Not a Moment Too Soon: Van Jones' New Book

Last week the Labor Department reported that 159,000 jobs were cut in September--twice as many as the previous two months. Meanwhile, energy prices remain high and Congress just handed out taxpayer subsidies for a host of polluting and costly fuels.

It's been a hard fall. That's why I couldn't imagine a better time for Van Jones to release his new book: The Green Collar Economy: How One Solution Can Fix Our Two Biggest Problems.

As the founder of Green For All, Van writes that the best way to tackle our dual energy and economic crises is to invest heavily in a green collar economy that produces both clean, sustainable energy and millions of skilled jobs at the same time.

Talk About an Economic Stimulus Package

What kind of jobs is he talking about? The jobs that allow America to install solar panels, design more energy efficient appliances, operate the light-rail systems, put in the most efficient windows and HVAC systems, and write the software that analyzes a building's energy use. These are high-paying jobs that stay on American soil.

Economists, policy makers, and current statistics support Van's approach.

  • In 2006, renewable energy and energy efficient technologies generated 8.5 million new jobs and nearly $970 billion in revenue.
  • Researchers at UMass recently concluded that a $100 billion investment in clean energy technologies would create four times the number of jobs as the same investment in the oil industry.

Green Collar Jobs Create Eco-Equity

Van is an ally of NRDC, and we have worked together on a number of shared goals. I find him to be a charismatic and compelling figure.

After working for years in Oakland 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. This mission dovetailed with his growing alarm at the way ecological disaster hit the poor and people of color "first and worst."

Van also noticed that the same communities that bore the brunt of environmental injustices tend to benefit "last and least" from available solutions:

We are the last to get the hybrids, we are the last to get the solar panels, and we are the last to get the organic foods in our neighborhoods. We can turn that around.

But not without some a concerted, national commitment.

Some people think that if we just pass the right law, that then there will be magical green fairies that will come around with little wands and put up all the solar panels and everything will be fine. No. People have to be trained to do that work. That is skilled labor.

Why We Need This Book Now

In just about every conversation I have had with Van, I come away inspired. Although he has faced some of the toughest issues of urban poverty, he is an optimist with a vision and hope.

That vision shines through his book. This book is not a clanging alarm bell. It is a list of solutions. It is a plan. Van says:

We have come to the end of the road for dirty fuel based on dead dinosaurs that is cooking the planet. We are now opening a chapter that says we are going to do energy in a clean, green, renewable way.

His book points the way.