By Ariana Marshall, Ph.D.
Faculty Member, School of STEM, American Public University
This pollution problem didn’t just happen on its own. It was created by a series of decisions, most of them made by people who did not study environmental science.
Am I trying to recruit more environmental scientists to the profession? Yes and no. Although our ecosystems would benefit from more people understanding the science of pollutions and solutions, we do not all need to be environmental scientists to be a part of creating solutions.
We reached a high-water mark in the creation of new environmental sustainability jobs in 2008, according to the Green Biz State of the Profession report. But don’t let this fact discourage you from a career in the field.
This peak sustainability was a measure of how companies that had never formally focused on sustainability took a step forward by creating a sustainability department or a job position. That was a signal of the development of an industry. It meant there are growing professional opportunities for people focused on diversified sustainability careers.
Practice Living Outside the Box
By nature, environmental sustainability is best understood beyond the plethora of factors that can either simplify or complicate your career. It is a good idea to practice for your sustainability career by thinking outside the box during your studies.
What topics or disciplines do you think are unrelated to environmental sustainability? Do some research and try to connect environmental sustainability to a far-fetched topic of your choice. This is how you become a pioneer. Even if you’re not the pioneering type, at least you will be doing something that arouses your curiosity and can be fulfilling.
Take Part in Diversified Study Opportunities
If you are thinking of a career in environmental sustainability, it’s a good idea to choose an academic program that allows you to specialize and take diverse electives that expand your career opportunities. If you choose a science program, you will have to write an inter-disciplinary proposal once you graduate or do multiple non-science tasks to be effective in the environmental sustainability field.
Some suggested specializations include policy, law, risk management and business management. Others include entrepreneurship, technology, arts, history, political science, communications or digital media.
Creatively Adapt Various Disciplines in Your Studies
Adaptive management is touted as the only way we can deal with climate change, the biggest environmental issue we face. Music is one of the best representations of adaptive management and productivity. New music genres are constantly being created to appeal to our changing tastes and experiences. Every artist has to create an original product that often is a representation of how the artist sees the world.
Musicians must adapt and manage their artistic environment while creating music to sustain them financially. The music industry’s know-how could help us in dealing with the fact that many environmental solutions exist, but they are disconnected from the people and places that require those solutions.
When music is created, it goes into the world and is heard by the people who seek it and enjoy it. This is how music creates a network in the world. This network principle is applicable to sustainability, too.
Although complex, many environmental issues can be addressed with solutions that are simple but have not reached the people and places that need them. If you can find a way to apply the networking power of music and the creativity of the music industry’s adaptive management, you will have found a key to cracking the toughest sustainability question: How do we reach more people in a sustainable way to actually create a sea change away from unsustainable practices?
Show Your Value to Prospective Employers
If your plans include working as an environmental consultant, look into companies that are already investing resources into auditing, green certifications or green marketing. This demonstrates that sustainability is a priority for them. More than likely, they are on the way to institutionalizing sustainability measures. That could mean career opportunities for you.
However, it is still your responsibility to show companies how your trove of knowledge will be valuable to them. They will see your value if you are the kind of consultant who is dedicated enough to go above and beyond what is being asked of you in terms of sustainability results.
Having an external consultant who provides third-party validation and communication that reaches conscientious consumers is a corporate plus. After all, consumers are the ultimate validation.
The current boom in sustainability-focused courses, programs, workshops and certificates open to all is proof of the growth of the environmental solution and sustainability industry.
About the Author
Dr. Ariana Marshall is a faculty member with the School of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math at American Public University. She is the Director for the Caribbean Sustainability Collective and focuses on culturally relevant sustainability and climate change adaptation. Ariana completed her doctorate in environmental science and risk management at FAMU.