Growing national concern for the environment has caused a boom in the U.S. job market that some say hasn’t been seen since the Industrial Revolution almost a century ago.
By 2030, the number of environment-related jobs is expected to reach 40 million because of the creation of energy-efficient industries, reported the American Solar Energy Society. In Florida alone, the growing need for alternative energy could produce more than 120,000 jobs in the next two years, according to a report released last month by the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
This means that students studying sustainability at USF shouldn’t have a hard time finding a job when they graduate, said Connie Mizak, instructor and undergraduate advisor in the environmental science and policy program. Renewable energy and energy-efficient industries were responsible for the creation of nearly 8.5 million jobs in 2006, according to the American Solar Energy Society.
“Environmental science and policy graduates won’t have to worry about outsourcing,” Mizak said. “They are going to be out there taking samples and analyzing them. You need people here in the U.S. to study the environment and come up with ways to protect (it).”
Jobs will be available in Florida because of the environmental issues it faces, she said.
“Florida has a problem with increasing population, ecological diversity and rising sea level,” Mizak said. “We are going to need people here at all times.”
Sharon Hanna-West, head of the Ethics and Sustainability Department in the College of Business Administration, said green technology is rapidly gaining popularity and will likely create more jobs.
“It is probably going to be the leading driving force of the economy for the next century,” she said. “It could lead us to the cusp of a new industrial revolution.”
Hanna-West has been in charge of the department since 2001 and said USF was teaching green before it was popular.
“In Business Sustainability, we teach the theory of the triple bottom line, which means that besides financial responsibility, corporations have a social responsibility and an environmental responsibility as well. It’s a three-legged stool, and if one of the legs falls off, everything crumbles,” she said.
Beyond the growing job market, working to address environmental issues is attractive to some environmental science students because they feel it’s a noble cause.
Environmental science has been offered as a major at USF since 1995 and, as of this semester, 252 students are majoring in it. This is a 24 percent jump from a decade ago, when there were 204.
“There are three types of students that want to get involved with environmental science. Those who want jobs, those who want to save the world and those who want to get a job to save the world. (The latter) is the majority,” said Robert Brickman, professor and chair of the geography department.
One of the students in that majority is environmental science senior Nima Sobhani, who said he is committed to working for the environment and believes there is still time to stop the climate crisis.
“The environment is my life,” he said. “It is a give-and-take process when it comes to environmental issues.”
Students in other areas of science aren’t quite as optimistic.
“What we are doing right now is too little, too late. The environment and the weather are a cyclical thing,” said Jessica Cardona, a junior majoring in nursing. “Everything melts eventually, we just made it happen faster.”