Lately there has been a lot of hype about what it means to be “green” and to “live sustainably”. The green message is omnipresent: celebrities are touting their electric cars, models are strutting down the catwalk in organic clothing, Ed Begley Jr. and Bill Nye are competing on a reality television show to see whose house can be more eco¬friendly. But one has to wonder how much of the green message is encouraging actual changes in energy savings in American households, and at what pace? There is a message, yes, but is there action? And to whom are we sending the message?
One of the organizations that is soaring into the green activism forefront is Green For All, which “advocat[es] for local, state and federal commitment to job creation, job training, and entrepreneurial opportunities in the emerging green economy – especially for people from disadvantaged communities”. Green for All focuses its message on those who might not walk the red carpet at the Oscars, but rather those who are striving to survive paycheck to paycheck. As such, the Green for All intent is to bring awareness to green collar jobs and their potentially critical role in the future of the American economy and global environment. Van Jones, founder of Green for All, has been urging the organization’s message through his book, The Green Collar Economy: How One Solution Can Fix Our Two Biggest Problems.
In The Green Collar Economy, Jones stresses the importance of recognizing America’s two biggest hurdles to tackling the climate crisis which are radical socioeconomic inequality and rampant environmental destruction. Jones recommends a more inclusive message when teaching Americans sustainable practices since it is evident from examples like Hurricane Katrina that the poor are the first to suffer in an environmental catastrophe. Likewise, it is these same individuals that could prosper most by switching from blue-collar jobs to green-collar jobs due to the inevitable demand for workers in the production of clean energy mechanisms.
The tone of The Green Collar Economy is that of urgency. Jones cites past environmental movements that occurred at crucial times such as John Muir’s fight for the preservation of national parks and Rachel Carson’s conservationist movement. While these movements spurred significant advances in litigating the protection of environmental resources, the movements focused more on the environmental problems than on the resulting plight of the lower socioeconomic classes. The inclusion of individuals of all races in the future environmental movement needs to happen now, or else the already dire condition of the world’s environment will take an even more haphazard downward spiral.
More than anything, reading The Green Collar Economy will inspire one to get involved and active in this next wave of environmentalism. Jones encourages wholehearted inclusion over myopic exclusion, sincere activism over aloof passivity, and diligence in seeing through the prospect of what green jobs can offer the American economy.Published in