A Sheep in Wolf's Clothing
I'm an environmentalist, but I worked as a scientist for an oil company for almost six years. For a long time, I had a lot of guilt about that. I frequently joked about earning my “devil money” to deal with this discomfort.
Every new person I told about my job would ask, “How do you feel about fracking? Is it as bad as everyone says?”
I would answer, “It’s not great, but we live in a world that’s dependent upon it…for now.”
Then I would go on to say the “devil money” line and explain that I did not do the actual fracking. I never even saw it done, so I didn’t have any first-hand experience.
My job was to petrographically analyze rock samples, which means that I took pictures of rocks under a couple types of microscopes and described what I saw in relation to oil or gas production.
I worked in a lab all day, which was pretty far away from the actual fracking. In fact, many of the samples I saw came from the Middle East.
Working for an oil company wasn’t exactly what I expected it to be. The employees were far more diverse in background and beliefs than I thought possible for a conservative-old-white-guy type of business.
Sure, there were some very conservative folks who worked there — people who firmly believe in sucking the Earth dry of its oil and laughing all the way to the bank (I wasn’t laughing, but that job was pretty kind to my bank account).
There were also a number of liberals and one hippie! Plus, the gender gap was fairly small for the sciences. I had several female colleagues and some female superiors (don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t equal, but it was a better balance than a lot of STEM work places).
So, how did I keep my eco-centric sanity working amongst the old-fashioned conservatives? By cramming a lot of environmentally friendly knowledge and policies down my co-workers’ throats. I often had to disguise the policies as cost-effective to make higher-ups care, but my goal wasn’t to save the massive corporation money — it was to prevent our office from consuming and trashing so many materials.
I feel that my efforts to educate and introduce these new policies made some difference in that office. It may only be a dent, but it’s better than the bulge that would have been if I hadn’t worked there.
Now that it’s over, I don’t want to work for an oil company again because I believe in green energy, and I would rather put my efforts toward realizing that future. But, I hope that my GoTeamGreen! voice still rings in the ears of my past colleagues every time they make an eco-conscious decision, and they make the green choice.