Thursday, November 5, 2009

Pale-Green Jobs

by Richard Crews
Do you know the difference between a "recession" and a "depression"? A "recession" is when your neighbor is out of work; but when you lose your job, that's a "depression."

The present economic downturn (charmingly dubbed the "Great Recession") is reshuffling the business deck in interesting--subtle but profound--ways. As previous downturns have up-turned, factories reopen, workers are rehired, and things get back to "normal."

Not so this time. The massive but sometimes gradual shift to high-tech services of the past few decades has been accelerated dramatically by the current, in many ways unprecedented, bubble cycle. A lot of the "old jobs" simply won't be returning. Yes, some factories can be retooled, for example from SUVs to hybrids; some occupations can be reoriented, for example from new construction to energy-efficient retrofitting; some financial and big-business strategies can evolve, for example from excesses and amoral greed to pan-regulation. But a lot of the "old ways" are fading and, in the current economic turmoil, fading fast.

We are in the throes of a social (occupational, educational--even cultural, philosophical, and--yes--political) upheaval. The "Good Old Days" simply won't be coming back--some would say "thank heavens!" The 2020s are going to look and feel very different from the 1980s and '90s.