Issue: January 2008
In This Issue:
Last week—January 31, 2008, to be exact—America’s teens and twentysomethings in classrooms everywhere were rallying around a “hot” issue, global warming. About 1,100 schools across the nation participated in Focus the Nation, a day of informational programming on global climate change that has been billed as the largest teach-in in U.S. history. New Jersey, where Governor Jon Corzine has committed to cutting carbon emissions (the pollutants that cause the Earth’s temp to rise) by an ambitious 20% by 2020, has its share of next-generation global-warming activists. Fifteen colleges and universities participated in the event, as well as high schools and even elementary schools. It’s an opportunity that students who already devote time to raising awareness about clean energy policies—like the Ecology Club at Wayne Valley High School in Wayne—don’t want to miss.
Campuses around the state, including Rutgers University, Monmouth University, Kean, Montclair State and many others, campaigned for a cleaner environment through rallies, round-table discussions and in-class green lectures. Paul Coraggio, a student at Ramapo College in Mahwah, is tackling the cause on his campus, providing professors with resources and opportunities to weave environmental issues into their day’s coursework. “The challenge is to show students how these issues correlate directly with a plethora of fields and majors, and can have an influence on their professional and personal choices,” he explains. Paul’s rally cry and that of so many others involved in Focus the Nation is for everyone to understand the 2% solution: in order to avoid the major problems of global warming, Americans must reduce emissions by 80% by 2050—2% a year for 40 years.
The final piece of Focus the Nation’s teach-in model at Ramapo and many of the other schools participating in the event will be the “Choose Your Future” vote. All students, faculty and community participants will be encouraged to vote on what they think are the top five solutions to global warming from a list of ten to 15 that will be available at www.focusthenation.org. Vote results will be presented nationally in mid-February.
Your vote counts!
You’ve heard of white-collar and blue-collar jobs. Now make room in your closet for the green collars. Green-collar jobs, including everything from construction workers on buildings that use environmentally sound designs and materials and organic farmers to solar-panel manufacturers, are driving the new energy economy. Researchers say that increases in research and development of renewable energy (like solar power and wind turbines), energy efficiency and carbon-emissions control will spur new economic activity and create more than 1 million new jobs. Including renewable energy and clean technology (technologies that contribute to a cleaner world), green is growing to be one of the hottest and fastest-growing market sectors in the U.S. Let's face it, by the time you hit the job market green employment will be plush, fertile ground.
Everyone’s talking about the new energy economy, including the folks that run some of New Jersey’s largest businesses—your potential future employers. During a recent energy summit in New Brunswick, companies like the utility PSE&G and New Jersey Natural Gas discussed programs to get tomorrow’s workers interested in green-collar jobs. You can bet this will be a really big part of the New Jersey’s Energy Master Plan, a blueprint for the state’s most important energy issues going forward.
So what does this mean for you? In the short-term, you will start to see more and more opportunities to develop critical skills for the energy economy, through career academies in high schools, programs at community colleges and courses and majors at four-year colleges and universities. Green will also nourish the entrepreneur in you as small businesses form to serve all aspects of the energy economy and large businesses focus on innovative ways to reduce their own carbon footprint—the amount of global-warming stuff they’re releasing into the environment. In October, the city of Trenton launched a “Green Initiative” and along with it a pilot “Green Collars Career Program” to involve all kinds of companies in providing job training and climate-protection related jobs to Trenton residents. “Green jobs show the public that climate protection is about growing the economy, while Greening America,” Mayor Doug Palmer has said. State by state, city by city, town by town, student by student—everyone will become part of the green revolution. There may be a job in it for you.
Clean tech. If you haven’t already learned about it, you will. Clean tech refers to technologies that save energy and otherwise allow for a cleaner, greener world. It has become the hottest new area of venture capital funding, where financial folks support promising new technology companies in hopes that they will hit it big and make everyone, including the venture capitalists, really rich. Lots of these clean tech companies are in the development phase—some solid, others experimental.
Greg Olsen is a New Jersey scientist and entrepreneur with his eye on clean tech. If you’re an aspiring entrepreneur, this guy’s your guru. Olsen sold his own technology company, Sensors Unlimited, for $600 million in 2000 (that’s right $600 MILLION). You also may remember hearing about Olsen a few years back when, in October 2005, he became the third private citizen to orbit the Earth on the international space station. He’s one of the few business people who has added “astronaut” to his resume. Olsen’s business card has a picture of him in his space suit.
These days Olsen’s view of Earth is on the inside looking out—at all the possibilities. He teaches a class on energy and the environment at Rider University and, from his office in Princeton, he invests in clean-tech companies. His investments include Princeton Power Systems, which makes the switches to put solar power onto the energy grid; Gaia Power Technologies, which makes battery back-ups for homes; and Innovative Engineering, a company that makes energy-efficient equipment. These are just a few of the fascinating technology firms that are building the backbone of New Jersey’s energy economy. “In my class at Rider one Monday in the New York Times there were six articles in the front page related to energy,” says Olsen. “It’s a very exciting time for these types of businesses.”
Iceland, that island country in the North Atlantic near the Arctic Circle, has long been a pioneer in the battle against global warming. Think “ice,” “rising temps,” and “melting” and you get the picture. Paige Diamond, 16 and a junior at Morristown High School’s Health and Medical Science Academy, spent a chunk of her summer 2007 break putting her love for science to the test—during a trip to Iceland. Paige shares with Career Fuel and njnextstop.org how she found her groove atop a glacier:
This July, I got an amazing glimpse at the great places science can take me. I joined an expedition team that flew to Iceland to conduct a research investigation written by my science teacher, Erin Colfax. Throughout the entire school year, my teacher and I researched, planned and prepared for what would be, for me, the expedition of a lifetime. Once in Iceland, we collaborated with fellow investigators who were part of a tour of Southern Iceland. On our 10-day trek, we recorded meteorological and sensory data that will ultimately be used by some of my fellow students at Morristown High School to write scientific poetry.
Our research in Iceland was thrilling. We started out in Reykjavik, the country’s capital, for the first two days and then moved along the south coast to Kirkjubaejarklaustur, and Skalholt, and then finished back in Reykjavik. While traveling around Iceland, our team used different instruments to collect meteorological data. We wore HOBO pendants around our necks to automatically collect light and air temperature data every hour. We also carried Onset sensors to collect data on barometric pressure, relative humidity, temperature and dew point.
While data collection was our mission, we also had a chance to explore Iceland’s amazing landscape. We saw many beautiful waterfalls, hot springs and geysers. Our team took hikes around Iceland’s National Parks, and even got to hike on top of a glacier. We went whitewater rafting, whale watching and horseback riding with Icelandic horses.
Now for a little science lesson. Iceland is blessed with a number of unique environmental qualities. The country is located directly over a hot spot and is split in half by the convergence of two continental plates, the North American plate and the Eurasian plate. Every year the country grows at an average of three to four centimeters as the plates move further and further apart. Iceland is home to possibly the world’s greatest hot spring and many varieties of geysers and pools that are heated geothermally, or by the natural heat of the earth. Geothermal power plants pump underground water throughout the entire country providing its residents with all their necessary energy, hot water and electricity.
My expedition to Iceland was very simply a dream come true—and it has helped convince me even more of the direction my life should take after high school. Exposure is the key to finding your passion. Being so young and experiencing so much has given me a chance to find my groove in life.