Ben Zentner, Staff Writer

 

On Nov. 2 Eban Goodstein, economist, author and director of the Center for Environmental Policy, was invited by the Environmental Studies department to meet with Illinois Wesleyan University students interested in environmental sustainability.

His first speech, “How to Get a Job Saving the Planet” detailed the career opportunities available to environmental studies majors. Goodstein empathized with students called to this field, quick to acknowledge that the work can be discouraging when it seems as though they are committing their lives to a losing battle.

Goodstein emphasized that it is particularly important to have fresh and intelligent minds entering the sustainability field as the challenges posed by climate change become increasingly dire. And, he assured the audience, jobs in environmental sustainability are not hard to find.

He discussed how careers usually go one of three routes: education, policy or business. He then provided many examples of success stories, particularly from students graduating from the Bard College environmental policy program, of which he is the director.

One piece of advice for people in environmental studies careers was to get in the mentality of asking, “how would nature solve this problem?”

By looking at environmental issues through this lens, Goldstein said eco-friendly answers can be found for common difficulties. For example, he spoke of a startup company that is replacing Styrofoam with a spongy fungus, an equally qualified packaging product.

Additionally, he detailed how to get the job you want in the field you want with some pretty basic and easily applicable principles. The takeaway was clearly to seize opportunities to network and even create those opportunities yourself.

Find a specific person within the organization you wish to work for and take time to form a relationship with them. “Listen to what the organization or specific person is doing and then offer to help them,” Goodstein said. “Don’t impose what you want to do onto someone else.”

Goodstein also focused on the current state of domestic policy regarding global warming in a second speech.

He warned of many telltale signs that our planet is in rough shape, citing that “2014 was the hottest year on record and it’s going to be blown away by 2015,” emphasizing that “we’re seeing the signature of climate change on all extreme weather events,” and even pointing out that oil companies such as “BP and Shell are asking for a tax on their products” in light of the damage carbon dioxide created by gas causes to our planet.

IWU Professor Abigail Jahiel said that Goodman is “a real optimist.” Goodstein is adamant that “we have to be motivated by these facts. Not paralyzed.” Drawing from personal experience and credentials when addressing concerns about the economic feasibility of a sustainable planet, he’s confident: “I’m an economist… We can do this.”

The future is not as bleak as it may seem. Goodstein joked that “we managed to reduce the pollution of horse poop by over 90 percent… we can do the same for fossil fuels,” and the market backs him up, as “wind and solar power are now cost-competitive with fossil fuels.”

Goodstein also spoke about the Clean Power Plan, passed this August. The plan, according to Goodstein, mandates that “the United States must reduce carbon emissions by 32 percent by 2030.”

Interestingly, Illinois will have to reduce its carbon emissions by 44 percent. “Why so much in this state?” Jahiel asked her Environment and Society class. The answer: “we’re heavily coal-dependent.” However, there is currently no plan for how this 44 percent reduction will take place.

“Finally we’re at a point where the U.S. federal government is going to address climate change… but we’re going to let the states decide how,” Jahiel said.

Goodstein spoke of an initiative called Power Dialogue, which will occur on Apr. 4 of 2016. This event will see youth from each state gather in their state’s capital to meet with the local EPA regulators responsible for creating the detailed plans for how to meet the 32 percent carbon emission reduction standard.

This coming together of students will hopefully “counteract the pressure that CO2-emitting organizations are putting on state regulators,” Jahiel added. “The system doesn’t always work like it’s supposed to.”

Goodstein stated “through Power Dialogue, by having a chance to interact with youth, [state regulators] will feel a responsibility to [the youth of America].”

The Power Dialogue project will gain momentum in the coming months. Stay informed if you want to have a real chance to participate in Illinois’ attempts to reduce its carbon emissions by almost half before the year 2030.