On 20 August 2018, a 15-year-old schoolgirl ignored the advice of her parents to sit outside Swedish parliament with a painted banner. On her banner were the words skolstrejk för klimatet: school strike for climate. Little did she realise that her small act of rebellion would trigger a youth movement with global reach. The schoolgirl, Greta Thunberg, has become an icon for the climate movement which has been gaining momentum in the UK throughout 2019.
During February and March, thousands of young people across the UK took part in climate change strikes. In April, David Attenborough's Our Planet was released on Netflix, and Extinction Rebellion protests took place in London and Edinburgh. In May, a climate emergency was declared by the government, the Green Party saw its best results in its 46-year history in the local elections, and the UK had its first week without using electricity from burning coal since the 1880s. In June, Penguin will be publishing two topical books: a collection of Greta Thunberg’s speeches entitled No One is Too Small to Make a Difference, and activists’ handbook This is Not a Drill by Extinction Rebellion.
If the events of the past couple of months have proven anything, it is that the next generation are growing increasingly dissatisfied about the state of the world they will inherit. With this in mind, we take a closer look at the growing demand for jobs in the environment and energy sectors; jobs which will become critical in the next few decades. For in-depth profiles of each, be sure to take a look at the Indigo Careers module.
Ecologists help to protect the natural world by investigating the relationship between living organisms and their environment. Ecologists are vital for helping us understand the consequences of human activity on the environment, as well as finding solutions to help us conserve our fragile ecosystems.
The government released its 25 Year Environment Plan in January 2018. As part of this, significant funding for environmental projects has been provided, including £13.1 million to support urban parks and green infrastructure. Ecologists will be key figures in these projects, supporting and tracking our progress over the next two decades.
If students are interested in pursuing a career in ecology, they can find out more information on the British Ecological Society website.
Energy engineers are involved with the extraction of oil and gas and the production of energy from renewable sources. The UK’s last coal-fired power plants are planned to be phased out by 2025, to help reach the government’s goal of reducing carbon emissions by 80% by 2050. As a result, renewable energy has become one of the fastest growing industries.
Wind energy is the most cost-effective renewable in the UK, currently producing around 15% of the UK’s energy. A national study conducted by Energy & Utility Skills predicted the requirement for an additional 36,000 workers in the offshore wind industry by 2032.
Students can find out more information about careers in the renewables sector here.
Recycling officers are responsible for developing waste management and reduction policies such as recycling initiatives. The UK’s shift to a more circular economy has increased the value of recycling as a way to keep resources in circulation for as long as possible. The UK now recycles almost 45% of its waste.
The resource and waste management industry supports around 106,000 jobs across the UK. Green Alliance and WRAP estimate an additional 200,000 jobs could be created by a circular economy by 2030. The workforce is becoming highly skilled as innovative solutions for creating valuable resources out of waste are sought.
Information about the resource and waste management industry can be found on the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM) website.
The jobs above provide only a snapshot of the many ‘green careers’ set to grow in the next few decades. These offer a rewarding career option for students passionate about the environment and go some way to affirm, as Greta Thunberg put it, that no one is too small to make a difference.