31 March 2008

Innovation: "Green Pathways Out of Poverty," Jones Tells Aspen Environment Forum

The Green Skeptic likes to talk about the New Green Economy. For a long time, I've been nattering on about how America needs to get its act together and seize the opportunity of the a new, greener economy. We snooze; we lose.

China, India, even old rivals Japan and Germany, are poised to take the lead in every major part of clean tech and alternative energy development.

What's at stake? Plenty. Only a multibillion, some say, multitrillion dollar business opportunity.

But at the Aspen Environment Forum last Saturday, Van Jones and Majora Carter reminded us what else is at stake -- and what seizing this opportunity could mean for America.

It could mean, to paraphrase Van Jones, founder of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, moving from an economy of pollution and incarceration to one of solutions and green jobs.

Jones, along with Majora Carter, founder of Sustainable South Bronx, called on the crowd -- and are calling on the rest of America too -- to help them launch "Green for All," a kind of green job corps for those currently left on the margins.

"FDR had the Civilian Conservation Corps, with young people going all over America to enhance and build parks," Jones told the crowd in Aspen. "JFK had the Peace Corps, and Clinton had AmeriCorps. It's time we had a Green Job Corps."

The green-collar job sector is growing in the United States and could include more than 14 million workers by 2017 industry, according to some analysts.

The American Solar Energy Society says there are there are potentially 8.5 million U.S. jobs that can be considered "green." That figure could grow by 5 million in the next 10 years, Jerome Ringo of the Apollo Alliance told Steven Greenhouse of The New York Times in an article last week.

Green-collar jobs include "Ph.D.'s and Ph.-do's," said Jones. "We need people who are highly educated at the theoretical level and we need people who are highly educated at the level of skilled labor."

At least 28 US states have chartered mandates pushing for renewable energy to be 10 to 25 percent of their energy portfolio over the next few decades.

"The development of a green economy creates a broad new set of opportunities," Lois Quam, managing director for alternative investments at Piper Jaffray, told the Times.

"When I first started looking at this area," Quam said. "Many people commented on how this will be as big as the Internet. But this is so much bigger than the Internet. The only comparable example we can find is the Industrial Revolution. It will affect every business and every industry."

Jones calls such jobs "green pathways out of poverty."

"Right now we don't have the infrastructure to train a sufficient number of green-collar workers," Jones told the Times. "If we are going to weatherize buildings, they have to be weatherized here. If you put up solar panels, you can't ship a building to Asia and have them put the solar panels on and ship it back. These jobs have to be done in the United States."

Read the Times article: Green Jobs

Check out the "Green For All" presentation from the Aspen Environment Forum 2008: (Clip 1) with Majora Carter, Van Jones. Watch video.
(Clip 2) Watch video.
(Clip 3) Watch video.