Green Collar Economy: How One Solution Can Fix America's Two Biggest Problemsby Van Jones
Provocative, personal, and inspirational, 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/b>
Provocative, personal, and inspirational, 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.
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 impenetrable debate over the environment and the economy, Van Jones's The Green Collar Economy delivers a timely and essential call to action for this new century.
As the "ecological crisis nears the boiling point," human rights activist and environmental leader Jones (president of the national organization Green For All) lays out a visionary, meticulous and practical explanation of the two major challenges the U.S. currently faces-massive socioeconomic inequality and imminent ecological catastrophe-and how the current third wave of environmentalism, the "investment" wave, can solve both. If industry players want to take advantage of growing consumer demand for green solutions, they'll have to follow principles of inclusiveness as well as conservation and inventiveness to create "broad opportunity and shared prosperity" for citizens at all levels of society. Rife with statistics, facts and history lessons, Jones introduces a "Green New Deal," a re-imagining of FDR's original New Deal that makes the government "a partner" (as opposed to a "nanny" or "bully") of the people, and sets about defining the principles of a "smart, supportive, reliable" partnership. Jones examines success stories from around the world (included close looks at Chicago and Milwaukee), defines government priorities at national and local levels and offers concrete solutions; one major positive step for any "significant U.S. metropolis" is to "invest massively in constructing buses, light rail cars, and mass-transit projects," creating good jobs while cutting greenhouse gases. With both caution and hope, Jones concludes that "tens of thousands of heroes at every level of human society" will be needed to carry off this third, and perhaps ultimate, green initiative.
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With climate change, skyrocketing energy costs, and a bad economy on everyone's minds, these two books offer different takes on these circumstances and consequently quite different solutions. While in The Green Collar Economy, Jones (founder & president, Green for All) addresses ongoing issues of social inequality as well as the environment and arrives at large-scale solutions aimed at both, Makower (executive editor, GreenBiz.com) in Strategies for the Green Economy focuses more on improving the "greenness" of individual corporations. By examining case studies of companies' green initiatives and their effects on marketing and consumers, he demonstrates how going green can be a win-win for both the bottom line and the environment.
In looking at the bigger picture, Jones provides ideas for rebuilding infrastructure and creating alternative energy sources, which would have the double bonus of boosting the economy through increased employment and higher wages while decreasing our dependence on fossil fuels. With a blurb by Al Gore and a foreword by Robert F. Kennedy Jr., this is a much more forward-thinking and far-reaching work that considers concrete ways to improve our current situation, rather than offering only rhetoric. Action items and a resource list at the end of the book provide ways for individuals to get involved immediately.
Makower's is a more typical "business" book, looking at specific companies and their approaches to environmentalism. It focuses on corporate success and how to use the environment as a marketing tool rather than on strategies to save the country and the planet. While both books are highly readable and very timely, the bigpicture presented in The Green Collar Economy seems more optimistic and useful than the marketing techniques outlined in Strategies. The Green Collar Economy is recommended for all libraries, while Strategies is recommended more specifically for business collections.
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Read an Excerpt
The Green Collar Economy
How One Solution Can Fix Our Two Biggest Problems
By Van Jones
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.
Copyright © 2008
All right reserved.
The Dual Crisis
For forty-eight hours, Larry and Lorrie waited for the "imminent" arrival of the buses, spending the last twelve hours standing outside, sharing the limited water, food, and clothes they had with others. Among them were sick people, elders, and newborn babies. The buses never came. Larry later learned that the minute the buses arrived at the city limits, they were commandeered by the military.
Walgreen's remained locked. The dairy display case was clearly visible through the widows. After forty-eight hours without electricity, the milk, yogurt, and cheeses were beginning to spoil in the ninety-degree heat. Without utilities, the owners and managers had locked up the food, water, disposable diapers, and prescriptions and fled the city. Outside, residents and tourists grew increasingly thirsty and hungry. The cops could have broken one small window and distributed the nuts, fruit juices, and bottled water in an organized manner. Instead, they spent hours playing cat and mouse, temporarily chasing away the looters.
Repeatedly, Larry and Lorrie were told that resources, assistance, buses, and the National Guard were pouring into the city. But no one had seen them. What they did see—or heard tell of—wereelectricians who improvised long extension cords stretching over blocks in order to free cars stuck on rooftop parking lots. Nurses who took over for mechanical ventilators and spent hours manually forcing air into the lungs of unconscious patients to keep them alive. Refinery workers who broke into boatyards, "stealing" boats to rescue people stranded on roofs. And other workers who had lost their homes, but stayed and provided the only assistance available.
By day four, sanitation was dangerously abysmal. Finally Larry and Lorrie encountered the National Guard. Guard personnel said that the city's primary shelter, the Superdome, had become a hellhole. They also said that the city's only other shelter, the Convention Center, was also descending into chaos and squalor and that the police were not allowing anyone else in. They could offer no alternatives and said, no, they did not have extra water to share.
When Larry and Lorrie reached it, the police command center told them the same thing. Without any other options, they and their growing group of several hundred displaced people decided to stay at the police command post. They began to set up camp outside. In short order, the police commander appeared to address the group. He told the group to walk to the expressway and cross the bridge, where the police had buses lined up to take people out of the city. When Larry pressed the commander to make certain this wasn't further misinformation, the commander turned to the crowd and stated emphatically, "I swear to you that the buses are there."
The group set off for the bridge with great hope and were joined along the way by families with babies in strollers, people using crutches, elderly clasping walkers, and others in wheelchairs. It began to pour down rain, but the group marched on.
As they approached the promised location, they saw armed sheriffs forming a line across the foot of the bridge. Before Larry and Lorrie were even close enough to address them, the sheriffs began firing their weapons over people's heads. The crowd scattered and fled, but Larry managed to engage some of the sheriffs in conversation. When told about the promises of the police commander, the sheriffs said there were no buses waiting.
Larry and Lorrie asked why they couldn't cross the bridge anyway. There was little traffic on the six-lane highway. The sheriffs refused.
Heartbroken and desperate, the group retreated back down the highway and took shelter from the rain under an overpass. After some debate, they decided to build an encampment on the center divide of the expressway, reasoning that it would be visible to rescuers and the elevated freeway would provide some security. From this vantage point they watched as others attempted to cross the bridge, only to be turned away. Some were chased away with gunfire, others verbally berated and humiliated. Thousands were prevented from evacuating the city on foot.
From a woman with a battery-powered radio they learned that the media were talking about the encampment. Officials were being asked what they were going to do about all those families living up on the freeway. The officials responded that they were going to take care of it. "Taking care of it" had an ominous ring to it.
Sure enough, at dusk a sheriff rolled up in his patrol vehicle, drew his gun, and started screaming, "Get off the fucking freeway!" A helicopter arrived and used the wind from its blades to blow away the flimsy shelters. As Larry and Lorrie's group retreated, the sheriff loaded up his truck with the camp's small amount of food and water.
Forced off the freeway at gunpoint, they sought refuge in an abandoned school bus under the freeway, more terrified of the police and sheriffs with their martial law and shoot-to-kill policies than of the criminals who supposedly were roaming the streets.
Finally a search-and-rescue team transported Larry and Lorrie to the airport, where their remaining rations, which set off the metal detectors, were confiscated. There they waited again, alongside thousands of others, as a massive airlift gradually thinned the crowds and delivered them to other cities across the region.
After they disembarked from the airlift, the humiliation and dehumanization continued. The refugees were packed into buses, driven to a field, and forced to wait for hours to be medically screened to make sure no one was carrying communicable diseases. In the dark, hundreds of people were forced to share two filthy, overflowing porta-potties. Those who had managed to make it out with any possessions were subjected to dog-sniffing searches. No food was provided to the hungry, disoriented, and demoralized survivors.1
Among those left behind after Katrina, they were the lucky ones. Larry and Lorrie are a Caucasian couple who had some resources available to them. The whole world knows what happened to the poor, black residents of New Orleans who had none.
Excerpted from The Green Collar Economy by Van Jones Copyright © 2008 by Van Jones. Excerpted by permission.
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Meet the Author
Van Jones is the founder and former president of Green For All. In March of 2009, he became the special advisor for Green Jobs at the White House Council on Environmental Quality. Van Jones lives in the Washington D.C. area with his wife and two sons.
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