Why We Need to Popularize Green Careers in India?

By Meghaa Gupta

Environment engineering

To a lot of us, the environment is a ’cause’. It matters because it’s absolutely essential to preserve, for the future of our planet and the human race. We celebrate environment days with much fanfare. EVS has been made part of our school curriculum by government mandates on education. The media covers environmental issues regularly, and many celebrities champion its cause vociferously.

However, a lot of us draw a blank when it comes to pursuing environmental careers. Some of us are not aware of them. Others, who are, realize that the environmental cause often makes for a difficult career, with an apparent dearth of well-known, well-paying jobs. Many students who opt for environmental qualifications in higher education end up leaving the field or struggle for good jobs.

Unless environmental careers are popularised, the field will continue to have a dearth of qualified and committed professionals devoted to it. One doesn’t need to have any specialized knowledge to subscribe to a cause. In fact, many complain that the environmental field is populated by people with a superficial knowledge of the facts. Most of us know the issues around pollution and conservation of the natural environment. We may even be passionate environmentalists involved in planting trees, organizing clean-up drives, sloganeering – the works.

Meghaa Gupta, Author of the award-winning books, A Home of Our Own and Unearthed: An Environmental History of Independent India, advocate of children’s literature

However, preserving the environment needs a lot more. Dedicated scientists, engineers and researchers who can get to the root of problems and devise actionable solutions; Policy makers who understand the underlying issues and devise meaningful strategies keeping these in mind; Lawyers willing to fight environmental cases in court and conduct comprehensive and unbiased due-diligence and compliance for environmental projects; Committed and experienced academicians teaching environmental subjects at schools and colleges; Well-informed journalists who bring environmental matters to the public eye and often put themselves on the line to uncover scams… there are many employment avenues in environment. The problem is that many of these don’t pay too well, are not as widely known or easily accessible.

Despite the problems with environmental careers, in the course of my writing, I have interacted with numerous people who have made a career out of the environmental cause, in small and big ways. Many of them have founded NGOs and social enterprises working towards various environmental ends. They agree that money is not always easy, but it is there, provided one perseveres through the challenges. It’s not a career for those wanting regular employment in air-conditioned offices.   

Green Careers

A lot of these people are in their late thirties, forties and even fifties. Many of them made mid-career switches to work full-time for environmental causes. They all claim a need for more ‘young blood’ to meet the increasingly dire environmental situation in the country today. Many youngsters are also inspired by the call to take up careers that give them the opportunity to ‘make a difference’. Social enterprise and start-ups led by astonishingly young people are leaving their mark on the country.

The time is ripe to popularize environmental careers as part of the awareness drives around the country. We need to create new environmental role models children can look up to. Perhaps even begin a well-publicized fellowship in this field. Considering the amount of time, money and exposure being given to Swachh Bharat, renewable energy and India’s green promises as part of the Paris agreement, I don’t see why we can’t.

Most Indian families have people in finance, law, medicine, IT… very few of them have career-environmentalists, who can inspire and guide the children. Who can nurture a mindset that pushes interested children into joining the field. In the absence of this, educational institutions and existing environmental bodies need to create the opportunity. So, I hope someone with the necessary resources takes a publicised step in this direction and the message reaches the right ears. I’m waiting, and I would like to think, so is a green-minded student who is in need of some inspiration.

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