In the 100 or so years from 1780 - 1880, a movement was taking place known as the Industrial Revolution which, although greatly responsible for a large planetary impact, paved the way for the introduction of the eco-technologies of the rising Green Collar Revolution of today. Innovations in harnessing the power of water were used as far back as the 1700’s along fast moving rivers to run mills and increase production of materials such as cotton and wool. After the Civil War many of these mills were switched over to run on steam power and coal was the largest source of fuel for the literal fires. As job creation boomed in manufacturing, mining and additional manual labor sectors, an entirely new class of people began to emerge known as the blue collar worker.
Blue collar work was, and still is, labor intensive and it directly impacted creation of roadways, homes, buildings and even the machinery used to construct these end products. A stigma of “hard working” was attached to this sector with good reason; the jobs were difficult on the body and often required employees to get dirty so workers wore uniforms, which frequently included blue shirts, and thus a term was coined. Through increases in construction came the desire for new innovations to amplify production time and, with the advent of computers, a new era dawned known as the Information Age.
Before the 1980’s, expensive computers were generally reserved for large corporations to store data but as this decade progressed, lower cost, personalized microcomputers began arriving in offices and homes world wide. The 100 year old typewriter suddenly had some competition as workers began to “word process” their documents, taking advantage of innovations such as a backspace feature which removed the stroke permanently as opposed to just erasing the ink but leaving the key stroke visible on the page. Work was streamlined, efficiency increased, and by the late 1980’s it seemed as if every office worker had a computer at their desk connected by the Internet.
What began as a way to share files and protect what we now call a company network, reached a pinnacle in 1989 with the creation and introduction of the World Wide Web. The sharing of information, data and job functionality was completely redefined over the course of the following decade as a community of “end users” spawned with the introduction of a computer into almost every home. Other tech-terms infiltrated daily vocabulary, including the words telecommuting and outsourcing, which generated a shift in thinking to where work was completed and how much it would cost. The President of a company in Canada no longer needed to pay for employee benefits to hire an in-house Assistant as that worker could complete all the functions of their job from their home in Hawaii. A Customer Service Representative was simply a person on the other end of a phone line that could ring anywhere. The large world became increasingly smaller and we realized a fact that had been true all along -- everything is connected.
A rapid transformation occurred in many corners of the world as McMansions seemingly sprouted from “seed”, roadways were created and rail travel diminished into the single car driver, one time use products were touted as all the rage and people began to live lives of cheap and easy convenience. But sometimes convenience comes with a hefty price tag. The Industrial Age was in full swing in 1824 when the French physicist Joseph Fourier discovered the greenhouse effect, but it took almost 150 years for an entire generation of people to recognize the significance of the impact it has on our planet. Grassroots organizations formed to push this issue into the forefront in the mid 1900’s indicating that we had better reduce our consumption of resources or the planet would heat to the point of entire species extinction; potentially including humans. The focus of the masses however rested in monetary increase over the next half century until something surprising happened that seemed to halt the pace of production -- a movie about global climate change starring a former Vice President of the United States won the Academy Award for Documentary of the year in 2007.
To the environmental activists fighting for increased awareness on the subject of climate change An Inconvenient Truth did nothing more than to reaffirm their staunch beliefs, but when a tough as nails man begins to cry in a movie theatre as he watches a virtual polar bear drown due to the inevitable melting of the ice cap and then leaves the theater saying “I want to do something”, it is clear that the world has finally rallied behind saving itself. Groups, organizations and job markets focused on environmental protection surged in popularity as more and more people showed their desire to get involved and a new set emerged known as Green Collar.
Unlike associations of the past where a white collar job meant big responsibility and big money or blue collar indicated dirty work and lower wages, the Green sector is nothing more than an entire people coming together to contribute their skill, time and effort in the best way possible to save the Earth from peril; these jobs do not define a class based on monetary status as so many labels have in past generations but rather bring all people together collectively regardless of salary, age, gender, race or creed. The engineer in a high paying position who designed solar panels is just as vital to planetary survival as the worker who makes minimum wage to install that panel on the roof of the home of an organic farmer. We make our connections over a burning desire to maintain our planet so generations 500 years in the future have a beautiful place to call home.
It is a wonder to marvel at the progress humans have made in the past 500 years toward safer, more secure lives of abundance but none of that would have been possible without the acceptance of the ideals of progressive minds. The year 2009 is rapidly approaching and as we redefine what it means to not only make a living but make a life for ourselves it is vital to shift our approach from cheap and disposable to sustainable and renewing. The Green Collar Revolution will be the movement that gives new meaning to forward thinking.