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Bridging the Green Divide
April 14, 2008 2:12 PM   Subscribe

"It used to be that the more radical you were on environmental issues, the farther you were from working-class people, poor people, and people of color, because you were making individual lifestyle changes that alienated you from the majority. You looked different; you ate different foods; you wore different clothes. Working-class people were shopping at Wal-Mart and eating at McDonald’s, and you were mad at them for it. With this new environmentalism, the more radical you are on environmental solutions, the closer you are to the working class."

Van Jones works to create "green-collar" job opportunities to train disadvantaged workers in emerging green industries. Jones is the co-founder of the Ella Baker Center, an Oakland-based organization running the Green-Collar Jobs Campaign, the founder of Green For All, and the co-founder of Color of Change. He also writes for the Huffington Post.
posted by lunit (18 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
Fine post, but a complaint: did that all have to be one big link? It makes it harder to read.
posted by Dasein at 2:15 PM on April 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


The interview was interesting but I almost did not get past the introduction, which is the most fawning thing I have read in years. Ick.

Here is a YouTube of Jones speaking. Despite the hype he is no ML King, but he is worth listening to.
posted by LarryC at 2:24 PM on April 14, 2008


working to make Carhartt and Archer Daniels Midland the next Exxon and KBR...
posted by geos at 2:48 PM on April 14, 2008


While I agree with much of what Jones has to say, I'm a little concerned that training for "green jobs" before there is a significant green industry in the US isn't the right approach. It won't help to train people for a job market that doesn't exist (no matter how much we hope it might).

With this new environmentalism, the more radical you are on environmental solutions, the closer you are to the working class."

Despite having read the interview, I really have no idea what this statement is supposed to mean.
posted by ssg at 2:51 PM on April 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


New Improved Radical Environmentalism™: You can still go to work.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 2:58 PM on April 14, 2008 [2 favorites]


With this new environmentalism, the more radical you are on environmental solutions, the closer you are to the working class.

Not yet, in most cases. It's a growing and promising perspective, though.
posted by Tehanu at 3:02 PM on April 14, 2008


SSG, it's about Marxism. You know, the downtrodden proletariat, and all that stuff? Fighting the evil capitalists?
posted by Class Goat at 3:11 PM on April 14, 2008


I don't think this is a new idea - when I worked with Greenpeace - lo many decades ago - we spent a lot of time highlighting air and water pollution - and the best place to find that is in the poorest neighborhoods. Environment and economics go hand in hand. You don't see a lot of incinerators in nice neighborhoods.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 3:30 PM on April 14, 2008


I don't think this is a new idea

It's true that environmental justice issues aren't new and that class (and race) and environmentalism should and do go hand in hand, but the idea of actually employing low-income/low-skill people in green industry is fairly new. It might be a little premature, but part of the philosophy is tying the training to actual jobs that are developing in green industries, which is why part of the strategy includes policy work (the Green Jobs Act and etc) and business partnerships/union apprenticeships.
posted by lunit at 3:50 PM on April 14, 2008


Van Jones spoke at the recent Aspen Environment forum. Video clips here.

He works a lot with Majora Carter, who was the subject of this post.
posted by homunculus at 6:02 PM on April 14, 2008


Despite the hype he is no ML King, but he is worth listening to.

1. An article does not hype make.
2. In that video he is clearly speaking informally to a group of young people, which is certainly going to sound a lot different than "I Have a Dream."
3. I agree with you that the MLK comparison seems a little far-flung. It seems like journalists use that comparison whenever describing any passionate Black American man.
4. You are right - he is definitely worth listening to.
posted by SassHat at 6:22 PM on April 14, 2008


That quote describes a nice, aspirational sentiment that has nothing to do with how most working class folks that I interact with feel about "environmentalism."
posted by OmieWise at 6:49 PM on April 14, 2008


That article is irreparably drenched in jargon and near-masturbatory self-congratulation.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 7:07 PM on April 14, 2008


Green is a pretty color, yet only as sound as the green dollar.

Now GREEN HOPE? Well, that is priceless!


posted by LiveLurker at 12:03 AM on April 15, 2008


SSG, it's about Marxism. You know, the downtrodden proletariat, and all that stuff? Fighting the evil capitalists?

I assume you're attempting to be funny?

Before we gave over control of our government to these evil capitalists, you might have gotten a smile out of that. However, the results of surrendering entirely to capitalism have been uniformly dreadful - indeed, it might have destroyed the United States.

Those maligned "social democracies" in Europe seem to give a much better quality of life when things are tough. Certainly, they don't invade random foreign countries and kill a million people for no apparent reason.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:28 AM on April 15, 2008


Y'know, whenever anyone said to me that we need to make human society sustainable, my first thought was always, "Well, that sounds great and all, but will I still be able to spend the best years of my life working long hours to make someone else rich?" Now I see I can! Thanks, Green For All!
posted by regicide is good for you at 9:09 AM on April 15, 2008


You can snark all you want, but for a lot of people who really want jobs but can't get them - like people with criminal records, among others - it's pretty exciting to have a new industry to look toward that has such potential for employing low-skill, low-education, entry-level employees doing something that also happens to be good for the environment and for communities affected by environmental justice issues. Its potential for employing ex-offenders, in particular, is huge because these jobs involve little to no customer service, handling of money, or other tasks that employers usually balk at people with criminal records performing. Not only that, but if these are in fact emerging industries, there is room for advancement, for careers - something which is not often true about entry-level positions in the United States.

Yeah, working sucks. Really wanting to work and not being able to get a job or support your family or yourself sucks even worse. Regardless of your political persuasion.

If he's correct in his assertion that "green-collar jobs can't be outsourced" and that they can create a "stable source of employment for U.S. workers", I think this is something worth celebrating.
posted by lunit at 9:34 AM on April 15, 2008


This executive summary [pdf] does a decent job of explaining "green collar jobs" in further detail.
posted by lunit at 10:14 AM on April 15, 2008


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