We’ve been hearing about green jobs for more than three years. Growing jobs by growing the green economy was a centerpiece of President Obama’s first jobs plan. But just what is a green job? And why am I having such a hard time creating one?

The Washington Employment Security Department (link here) defines the green economy as “rooted in the development and use of products and services that promote environmental protection, energy independence, and economic development.” It goes on to define green jobs as:

 “Green jobs are jobs in the primary industries of a green economy that promote environmental protection and energy independence.

Energy independence includes the development and use of energy efficiency and renewable energy products and services.

Environmental protection includes the prevention and reduction of environmental pollution, as well as efforts to mitigate environmental pollution.”

Looking at the terms – green, growing, rooted – it would seem obvious that farming, ranching and timber are green industries. This conclusion is borne out by Washington Employment Security Department statistics, where agricultural workers take two of the top five slots on the green occupations list. Here’s why:

  • Agricultural lands may be used to grow oil seeds for direct use in biofuel production. Appropriate management of crop and range land is not only key to a healthy environment but provides local sources of food at a lesser carbon footprint than food imports.
  • Healthy rangeland supports a variety of wildlife in harmony with domesticated grazing animals. Managed grazing reduces wildfire risks, mitigates air pollution and recycles carbon from decaying plant material back into the soil.
  • Timber is a renewable resource both for construction and energy production. Well managed forest lands are a vital part of municipal watersheds, providing a critical public service for urban areas.

Jobs managing our natural resources are undeniably the original green jobs.

On the public policy front, Washington jumped on board with President Obama’s 2009 green economy and called together a distinguished panel of experts who put together “Washington’s Green Economy – A Strategic Framework.” Community Trade & Economic Development (CTED) was the lead agency, and the resulting publication can be found on the on the Department of Ecology website (link here). On page 13, this Strategic Framework announces that “forestry and agriculture – as a whole – fall outside of this definition.” The Strategic Framework goes on to say:

“However, organic farming and sustainable forest management are clearly contributors to pollution prevention, and conservation practices and recycled biomass in forestry and agriculture are certainly within the green realm. We have chosen to capture those activities in the other green-economy industry groupings, such as renewable energy, water conservation, waste management, etc.”

According to State Economist Arun Raha in a 2009 lecture to a group of architects, agriculture  is the primary driver of the economy of the state of Washington. If you look at the list of stakeholders and experts on the Green-Economy Jobs Initiative Advisory Team (page 2), you will find there are none – absolutely zero –from agriculture and forestry sectors. The strategic plan to create green jobs and strengthen the green economy didn’t include anyone with experience in the original green jobs.  Agriculture and forestry have been reclassified  into other categories by experts who didn’t realize the extent of their ignorance.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch . . .  We still need to create one green job in order to be more effective in sustainable management of healthy range land. Nothing in the Strategic Framework is going to help. It’s not easy being green.

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For previous stories in the series, see the links below:

Part 1:  http://www.nwdailymarker.com/2011/09/tales-from-the-small-business-trenches-in-the-beginning-the-owner-created-jobs/

Part 2:  http://www.nwdailymarker.com/2011/09/tales-from-the-small-business-trenches-part-2-there-is-a-purgatory-for-job-creators/

Part 3:  http://www.nwdailymarker.com/2011/10/tales-from-the-small-business-trenches-part-3-working-conditions/

Part 4:  http://www.nwdailymarker.com/2011/10/tales-from-the-small-business-trenches-part-4-into-the-mountains/

Part 5:  http://www.nwdailymarker.com/2011/10/tales-from-the-small-business-trenches-part-5-with-a-little-help-from-my-friends/

Part 6:  http://www.nwdailymarker.com/2011/10/tales-from-the-small-business-trenches-part-6-big-wheel-keeps-on-turning/

[photo credit: Frankly Richmond]