Jobs for All in the Green Energy Economy

I’ve been staying in California for the last few weeks and one of the people I had hoped to meet out here was Van Jones. Jones is the co-founder of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights in Oakland and a champion of green economic development in urban America.


Yesterday Jones came over to NRDC’s San Francisco office to speak with us about his vision for a new energy economy that provides green collar jobs across America.


Jones is charismatic and compelling. After working for years to help kids stay out of jail, he began focusing on how to provide enduring jobs that could bring people dignity and a path out of poverty. Although he has faced some of the toughest issues of urban poverty, Jones is an optimist with a vision and hope.


At NRDC we have been talking about the green energy economy for some time, advancing the policies that will unleash renewables and allow investments in efficiency. Jones is working on the ground to prepare people for those jobs. Someone needs to install solar panels, to put in more insulation, to weatherize windows. Someone has to draft plans for greener office buildings and design more efficient appliances.


These are good paying jobs aimed at producing a safer, cleaner, more sustainable way of life for all of us. They are also, Jones likes to point out, jobs that stay in America: You can’t do energy audits of California buildings when you are sitting in China or India.


Jones proposes creating a green job corps that will train people in the new skills needed to build a clean energy economy. It will be similar to Roosevelt’s CCC, the Civilian Conservation Corps.


When I’m home, I often hike in the Palisades along the Hudson River and around every bend sits an enduring legacy of the CCC, whether a picnic table made out of stone or a old carriage road carved out of the forest. And you recall what caused this to happen: million of Americans out of work, without hope, joined the CCC for a path to a better life.


When you listen to Van Jones you can feel a movement being born, one that will draw us together with common goals but different strategies. He reached out a hand to join with us, to find common ground out of conflict, and to advance the same green economy that we are all passionate about.


I left the room feeling, we will get this done. And then I heard the news that the energy tax package passed the House, and I thought: we’re on our way!