland.

This plan, of course, is the hope for the future. Currently the mayor, Dave Bing, is trying to put forth a plan that will begin with demolishing some 10,000 abandoned homes and buildings within the next 3 years and pour investment money into stronger and more populated neighborhoods. This feat is a good starting place and looking at the whole plan may seem daunting, as metro Detroit is larger than the cities of San Francisco, Boston, and Manhattan combined! However, supporters of the plan are confident this can be done, pointing out that other urban cities have done similar downsizing plans such as Youngstown,OH. And Detroit leads the way in urban farming with over 500 small farm plots currently supplying food for some of the city’s poorest residents. Mayor Bing has also pointed out that with the recession and budget out of control, the city can no longer afford to patrol the most abandoned neighborhoods.

The idea of downsizing urban areas sounds amazing and we love the innovation. However, there are some serious issues to consider. First, the funding for such a massive project of this scale will be through the roof. Detroit will either have to raise taxes, and with much of the city struggling this is unlikely, or look to the Federal government for funding. On top of funding political and socio-economic issues will come in to play. For instance who will decide which neighborhood to demolish and if people are still living in those sections of the city, what will happen to them? There is already backlash for some residents in this regard, as many have occupied their homes for generations. Just one look at history, and we know displacement is not an easy thing! Another issue to consider is where is all the waste from the demolition going to end up? Hopefully not landfills! And since this is an old city there are infrastructures to consider such as plumbing and power lines. Both will take extra energy to uproot not to mention money. We also hope the soil will be farm-able after centuries of industrial waste and occupation.

Whatever the issues are, the idea of reversing urban expansion and turning it into green space, growing crops to feed and bring in revenue for a whole city, is inspiring. We hope to see more details and a full plan produced in the coming years. If Detroit can pull it off, it will be inspirational for many cities dealing with recession woes and a shrinking population and growth. Is this a turn towards de-modernization of our current idea of the urban landscape? Is this just one hair brain scheme or are we on the cusp of a new era in cultural organization?

-Gina Williams

Beyond all the other let downs, failures and disappointments of the most recent recession, the collapsing Automotive Industry has been the poster child of the weakening U.S economy.

As American as apple pie or overeating, the automobile has served as an emblem of success to the U.S citizens for generations. As the industry imploded in on itself, encompassing with it all the lowlights of this so-called Great Recession outsourced jobs, lay-offs, people buying foreign products all culminating with the big wigs of the industry demanding bailout money from the cockpit of their personal jets- one could not ignore that America as we knew it might be changing permanently.

When the government announced its Cash for Clunkers program, a stimulus bill that encourages the purchase of new, more fuel-efficient vehicles by offering cash vouchers (up to $4,500) to consumers when they trade in their less fuel-efficient automobiles, it sounded like a win-win situation for everyone involved. People who may not normally be able to afford a new vehicle would have the resources to make purchases that would stimulate the automotive industry and a number of gas chugging vehicles would be taken off the road.

While on the surface this bill appears to be an environmentalists dream, upon further inspection, the facade of eco-friendliness begins to crack. While the Cash for Clunkers program has been declared by its supporters as a raging success, both as an economic stimulus program and as a green initiative, a recent AP story reveals that a majority of trade ins involved a pick up truck being exchanged for a marginally more fuel-efficient pick up truck. Opponents of this initiative now argue that this is like trading in poisoned apples for slightly less poisoned oranges.

“So what! Less is still more when it comes to gas consumption! The environment is giving this two thumbs up, why can’t you?”, you are likely shouting at your computer screen right now. And you’d be kind of right, until you consider the perplexing fuel-efficiency paradox, which explains that increased fuel efficiency does not translate into decreased oil demands. This is because when people are faced with a bargain at the pumps the simply respond by driving more.

Perhaps dear old Cash for Clunkers and its inventors had their hearts in the right place, hoping to alleviate the toll the recession was taking on the automotive industry, while simultaneously helping out the battered environment and did not intentionally green wash this bill in an effort to appease Economists and Environmentalist alike. Some may even argue that the immediate needs of the economy outweigh the long-term needs of the environment, while others could counter that the benefits or disadvantages of this program will remain to be seen for some time to come.

What is undeniable by parties on both sides of this debate is that there is nothing more American than consuming more than you need, and until we address this inclination to overindulge programs like this, our economy and the environment will continue to suffer.

-Meghan Hurley

Necessity is often said to be the mother of all invention, but is it perhaps also the driving force behind adaptability?

Reduce, Recycle, Reuse”, three little words that have become the battle cry of the Green-minded set, have been reinforced in recent times by the plain and simple necessity that comes with living through trying economic times. Over the past months, as stocks were plummeting and jobs were steadily disappearing, the amount of garbage produced by the normally consumer crazy American public was following suit. By some estimates, the amount of waste inundating our landfills has decreased by as much 30 percent.

Blue Marble (Planet Earth) Photo By woodleywonderworkBetween vanishing 401Ks and the dwindling job market it is hard for even the most optimistic among us to not feel a little hopeless on occasion. While living life in the lean lane does not necessarily mean grabbing a shovel and burying our family valuables in the backyard, it does mean that people are adjusting the way in which they live on the most fundamental of levels. People who may have never given much thought to where their abundance of belongings came from, let alone where it went to after they disposed of it, are now forced to consider the realties of our sometimes disposable society. Slowly but surely, frugality has birthed a new, more green minded nation.

Pre-recession you may have tossed that aging Milli-Vanilli poster out of the window of a moving Hummer. Post-recession you is much more considerate of the plight of mother earth, so you reuse that classic poster as lining for the cabinets in your kitchen! No worries, photos of this lip syncing duo will do nothing to tarnish the street cred of your dishware.

Pre-Recession you tossed that empty cola can in a river overflowing with salmon, while post-recession you rinses that can out and redeem it for the nickel deposit! Score! Both for your wallet and those cute fish!

Pre-Recession you would buy six motorcycles at a time, in an effort to let your friends know that you are in fact cooler than both James Dean and The Fonz combined. Post-recession you peruses pictures of the cast of Happy Days on the internet at your local library. Hey, it is a recession, not everything is gonna be unicorns, rainbows and Harleys!

Its Future is in our Hands - Live Earth Photo By aussiegallMother nature enthusiasts may have preferred for these considerations towards the environment to have been adopted by the masses for reasons other than frugality, but ultimately this new found environmentalism is good news for the planet. The more people who live conscientiously, for whatever reason, the better. Lessons learned out of necessity are hopefully not as disposable as the society in which we belong tends to be. When this recession becomes past sense (fingers firmly crossed), perhaps the newly learned, Earth healthy habits adopted by so many won’t soon be forgotten.

Fair Trade LogoAll we hear is recession, depression, and bankruptcy from everyone’s mouths from the Media, to the President, and just about everyone on the street. Well don’t let all this negativity get you down, because we have some excellent sales news to report!  This month the Fair Trade Resource Network announced that despite a Global Recession, world Fair Trade sales rose 22% in 2008! This is very encouraging data, especially because as many industries downsize and disappear, its great that a conscious industry is growing.

Not only did they announce an overall increase in sales, but for many countries they have seen a huge jump. For instance, Canada’s Fair Trade sales grew 67%, Finland saw an increase of 57%, New Zealand grew a whopping 73%, and Sweden took the top spot with a growth of 75%! Sadly the US Fair Trade sales only grew 10%, but at least there is some growth. Also, Britain who only expanded their sales 43% became the country with the most Fair Trade sales worldwide.

On top of all these wonderful increases, its extremely exciting to announce that several Fair Trade industries are also expanding their sales. This includes the Fair Trade cotton (which of course we at AP use) industry sales grew 94%!!!! It is a grand feeling to know we, and you as loyal supporters, have contributed to such a high level of prosperity. It is a promising figure to see! Cotton is not the only fast progressing Fair Trade product, the sale of Fair Trade tea increased 112% and Fair Trade bananas sales grew 28%.

These figures may seem small or possibly a tad on the boring side, but if you are still reading at this point, I want to express how overwhelmingly encouraging they really are. Because despite other industries going bankrupt, Fair Trade is seeing real increases. Does this mean people around the globe are paying attention to their consumption choices? We certainly hope so!  Information and statistics like these are supportive evidence to the idea of a positive change in our global economy. So if you aren’t a supporter already, please pay attention to what you buy. Because really your power is in your dollar!

“We can’t do this anymore.”, writes New York Times writer Thomas Friedman in a recent op-ed article.

manufacturingspaceballFriedman reference is to our recent economic ideologies that have landed us in smack in the middle of an unprecedented global recession. He continues, “We must have growth, but we must grow in a different way. For starters, economies need to transition to the concept of net-zero, whereby buildings, cars, factories and homes are designed not only to generate as much energy as they use but to be infinitely recyclable in as many parts as possible. Let’s grow by creating flows rather than plundering more stocks.”

wallmart

In the past, economic recessions often been met with sullen struggling at the level of the individual, to ‘weather the storm’ in order to maintain remnants of a quality of life threatened by a suddenly merciless economic environment. However, Friedman’s point raises question about how we face these economic doldrums and the fundamental choices we have as individuals, especially in our present context. Instead of trying to find meager ways to maintain our quality of life’, Friedman is essentially asking us to reinvent our systems, our way of thinking, to align closer to the quality of life we should be living. Ultimately, could this recession be an opportunity to provide a more full existence to our daily grind?

Today, more than ever before, our collective history, global identity and advances in technology have paved the way to answer this question in a way to create a new kind of economic ‘recession’. Instead of wallowing in the gloom, we can realize that we are poised to turn potential for global suffering into milestone for human civilization, one that opens up new and creative ways to live in balance with the world. Even better, the economy is already moving to meet you halfway! Where there was once a prolific need to feed the conspicuously consuming machine, now there is a burgeoning job market specifically geared to promoting a sustainable world. As individuals, this means we are all tasked now to take control of our way of life, and realign it with the fundamental principles of the world around us.

3328055815_f531056d21In a recent online article by CNN, there is clear reason to start seeing if a job in renewable energy is something you might consider. Aside from an $11 billions being earmarked specifically to help people move toward homes using on renewable energy, job creation focusing on long term technologies such as fuel-cells is currently on the rise.

At fastcompany.com, similar rumblings are becoming clearer. Specifically, they reveal the growing need for jobs in sustainable practices, not just renewable energy. They list out green jobs likely to grow in numbers for the next decade, from more locally-based farmers, urban planners focused on lowering overall city carbon production, and more closed-loop manufacturers focused solely on creating an industry for active recycling.

And in case you are wondering what green jobs are the top ten to grab, here’s a list of the top ten:

pv-installer1-Conservation Biologist

2-Farmer Forester

3-Solar Power Installer

4-Energy Efficiency Builder

5-Wind Turbine Manufacturer

6-Conservation biologist

7-Green MBA and Entrepreneur

8-Recylcer Sustainability

9-Systems Developer

10-Urban Planner

CO: Obama signs economic recovery bill in Denver Photo By aflcio2008Just days after the huge economic recovery stimulus bill was passed and Obama signed it into law, critics on both sides put it their two cents. Economists and regular Joes can’t seem to agree whether the stimulus is a great move or a bad decision. However, there is one group of people who are celebrating the passage. The Green Movement seems to be one of the winners of the bill. The bill sets aside millions of funding for green development. From mass transit to solar energy, the bill definitely is a win for a growing industry.

Wind Power Photo By Luis AlvesImmediately following the passage several green groups celebrated in the news, including Green America.  They have released a great list of the “5 best stimulus provisions for a greener America.” And their list is full of hopeful parts of the stimulus plan including: 9.5 billion for energy efficient revitalization of federal buildings, 6 billion towards in loans for solar and wind projects, 11 million to modernize the electricity grid, and 17.5 billion for public transportation including high speed rail. Green America also celebrated that 50 million in funding of new nuclear and coal plants was cut out of the bill.

Green Jobs Now Sarasota - Sarasota, FL Photo By greenforall.orgThese are major victories in the green economy and we can only hope that this really will stimulate the economy as well convince the majority of America to switch to a greener lifestyle. This bill has potential to create millions of new jobs as well as jumpstart a move to a greener America! So we say congratulations to all of us who have been working to bring the green movement into the forefront! Even though a huge victory has happened, it doesn’t mean we can stop pushing. Stay involved with organizations like Green America and Green Jobs Now. And most of all try to to stay green in your daily life.

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