Academic journal article Rural Society

Rural Workers and Environmentally Sustainable Livelihoods in Australia

Academic journal article Rural Society

Rural Workers and Environmentally Sustainable Livelihoods in Australia

Article excerpt

Green jobs forecasts are widely touted as pivotal to addressing numerous environmen- tal, economic and social challenges. International experts observe that significant labour market shifts, including the creation of green jobs, can be expected to occur as nations move to low-carbon economies. However, 'the way these dynamics will actually unfold is still largely unknown ... this analysis requires thinking beyond the traditional boundaries established by the current literature on the subject' (Martinez-Fernandez, Hinojosa, & Miranda, 2010, p. 18). The rural dimension of this issue is one area that requires closer atten- tion, given the spatial implications of many green jobs scenarios.

This article draws on secondary sources and the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) National Regional Profile data to critically analyse the green jobs agenda based on the general contours of rural working life in Australia and the underlying polit- ical economy of the 'green growth' model upon which it is based. It commences by underscor- ing the rural dimensions of green jobs discourse and noting the dearth of empirical research and data on the topic. The feasibility of realising these goals is then weighed up against the practicalities of rural employment conditions with a focus on workers' wages, job security, education and skills development options, and industrial and politi- cal voice. Lastly, key insights from environmental sociology are employed to interrogate the mismatch between green jobs forecasts and rural labour market dynamics. This entails critical reflection upon the dominant ecological mod- ernisation perspective that underpins much of the green growth and green jobs literature and the marginalisation of alternative pathways for building environmentally sustainable livelihoods in rural Australia. The article concludes that given the erosion of rural working life in Australia and the natural environment are a product of global neoliberal capitalism, the green jobs model that is part and parcel of this environmentally unsustain- able political economy is unlikely to resolve exist- ing ecological, rural or labour concerns. Hence, alternative pathways to environmentally sustain- able rural livelihoods need to be pursued by those directly affected, bearing in mind the common ground they share with rural constituencies in other places and times.

LITERATURE REVIEW

Many nations claim to be pursuing a 'green growth' model in response to global economic and climate crises (Barboni, 2009; Martinez- Fernandez et al., 2010; Masterman-Smith, 2010a; Potts, 2010; Tiraboschi, 2009). Climate poli- cies have been funded through national stimulus packages with the aim of achieving, 'an economic recovery consistent with sustainable development generating environmental and employment gains' (Martinez-Fernandez et al., 2010, p. 12). Though a contested concept, green jobs creation is central to this vision, much of which can be anticipated to occur in rural locations (Green, 2012; Pearce & Stilwell, 2008).

It is speculated that new employment oppor- tunities arising from a green growth model have the potential to revitalise ailing rural communities (Herren, Bassi, Tan, & Binns, 2012). Often implic- itly, rural locations loom large in many of the antici- pated green jobs sectors including renewable energy, forestry, smart grids, eco-tourism, agriculture and food production, environmental management, transportation and recycling (Gray & Lawrence, 2001; Green, 2012; Leach & Leach, 2004; Martinez-Fernandez et al., 2010; Molnar, 2010). A United Nations report suggests that environ- mentally sustainable transformations of agricultural sectors should, 'serve as an economic development engine to create jobs and prosperity in the now impoverished and depopulating rural areas,' gen- erating an anticipated 200 million full-time jobs worldwide by 2050 (Herren et al., 2012, pp. 6, 31). However, a recent OECD report was more circum- spect as it puzzled over the, '"green enigma" (green jobs will come but how? …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.