There are many problems facing the world today. The good news? We’re not without hope: People everywhere are stepping up and making a difference. Interested in joining them? These seven career paths are just a sample of the many ways you can contribute your knowledge, skills, talent, and passion to saving the world.
1. Environmental Scientists and Specialists
“Environmental scientists and specialists use their knowledge of the natural sciences to protect the environment and human health. They may clean up polluted areas, advise policymakers, or work with industry to reduce waste,” according to the US Department of Labor. An environmental scientist’s day-to-day activities may include reading and writing reports that shape environmental policy, conducting research and fieldwork, and advising companies and nonprofits on important decisions that affect the environment.
Environmental science is an interdisciplinary field that connects studies in biology, chemistry, physics, earth and social sciences, and geography. All these fields of study -- and more -- train future environmental scientists and specialists in ways to analyze and assess data, to observe, and conduct research. Our planet is our home, and if we do not fully understand its intricacies how can we protect and care for it? Environmental scientists understand that looking at the whole picture matters.
2. Urban and Regional Planners
How can we proceed without a plan? If saving the planet requires careful planning and execution, then our urban and regional planners play a vital role. They develop land-use plans and programs that help create communities, accommodate population growth, and revitalize physical facilities in towns, cities, counties, and metropolitan areas. Town and city governments hire planners to help design and develop buildings, blocks, install green spaces, and contribute to the overall masterplan of the town or city.
Green spaces are important pockets of tranquility and allow city dwellers the opportunity to connect with nature and relieve stress from their busy, modern lifestyles. They’re also essential to maintaining - and improving - life and air quality in cities. Have you ever seen a rooftop garden or green roof? Rooftop gardens are opportunities for creating green space and implementing urban farming; they maximize the effective use of space in a city where land is a limited resource. Urban and regional planners know how strategic planning can help save the environment. They can advise and direct those who have the resources to consider the environment before breaking ground on a new building or design project.
3. Agricultural and Food Scientists
We often forget that what we eat comes from the earth, taking for granted shopping at grocery stores and supermarkets. Farmers, agricultural specialists, and food scientists literally help feed us -- without them, we would go hungry. But, what actually does an agricultural or food scientist do? An agricultural or food scientist understands chemistry, soil science, growing seasons, and much more to effectively maximize food production, ideally with a sustainable long-term plan. Degrees in chemistry and nutrition are some of the fields of study which can help you to become a food scientist. Imagine developing a strain of rice that resists pesticides and can survive in more extreme weather? Food scientists also play an important role in food safety, securing the viability and productivity of our crops.
4. Environmental Advocates, Lobbyists, and Politicians
Policymakers and environmental advocates are skilled in lobbying and political tactics to ensure politicians put the environment at the forefront of their decision-making process, especially when they are voting or making important policy decisions. Understanding the intersection of the two subjects political science and environmental science is key to excelling in this career. One of the most popular green jobs now, according to Jacquelyn Smith in Forbes, is environmental lobbyist. She explains, “For those interested in affecting (sic) change at the local, state, and national government levels relating to environmental policy, lobbyist jobs are an option. Duties typically include coordinating policy reform ideas, establishing relationships with organizations and individual influencers, and developing materials to support positions taken.” This is essential work that puts the environment first. Writing about how influential her summer internship in environmental lobbying was in shaping her career path, Sarah Grantham enthuses, “It can be really rewarding to work with a group of passionate, intelligent people, influence legislative decision-making, and help make our country a healthier, cleaner, greener place. “
5. Sustainability Managers and Directors
Do you like working with people? Does project management, understanding workflow charts, or designing and implementing systems drive you? Then perhaps a career in sustainability management or becoming a sustainability director is how you can save the planet. A corporate sustainability manager’s job is to develop strategies and systems that make sure a business considers the environment in all of its actions. Want to change hearts and minds around recycling? How about launching a recycling system and encouraging buying recycled paper products in your office? Corporate sustainability is important because corporations can be leaders in the environmental movement by setting standards and creating best practices that prioritize our planet.
6. Environmental Lawyers
Another job that can offer you both a rewarding career and help save the planet is environmental lawyer. Environmental law is a subset of law, involving legislation and regulations focused on protecting the environment. Along with policymakers and environmental advocates, the environmental lawyers are on the frontlines of securing laws and policies that protect our clean air, water, wild spaces, and flora and fauna. Knowledge is power, and the environmental lawyer can wield this power by learning the intricacies of local and national government laws and regulations that protect our planet. Imagine winning an important case which safeguards a treasured natural or national park, securing its future for the next generations!
7. Renewable Energy Engineers
Perhaps you like building and constructing things and are excellent at mathematics, physics, or complex mechanical design. If so, maybe studies and a career in environmental engineering is for you! Divesting from fossil fuels and investing in renewable energy is innovative and a direction engineering must take if we are going to help save our planet. Some types of renewable energy like solar, wind, and hydrothermal are already on their way to becoming industry standards. However, developing new ways to harness renewable sources of energy can help reduce carbon emissions. Environmental engineers focused on advancing research and development for renewable energy are on the frontlines of finding solutions for the environmental crisis. According to The Climate Project, clean energy employs an incredible 9.8 million people worldwide. This career path is only going to keep growing as more and more companies and governments realize the value of clean, renewable energy, they will be committing more time and resources towards developing this sector.
These seven careers -- along with a breadth and depth of others, including everything from atmospheric sciences to zoology -- can help you follow Gandhi’s well-known advice: “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”