Van Jones: blending social justice and green initiative, ensuring that “green-collar” economies lift all boats

by Yule Heibel on November 12, 2007

A big thanks to Anna Fahey at the Sightline Institute for posting this entry, A Green Wave Shall Lift All Boats, about Van Jones. I confess that I hadn’t heard of Jones before, nor have I had enough time to explore his website and agenda with the full attention they deserve. But I think it’s pretty obvious that his is a seriously brilliant example of lateral thinking, and that his proposals have incredible potential.

From Fahey’s post:

Van Jones is a civil-rights lawyer and founder and executive director of an innovative nonprofit working to ensure that low-income, working poor, and minority youth have access to the coming wave of “green-collar” jobs. Jones — brought to Seattle by Climate Solutions , King County, El Centro de la Raza, Puget Sound Sage, and Earth Ministry — made a compelling case that social justice is the moral anchor that’s required to fuse the climate movement into a powerful and cohesive force. He sees that the solutions to global warming are the solutions to the biggest social and economic problems in urban and rural America.

Basically, his point is this: You can pass all the climate legislation you want but you have to provide the local workforce to make it happen on the ground. “We have to retrofit a nation,” he says. “No magical green fairies are going to come down and put up all those solar panels.” This is going to take skilled labor. “We can make a green pathway out of poverty.”

And it gets better, he says. These jobs can’t be outsourced. “You can’t put a building on a barge to Asia and weatherize it on the cheap.” This is about kitchen table issues: jobs, industry, manufacturing, health, education.


As far as opportunity and partnership goes, Jones points to the galloping green economy, but asks: “Are we going to have eco-apartheid? Are we going to settle for that? Are we going to have a society divided between ecological-haves and ecological-have nots?” The green economy is growing, but it’s the most segregated part of the US economy. Jones asks: “We’ve worked for 200 years to integrate a poison and pollution based economy; what can we do to ensure the green economy has a place in it for everybody?”

Click through on Fahey’s post for the rest of her article, which includes many useful links, too. And support Van Jones’s efforts to bring about an economy that’s green and just.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Rob November 5, 2008 at 2:24 pm

This is so true. BUT, is this in and of itself sustainable? Once everything is ‘retrofitted’ how long will these jobs be needed? This will certainly be a good short-term benefit, but I am curious about the longer term effects. What do you think?

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: