Thursday, November 8

The Green Job Search

Man! Just when I'm ready to start posting again, I have the freaky experience of being laid off, again, on Tuesday, September the 11th. I have a couple months of perspective on looking, and while I'm not employed yet, I think I have enough objectivity to start to talk about it.

I've been thinking a lot about my Grandfather. When he returned home from his time in WWII, he needed a job. He found one at the nursery around the corner. It wasn't the electronics job he had the skills for, but it was *a* job, and it helped pay the mortgage. I've gotten the impression that this wasn't cable-bill sized pay the mortgage, but that he was actually covering all or most of his mortgage by a job he could walk to.

If I took the rough average of home prices around me, let's say $160,000, and figured the mortgage as .8% of 80% of that home price ($128,000 with 20% down), that's $1024 per month. Now, that figure should be 28% of one person's salary. 1024/.28 = 3657.14 per month, or $44,000 per year.

So, what are the chances that most of the people I work around could find one job in walking distance that would pay that? Pretty slim. There's the Subway, the Burger King, and the Blockbuster. The grocery store might have paid that at one time, but wages paid at grocery stores have been dropping. If I want to ride the bus a couple of miles, there are two Wal-marts, but even if you can get a full-time job there (rare), you're looking at about $23,000.

So, where does the income to buy these houses come from? From people getting in cars and driving to clusters of offices.

Over the summer, I read Blue Sky Dream which is a child's view of the creation of the suburbs. His dad worked in the aeronautics industry and his family was transferred to "The Valley of Heart's Delight" in California just as the transformation from fruit-growing farms to suburban sprawl was starting. By the time he'd graduated from high school there were no longer any fruit farms in the San Fernando valley.

Now that I am looking for work as a professional in one of those office clusters, I see up close one of the elements he talks about. Corporations are indifferent to where their employees live. On the one hand, that's a positive privacy thing. But on the other hand, since every company hires the best qualified people who submit an application during the time a posting is open -- essentially randomizing the process -- qualified person X who lives 3 miles away ends up working for The Other Guy, 25 miles away, while equally qualified person Y commutes past The Other Guy to get to our company.

I feel foolish for trying to find work within a couple miles of home. It seems impractical and hopelessly naive. But I suspect that one major piece to getting to our post-carbon world is figuring out how to have most people do exactly that.

1 comment:

Paula said...

I don't think it's foolish at all to want to work close to home. I was laid off in June and just went back to work a couple of weeks ago. I was actually lucky to find a much better job than I had within 2 miles of my home. I had had another offer before I accepted this one that would have required me to drive 25 minutes each way. I didn't want to take it, but if the other job had not come up I would have had to since my severance money was running out. To be honest, part of the reason that I need to work close to home is that I also have to pick up the kids after work and I don't want to get them home too late. But, I also did not like the idea of using that much more gas if I had taken the 25 minute commute job. My husband commutes an hour or more each way. There are not really any jobs in his field much closer. So, I sort of look at my working closer as trying in some small part to make up for that. It's like our own family version of carbon credits.

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NotSoBigLiving is the story of a woman inspired by Sarah Susanka, Bill McKibben, Airstreams, Tumbleweed houses, Mennonites, Jimmy Carter, hippies, survivalists, Anasazi, Pema Chodron and Joko Beck, Scott Peck, Buckminster Fuller, and Al Gore to see what she can do to reduce her carbon footprint in her mid-80's suburban townhome. Strategies include roommates, alternative travel, organic eating, planting a victory garden, mindfulness, and a belly full of laughter.