Farm Workers Versus Fossil Fuel Workers

Since you are told to worry about job loss, maybe your should think of food producers first

Photo by Gabriel Jimenez on Unsplash

My entire life, the climate crisis (called greenhouse effect when I was a baby) has posited that we must balance the value of a healthy environment with the value of jobs.

That is, we are told that coal mining jobs, oil and gas jobs, necessarily fuel the engines of the whole world. We don’t hear as much about the boom and bust cycles of despair, homelessness, trafficking, and social costs of these gas giants. (I do admit that we have heard about the pollution and heating, but we quit listening.)

Most of all, our leaders and lobbyists talk about the workers. Will nobody think of the workers!

Yet, just recently, I watched a documentary on farming and fishing. I have been a farmer myself for over fifteen years. Yet it hit me in the face like stepping on a rake: most people do not work for the fossil fuel industries. They are farmers. They are fisherfolk.

Their jobs have never been shoved in our faces in the same way. Yet, they feed every face on the planet. Their livelihood, and their lives, are at stake during our climate crisis.

According to Global Agriculture, that’s 570 million farms. Not farmers, just the farms themselves, so multiply the number of people working privately, or for the industry, by several times.

It gets a lot more complicated when we see the externalized costs of artificial fertilizers, pesticides, and what fuels the farms run on, but it does not change the fundamental factor.

Most jobs are not directly connected to fossil fuels. Those that are, can be replaced with cleaner fuel sources. Agriculture itself has become a problem, but there are ways — and new jobs — to create sustainability.

We hear about how we can’t lose valuable coal jobs, or tar sands jobs, or pipelines, but where is the big-time lobby for small-scale, sustainable farms? We know that we subsidize these dirty industries more fully than we do most of the jobs on Earth.

Celebrities from Scarlett Johansson, Jane Fonda, Leo DiCaprio and Mark Ruffalo, among many other big names, are protesting the Canadian Coastal Gas Link, CCG. They have to protest to interest activists to support indigenous rights. Where are the big lobby arguments that indigenous people and other Canadians (and you) who also need livelihoods, clean water, air, and soil?

We all use coal, whether we like it or not. Most people do not even know that they do, much less realize the costs and pollution. Since it’s a constant election issue, you would think it is a vital industry, or that people could not retrain in millions of other green fuels. Even so, most people do not have coal-related jobs. There are roughly 7 million coal mining workers in the world. Most work part-time. For investors, it is looked upon as a dying investment.

But we go to war for oil and gas, so surely there are more jobs at risk there, right? No. Estimates vary, but it does appear to be somewhere between half a million and five million oil industry full-time workers. Let’s not forget the impact on national security.

“Are you listening , Vlad? You should be ashamed, but you did not enable yourself.”

There used to be more greasy jobs and now there are not. It is not because the world realized the true costs of toxins for fuel. It is because the industries mechanized, utilized advanced technology, and increased production while reducing the workforce.

Climate disruptions fuel famine and drought, storms, floods, plagues (COVID), heatwaves, and now potential world war complete with villainous petrostate super-villains. You might say that our present oil addiction drives everything except an electric car.

Every election cycle we allow lobbyists, polluters, and profiteers, to be first to step up to the feeding trough. Their political cronies and CEOS have lucrative jobs, but they use workers as political pawns to scare us into being skittish about jobs.

The difference between fearmongering: “What about the jobs!” and a true alarm, “We must act to save lives.” matters.

It seems only when our immediate, local food supply is threatened will there be political action. Then, it may be too late.



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Christyl Rivers, Phd.

Ecopsychologist, Writer, Farmer, Defender of reality, and Cat Castle Custodian.