Thursday, August 19, 2010
Thoughts on "The Green Collar Economy"
Remember Van Jones? He was a green jobs adviser for President Obama and got crucified over some political BS and was forced to resign in 2009.
I've recently had a chance to read his 2008 book The Green Collar Economy: How One Solution Can Solve Our Two Biggest Problems. The book has the idea of sustainability at its core. Namely, it is not enough to look at environmental problems in isolation. You have to look at them in conjunction with economic and social justice problems.
There is much to draw from in the book and I won't summarize it all here (better that you read it yourself). The thing that struck me the most was the idea that there is a gulf between the "mainstream environmental movement" which is largely middle-upper income and largely white, and how lower income people and many people of color view environmental problems. While middle class people might worry about global warming's effects on the polar bear (abstract, global problem) and try to reduce their impact with a Prius (new, somewhat expensive technology), lower income people might worry about the polluting factory in their neighborhood (local environmental problem), and their economic problems, and resolve these issues with green collar jobs: jobs that not only help the Earth, but also address the disproportionate environmental harms that disadvantaged communities face, and pay decent wages as well.
If these two groups can bridge the cultural gaps that divide them and work together, we could build a political coalition that could put the force of public policy behind the green revolution.
The key is finding ways to include the people who are being left behind by the current economy in the new green economy. Green can't be something just for the elite. It has to be mainstream and accessible to all.