Back in March of this year, I interviewed Van Jones of the Ella Baker Center in Oakland, Calif. He was excited because House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had adopted his "green-collar jobs" language and agreed to craft legislation around it. In August, such legislation was introduced in the House.
Now things are taking off like crazy. Earlier this week the Senate Environment Committee held a hearing on green jobs, where Sen. Barbara Boxer brandished Jones’ work and said, "we still have a chance to avoid the worst effects of global warming and in doing so, we will also strengthen our economy and create good jobs for millions of Americans."
Today, on stage at the Clinton Global Initiative, Jones announced the formation of a new campaign, Green for All:
Green for All has a simple but ambitious mission: to help build a green economy strong enough to lift people out of poverty. By advocating for a national commitment to job training, employment and entrepreneurial opportunities in the emerging green economy — especially for people from disadvantaged communities — this campaign simultaneously fights both poverty and pollution. Green For All is committed to securing one billion dollars by 2012 to create “green pathways out of poverty” for 250,000 people in the United States, by greatly expanding federal government and private sector commitments to “green-collar” jobs.
Jones explained to me that as interest in the overlap of green growth and social justice grows, he’s trying to push the boundaries. Now we’ve gone from $250K for job training for lower middle class folks to a billion, aimed squarely at those in poverty.
On Friday, Jones is going to give the keynote speech at a large climate change rally in D.C. and then appear on a climate change panel with Barack Obama before the Congressional Black Caucus.
And that’s just scratching the surface — just this week he’s landed a book deal, met Bolivian President Evo Morales and NYT columnist Tom Friedman, spoken to foundation boards and a host of media outlets, and on and on.
In the space of under a year, the concept of green-collar jobs — lifting the poor and disadvantaged up with the new green economy — has gone from the political fringes squarely into the mainstream, with the backing of virtually every high-profile Democratic politician. That success is due in no small part to Jones’ tireless efforts.
We’ll be hearing from Jones next week on the subject of climate equity, along with some other people working in that area.
Economic justice is moving to the center of environmentalism, and vice versa. It’s long overdue. Neither can succeed without a large, enduring political coalition, and together they are greater than the sum of their parts.