Making a Living

…while saving the world.

By Fred Stenson

At present, the job with the fastest-growing potential has to be professional fact-checking. The job is finding reliable sources for supposed facts. An expert fact-checker can find support for a fact or a quotation (or diagnose lack of support) in minutes. Often what fact-checkers discover is the ur-mistake: the parent of a stream of other mistakes. This can be accidentally wrong or it can be a deliberate lie requoted by the gullible or the conniving. Another version is the twisting of actual facts or quotes into something untrue or unintended. If as a fact-checker you find nothing at all, it can signal a rare original thought—or an original bald-faced lie.

What makes fact-checking a job with a future is the infectious spread of Donald Trump’s style. He is a man who can’t get through a day, and especially not a golfing weekend, without accusing TV networks, newspapers and individual reporters of spouting “fake news” about him. At the same time, he is a fountain of assertions that consistently flunk a fact-check.

The odd thing about this fake news phenomenon is how quickly it spread. While many people view Mr. Trump as ludicrous, a not-insignificant number see him as a model of success. Slavish imitation of his news fabrication has spread with pandemic speed, and Alberta is already sneezing. Recently, a prominent local newspaper columnist complained that the UCP leader was forcing him to resort to fact checks every day.

Therein, folks, lies the opportunity. While Mr. Trump is better known for his job-killing ideas, his own creation of and complaints about fake news (and the concentric waves of imitation) constitute a surge of potential employment. Not only should university grads consider taking their skills in this direction, those left unemployed by the decline of newspapers should consider this sideways move. As for those who are already fact-check pros, they can start companies, train the next generation.

I hope the millennial generation is listening. You can be that workforce. You can make a nice living—OK, a living—saving the world.

A second opportunity, related to the above, are jobs countering the global-warming-denial juggernaut. If one wonders how people can go on believing climate change doesn’t exist as California burns, or that humans don’t cause it when 97 per cent of credible scientists say we do, the answer is that a category of the mega-wealthy are spending billions supporting the side of denial. The wealthy deniers’ most powerful tool is the credible (at first glance) think tank. If you wonder what global-warming-denying scientists do for a living, many do studies for these institutes. Moonlighting academics and under-performing scientists from good schools can also be paid to whip up official-looking paperwork or to appear on newscasts and video talking about any historical up-bump in planetary temperature that preceded the first Industrial Revolution. What about the Holocene climate optimum, buster? How did humans cause that? Rubbing too many sticks together?

Though it is true that global warming believers have their own institutes, their supporters tend to own fewer multinational corporations. But it is the righteous task of those who believe in human-caused climate change, be they governments, businesspeople, citizens or environmental institutes, to win the global warming propaganda war. As with any war, this will take money and many thousands of energetic young people. I hope the millennial generation is listening. You can be that workforce. You can make a nice living—OK, a living—saving the world.

Another death-star environmental crisis with job potential is plastic. We’ve all seen the imagery. The plastic continent lazily turning in mid-ocean, plastic debris littering beaches. Putting our weekly plastic waste in a blue bin is a good thing but not enough. One reason is that China has served notice it’s no longer buying the plastic waste of other nations. Uh-oh.

So how do we decrease the use and manufacture of plastic? How do we stop mountains of plastic from entering the oceans? The type of job opportunity I’m touting here is figuring out non-plastic ways of packaging stuff. Why, for instance, do fast food and hot groceries have to come in foam and hard plastic containers? I suppose it behooves me to lead by example. Clearly, the best idea is to eat where you buy the food, after bringing it to your table on a napkin. If takeout is necessary, package the hamburger in something biodegradable. Why not put your burger and its bun in a larger bun? And what about those barbecued chickens that come in the large plastic shells? How many of those become instant garbage? I realize you can’t put a barbecued chicken inside a larger chicken. But maybe in a frozen turkey?

Never mind. Clearly I’m not the person who should be employed in this regard, but other, smarter people should get on it. Meanwhile, put a set of metal utensils in their own reusable paper bag in your purse or briefcase. Anyway, opportunity knocks, and wood is a good surface to knock on.

Fred Stenson’s most recent novel is Who By Fire (Doubleday). Other books include The Trade, Lightning and The Great Karoo.

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