I am going to draw what might be an incorrect conclusion, but I’ll do it anyway to make a point. After graduating from college in May, Clare moved to Madison. Her plan was to use the city as a temporary home base from which to apply for jobs all over the country. She found a job fairly quickly, but it turned out to be right in Madison. The job is an entry-level position at a small company specializing in green technology. Specifically, the company installs anaerobic digesters, solar panels, and a range of devices for capturing carbon dioxide in the burning of natural gas. The job strikes me as a good start for her. Madison is an interesting place for a young adult to begin a career, and either Clare is on the ground floor of a business that will do some good in the world or she will gain valuable work experience before moving on. 

The point I want to make is that Clare is as much of an environmentalist as I am, but her career is taking a very different tack from mine. To me, an environmental career in the 1970s and 1980s meant teaching children about nature. For Clare, an environmental career in the 2020s needs to focus on issues of sustainability, especially CO2 emissions. She does not believe that humankind has the time to introduce children to the natural world and hope they grow up to be more environmentally responsible than their parents and grandparents. In her mind, a person has to be part of the solution now or live to see the planet irreparably damaged. That is how much the situation has changed in fifty years.

Clare is more altruistic than I am. This too may partially explain the differences in our career choices. I tell myself that I taught environmental education in an effort to protect nature, but deep down I know I did because I wanted to live in the woods. Environmental education was a way for me to maintain a rustic lifestyle, and my motivations were as self-serving as anyone who works primarily for a paycheck. In Clare’s mind, escaping to the woods is not an option for someone who wants to make an impact. In one way, she went in the exact opposite direction from me in that she embraced high tech. I’d sought no technology at all. 

I do not know what I would do for a career now if I was just starting out. When I moved to San Francisco in 1981, I was offered two environmental jobs within a day of each other. One was as the sole paid employee of the fledgling environmental advocacy  group Save the Bay.  The other was as a naturalist for San Mateo Outdoor Education (SMOE), a residential environmental education program located in the redwoods south of San Francisco. I went with SMOE. In retrospect, that decision guided my professional career (and indirectly my personal life) for the next forty years. 

Steven Simpson