Wednesday, November 5, 2008

My Nominee For Obama's D.o.E Secretary: Van Jones, Esq.

Barack Obama's won the Presidency, but he faces an enormous and terrible array of problems left behind after 8 years of Bushevik environmental malevolence, and a minimum callous indifference toward the problems of ordinary people. The economy is in tatters, unemployment is sky-rocketing, and deep recession looms.

Pres. Obama's going to have to develop and implement progressive, environmentally proactive (non-militaristic, Keynsian) ways spend our way out of these looming social catastrophes. One obvious way is to put federal resources into the so-called "green economy": developing, building, installing, and maintaining the technologies that make individual citizens contributors to the national energy grid, not just consumers., and reduce wasteful, useless energy consumption. He needs to get people into his administration who have new and imaginative solutions. Van Jones impresses me as one of those people.

Saving the Working Class with Green-Collar Jobs
Very soon, according to Greentrepreneur, lawyer, civil-rights reformer, and community activist Van Jones, environmentalism won't just be about the environment anymore. Instead, it will drive fundamental changes in the way we do business and the jobs we create — that's what he means by a green-collar economy. Jones, the head of the non-profit Green For All and the author of the new book The Green-Collar Economy, could represent the future of environmentalism in America and a way for the movement to survive and even thrive through the coming recession. "The solution for the environment and the economy will be the same thing," says Jones. (Listen to Jones talk about the green collar economy on this week's Greencast.)

Over the years, manufacturing and other blue-collar jobs have been gradually outsourced from the U.S. That has hit the working class especially hard, in both cities and rural areas, because decent-paying blue-collar employment is what pulls people out of poverty and into the middle class. At the same time, it's the working class that has also borne the brunt of the high energy prices that result from America's dependence on foreign oil. As the recession darkens, that double bind is likely to worsen.

The answer, Jones writes in his book, is the creation of green-collar jobs that provide working-class employment, shield America from rising fossil fuel prices and stem carbon emissions. These are not the high-tech, high-education "George Jetson" jobs, as Jones puts it, that were created by the Internet and biotech booms. Green-collar jobs include manufacturing solar panels, insulating green homes, servicing wind turbines. These are jobs that can be filled by blue-collar workers who need jobs — and they help the environment to boot. "You can put the country back to work with green solutions that are good for the Earth," says Jones.

Jones has captured the essence of the current dilemmas of energy and climate succinctly: "We cannot drill and burn our ways out of these problems," he says in he latest book. Provocative, personal, and inspirational, New York Times best-seller The Green Collar Economy is not a dire warning but rather a substantive and viable plan for solving the biggest issues facing the country--the failing economy and our devastated environment. From a distance, it appears that these two problems are separate, but when we look closer, the connection becomes unmistakable.

Van Jones: A Video Profile:
In The Green Collar Economy, acclaimed activist and political advisor Van Jones delivers a real solution that both rescues our economy and saves the environment. The economy is built on and powered almost exclusively by oil, natural gas, and coal, all fast-diminishing nonrenewable resources. As supplies disappear, the price of energy climbs and nearly everything becomes more expensive. With costs and unemployment soaring, the economy stalls. Not only that, when we burn these fuels, the greenhouse gases they create overheat the atmosphere. As the headlines make clear, total climate chaos looms over us. The bottom line: we cannot continue with business as usual. We cannot drill and burn our way out of these dual dilemmas.

Instead, Van Jones illustrates how we can invent and invest our way out of the pollution-based grey economy and into the healthy new green economy. Built by a broad coalition deeply rooted in the lives and struggles of ordinary people, this path has the practical benefit of both cutting energy prices and generating enough work to pull the U.S. economy out of its present death spiral.

Rachel Carson’s 1963 landmark book Silent Spring was the pivotal ecological examination of the last century. Now, rising above the seemingly impenetrable, if not insoluble, debate over the environment and the economy, Jones’s The Green Collar Economy delivers a timely and essential call to action for this new century.

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