Tuesday, March 10, 2009

"Green Jobs Gets a General: Mr. Jones Goes to Washington" (with video)

Al Giordano with video (05:25):
Van Jones, 40, came into public life in the 1990s as a community organizer with the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights in Oakland, California.
In 2007, he founded Green for All, "a national organization dedicated to building an inclusive green economy strong enough to lift people out of poverty."

Jones is the very sort of community organizer that Governor Sarah Palin mocked during her acceptance speech at last year's Republican National Convention.

Well, lookie here: Mr. Jones goes to Washington and to the White House too... where "He'll be in charge of controlling the stimulus cash that's dedicated to the creation of green jobs." The New Yorker profiled Jones, in January, in which the reporter, Elizabeth Kolbert, accompanied him to New Bedford, Massachusetts, where he spoke with a group of high school drop-outs:

"They can now put up wind turbines-almost like a windmill, but this is not your mama's windmill, it's like a big jet engine sitting up there-and make power," Jones said. "Somebody's going to make a billion dollars deploying that technology. I think it should be you.

"They have this thing called solar panels," he continued. "A solar panel is a piece of glass almost. Right now wealthy people can put that on their homes. And it costs money to put it up there, but once it's up the sunlight hits it and it turns it into electricity and powers the house. So you're paying electricity bills, but somebody else is kicking it. Somebody's going to make a million dollars figuring out a way to get those solar panels made and deployed in our hoods. I think it should be you."

Jones' appointment brings a double breath of air. First, he's going to make sure the stimulus money for renewable energy won't get diverted by federal and state agencies to mere pork and patronage projects and is going to be spent as intended. That's not just his job, but his mission in life. Second, his ascendance ends the era when the environmental movement could be seen as a luxury of the privileged and educated. Jones has already done more than anybody else I can think of to forge a new language for that movement, one that speaks to the self interest of the workers and the poor; the very groups that corporations and governments have long divided from environmental concerns by pitting short term economic interests against the health of our children and neighborhoods. In sum, Jones shifts the dominant tendency of environmental advocacy from that of the "activism" of national and international ecological organizations to that of the "organizing" built on the ground during years of local environmental struggles.

Last year, Jones told Mother Jones magazine:

"The only reason that we have the unsustainable accounting that we have right now is because incinerators, dumping grounds, and sacrifice zones were put where poor people live. It would never have been allowed if you had to put all the incinerators and nasty stuff in rich people's neighborhoods; we'd have had a sustainable economy a long time ago... We don't want to be first and worst with all the toxins and all the negative effects of global warming, and then benefit last and least from all the breakthroughs in solar, wind energy, organic food, all the positives. We want an equal share, an equitable share, of the work wealth and the benefits of the transition to a green economy."

When it comes to energy and the environment, there's a new sheriff in town, and he'll soon have a gigantic posse riding with him.

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