Four problems with green jobs that have “the biggest impact on climate”

I often see green job-seekers focus their strategy around landing a role with “the biggest impact on climate.” While I totally support massive goals, here are four problems that spring to mind when pinning your hopes on super-sized (and super-sexy) opportunities:

  1. The ikigai-style Venn diagram used for identifying life purpose does not have a “biggest impact” element, which implies that if you have that in mind you might wildly discount other important elements that are required for finding the right job for you.
  2. Super-sized (and super-sexy) opportunities also have a tendency to be super-speculative, which implies that they have a good chance of failing and your impact will ultimately be significantly reduced.
  3. There are many important things that need to be done (such as sustainable waste management) that at first glance appear neither super-sized nor super-sexy, but which in combination are massive, and these have a habit of being forgotten in the race for “impact.”
  4. There is a danger that positioning yourself at the center of some world-saving narrative speaks more to your own delusions of grandeur than anything else (I am in danger of this!): certainly, we need grandiosity to achieve extraordinary things, but it needs to be self-aware grandiosity.

Ultimately, while I love the super-sized and super-sexy stuff as much as the next guy, I cannot help but feel that a fixation on it reveals that the true lessons of sustainability have yet to be learned. Certainly, we need that massive impact, but we cannot just lurch from old economy unsustainability—fetishization of scale, branding-over-substance, celebrity, and so on—to green economy unsustainability: it has to be done mindfully.

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