06 October 2008

We Need a Buildup, Not a Bailout: Van Jones and The Green Collar Economy

"We don’t just need a bailout. We need a buildup," Thomas Friedman wrote in the New York Times last month. "We need to get back to making stuff, based on real engineering not just financial engineering.

"We need to get back to a world where people are able to realize the American Dream — a house with a yard — because they have built something with their hands, not because they got a 'liar loan' from an underregulated bank with no money down and nothing to pay for two years. The American Dream is an aspiration, not an entitlement."

Friedman described what a new economy could look like for America and how more important it is that we don't just see this bailout as a respite, but a wake-up call "to launch an E.T., energy technology, revolution with the same urgency as this bailout."

As Friedman wrote, "The exciting thing about the energy technology revolution is that it spans the whole economy — from green-collar construction jobs to high-tech solar panel designing jobs. It could lift so many boats.

"In a green economy, we would rely less on credit from foreigners 'and more on creativity from Americans,' argued Van Jones, president of Green for All, and author of the forthcoming The Green Collar Economy.

"'It’s time to stop borrowing and start building. America's No. 1 resource is not oil or mortgages. Our No. 1 resource is our people. Let's put people back to work — retrofitting and repowering America. ... You can’t base a national economy on credit cards. But you can base it on solar panels, wind turbines, smart biofuels and a massive program to weatherize every building and home in America.'"

Van Jones is a familiar figure to readers of this blog. Now, you can read the words of the man himself, as his book is released tomorrow. (Pre-order it here.)

I'd like to see copies in the hand of the presidential candidates at the debates tomorrow night.

"The 'green' in 'green-collar' is about preserving and enhancing environmental quality—literally saving the Earth," Jones wrote in his Introduction. "Green-collar jobs are in the growing industries that are helping us kick the oil habit, curb greenhouse-gas emissions, eliminate toxins, and protect natural systems.

"Today, green-collar workers are installing solar panels, retrofitting buildings to make them more efficient, refining waste oil into biodiesel, erecting wind farms, repairing hybrid cars, building green rooftops, planting trees, constructing transit lines, and so much more. California has shown that a state can still grow its economy while reducing the rise in greenhouse-gas emissions. The nation can do the same thing.

"We have the chance now to create new markets, new technology, new industries, and a new workforce. Let's do it right—with good wages, equal opportunity, and pathways to success for those whom the pollution-based economy left behind."

(I'll write a review of the book in the coming weeks.)

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