Listening to Van Jones speak at the Commonwealth Club last week, which is one of my new favorite hang-outs, gave me a glimpse of our green future.
Jones, a former Obama administration appointee as Special Advisor for Green Jobs who was smeared by Republicans last year as a radical and finally resigned his office so as not to distract from the discussion about health-care legislation, said that our green future is part of a movement for a “voter-owned rather than a corporate-owned democracy.”
With the vision and courage to speak his mind, it’s easy to understand why Jones would ruffle a few feathers. This was my first time hearing him in person although many Bay Area folk know him as the founder in 1996 of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, a California non-governmental organization (NGO) that is now focused on a green jobs campaign in addition to reducing violence. While many of us only knew to associate Saint Patrick’s Day with the color—Jones has been a green activist for a long time, building organizations and advocacy groups toward that end.
He spoke for the need for a climate and energy bill to ensure that no one gets to pollute for free. Jones maintained that the oil companies are “baking the planet and have been able to do that since the Industrial Revolution.” He advocated for the government to serve as a midwife to create a “New Green Deal” both in the United States and other industrialized nations. “If you want to solve problems,” he said, “you have to unleash market forces by bringing investment into green technology,” which is the only way he said that we are going to get out of the current recession.
Describing a moment for change that includes every “color, class, gender, and sexuality,” Jones said that going green is not about jobs versus the environment. “The government doesn’t count what counts,” he said. “Our metrics are off. There should be a movement like ‘Accountants for Transformative Change.’”
If you’d like to get more detail about the new economy, pick up a copy of his new book, or set your Kindle or iPad to “The Green Collar Economy” with a forward by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. that ends, “Let the revolution begin.” While the sixties were about the struggle for political and social equality, perhaps a new chapter is opening up about the struggle for economic justice.