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Climate: Proof once 'radical' jobs have viable futures

It's the end of December. Time to close up shop on 2017 and view the horizon. What does 2018 and beyond hold for us?

The best way I know to imagine the future is to see what young people are doing. Three of my nieces are demonstrating to me the hopeful truth that jobs and lifestyles once considered radical — whether radically optimistic, radically humanitarian or radically fair, I'm not sure which — are seeping inexorably into the mainstream life and culture of the young people who came into adulthood amidst the climate crisis.

Maura is 23 years old. Over a year ago, she received a bachelor of fine arts degree. She went to work in South America, designing and creating hardwood furniture and flooring with a company that envisions an alternative to rainforest destruction.

In a place where wholescale logging and converting the land to agriculture can seem the only viable option, Maura's company, Whole Forest, partners with locals by harvesting trees using methods that both save the forests and sustain local livelihoods indefinitely.

Whole Forest harvests only 2.5 trees per acre every 20 years. It uses many different types of trees, thus redefining the forest as a whole system, not just a sum of its most valuable species. It partners with other agencies to prevent road construction that accelerates deforestation. It works in wetlands that are already 95 percent deforested and among the most biodiverse forests in the world.

I don't know about you, but I'm glad and relieved that someone is actively working to save these rainforests in a way that works for the communities that rely on them. Maura designs hardwood floors, tabletops and walls out of this precious wood, and sells it to people like us who love beautiful and exotic things and who also want to know that they are participating in a viable economic system for both people and resources.

Amber is 24 years old. She graduated this past year with a bachelor of science degree in environmental science. She now works at Mariposa Farm near Ottawa, Ontario. They raise ducks, pigs, chickens, pigs and cows. They grow vegetables and herbs. They serve Sunday brunch. And, they distribute their products to restaurants in Ottawa.

Every day, Amber practices and promotes agricultural techniques that maintain and enhance the health of the soil, water, crops, livestock and the diversity of the environment. Someday, she will have her own land, and she will know what to do with it.

Sam is 25 years old. She graduated three years ago with a bachelor of science degree in industrial engineering. She lives in Kentucky and works for Schneider Electric, a global specialist in energy management. Sam assists companies — mostly big, multi-site companies — in calculating their greenhouse gas emissions.

With her team, Sam works with these companies to report their emissions through various platforms like CDP (Carbon Disclosure Project), DJSI (Dow Jones Sustainability Index), SBTi (Science Based Targets Initiative) and GRI (Global Reporting Initiative).

She helps companies set new targets and strategies. If they don't know how to meet their goals, Sam comes to their site and develops a roadmap with them, including "scenario planning." She is helping them move beyond fossil fuels and prepare for a future affected by climate change.

It goes without saying that I am a tickled-beyond-belief proud auntie. None of these young people had to create her own job or reinvent the wheel. All are directly using their college degrees. None are working at places that I knew about when I was entering the workforce.

When I hear people say that there are no good jobs out there for college graduates anymore, I wonder if they've discovered where to look.

Katya Gordon is a volunteer for the Citizens' Climate Lobby and a resident of Two Harbors.