Climate Savvy Work – Work that Fuels, Filters and Inspires

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Let’s try something. Let’s see every job as a job that helps us to adapt to climate change. Not just energy efficiency and renewable energy generation jobs like cellulose fiber insulation manufacturing workers and PV solar panel installers which will help us to use less energy, and reduce the amount of greenhouse gas we emit. But let’s also see jobs like pastry bakers (Pearl Bakery in Portland, Oregon, for example), professionals working in continuing care communities (see two articles by Andrea Watts at here and here), and dog groomers, as jobs that help us to adapt to climate change. Can we think this through together?

Climate change will bring increasingly unpredictable and severe weather. It could change the insects and plants in any given location. It will up end some communities completely because of rising sea levels, and others with significant heat. We will need to adapt to these and other changes. When we look to natural systems, there is a big idea that could help us consider how every job could in some way support climate change adaptation: ecosystem services.                       

Salt marshes are some of the most productive ecosystems on earth. They provide food and shelter as well as serve as nurseries for fish and invertebrates. They buffer shorelines from storms and erosion and protect water quality by filtering run-off and absorbing rain water. They are the edge between land and sea, the place where salt water and fresh water meet. As a habitat, they serve plants, fish, birds and mammals. They have tremendous economic value AND ecological value. And, in the parlance of some biologists and naturalists, they provide ecosystem services.

Ecosystem services are the benefits humans receive from nature. There are a number of ways to categorize them, including the work done by the Millennium Assessment, (see page 57 for full discussion) which categorized them in four broad categories: provisioning services, regulating services, cultural services and supporting services.

ecosystem chart, millenium assessment

Hang in there – this does have something to do with work!

Ask yourself: How does the work you do contribute to any of these ecosystem services? You might think of things along these lines:

  • Your company, when it renovates or builds a new facility, installs shade trees to reduce heating and cooling loads and rain gardens to filter water – water purification, water regulation and climate regulation!
  • Uneaten food in the cafeteria gets donated or composted – soil formation and nutrient cycling!
  • Water for toilets is reclaimed groundwater, like at Post Office Square Garage in Boston – water regulation.
  • Purchasing decisions prioritize sustainable products, including through the Rainforest Alliance programs, which certify environmental, social and economic sustainability – a host of provisioning and regulating services!

Let’s look back at pastry bakers and what ecosystem services they might provide:nutrient cycling by using compostable wrappers and donating unused food, and composting food waste!

Professionals in senior living communities might provide: recreation through gardening with residents, aesthetics and inspiration through native species plantings, climate regulation through minimizing greenhouse gas emissions by reducing heating and cooling!

Dog groomers might provide: water purification by using all natural products to shampoo, and climate regulation by using energy efficient tools and dryers!

So work in different sectors can contribute to and enhance existing ecosystems services. And while these benefit humans, these ecosystem services, especially the regulating services, are fundamental to continuing to adapt to climate changes.

Tell us how your work contributes to an ecosystem service – or how you can evolve it to do so!

This week, as with other weeks, some thinking on what our ecosystem role as residents on a planet facing climate changes can look like. More thinking can be found at Finding Earth Works.

You can comment on any of these perspectives,and it would be welcomed.

Particularly, tell us all about your ecosystem role.

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