26 November 2008

Review: The Green Collar Economy by Van Jones

"Our very survival will demand invention and innovation on a scale never before seen in the history of human civilization," Van Jones writes in his book The Green Collar Economy.

"Only the business community has the requisite skills, experience, and capital to meet that need...in the end, our success and survival as a species is largely and directly tied to the new eco-entrepreneurs--and the success and survival of their enterprises."

Jones has spent the better part of the past few years calling for "green jobs." A call that is fast becoming part of president-elect Obama's early agenda that may chart the course for his first term.

As founder of Green for All, Jones identifies what he calls "one solution that can fix our two biggest problems." Green jobs.

Jones has written an important book. In part because it puts his message of change and transformation into context as it relates to the great movements of social and environmental change of the last century -- while suggesting a path forward for change in the 21st century.

To Jones, green jobs can help transform our economy, put people to work, and create opportunity for those who have been neglected. He suggests that the new green economy can also help provide pathways out of poverty for many of the disenfranchised.

"That is good news for people who are being thrown out of work in the present recession," writes Jones. "That is good news for people in urban and rural communities who are suffering from chronic lack of work. That is good news for our veterans coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan. That is good news for people returning home from prison, looking for a second chance."

He also surveys the range of platforms for dealing with climate change, energy, and economic crises, including those of organizations with which he is involved, such as 1Sky and the Apollo Alliance.

Jones identifies a need for a "Green Growth Alliance" to be formed between the five main interest-partners: labor, social justice activists, environmentalists, students, and faith organizations.

Jones suggests we can't buy and drill our way out of this dilemma. "We can, however, invent and invest our way out," Jones writes. "Choosing to do so on a massive scale would have the practical benefit of cutting energy prices enough -- and generating enough work -- to pull the U.S. economy out of its present death spiral."

There are countless books out there about going green, and tackling climate change and energy issues. What's different about Van's book? Simply put, it is his message that economic progress and environmental protection can be joined with social equity issues to forge a triple-bottom line solution benefiting all three.

"The necessary solution," Jones suggests, is "a crash program in conservation and renewable energy -- so that we can save our ability to survive on the only planetary home we have ever known."

And with president-elect Obama calling for an economic stimulus that includes investments in infrastructure and energy efficiency, Van Jones's message may be getting its green day in the sun.

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