When I left the Dream Reborn conference on Friday, I had a few questions: Exactly what are green jobs? How do we create them? And why has it suddenly become so important to talk about them? Yesterday, I got some answers. And it’s a good thing, too, since the conference wraps up today.
Here’s a quick rundown of some of the answers I found. (We’ll have more in-depth coverage of the conference in a few days.) Pay close attention, because I’m gonna go through this stuff quickly — and in reverse order.
First up: Why green jobs now? Here’s Van Jones: “One of the reasons that it’s possible to imagine a new economy now is because as much fervor as there is from the grassroots, there’s also change afoot in the broader society.” Most people today recognize that climate change is more than just an environmental problem. Bracken Hendricks, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, went so far as to call it “the biggest human rights crisis in the world.” Various efforts to slow climate change are creating thousands of jobs. Jones, Hendricks, and their colleagues say these new green jobs will help pull thousands of people out of poverty.
Next: How do we create green jobs?
By working very, very, very hard. Just do it. That’s the message Ojibwe Nation member and Honor the Earth Fund program director Winona LaDuke laid down: “I’m gonna outlaw the word ‘should,'” she said. “People are tired of ideas. People are tired of talk. At some point, you gotta do it. And conveniently enough, the Ojibwe language is comprised of 8,000 verbs. We are the getting-shit-done people.”
Last one: What are green jobs? Here are five of the projects I found particularly interesting. This list is anything but comprehensive. It’s just a taste. To keep things moving, I’ve described each project in 10 words.
- Sustainable South Bronx: Majora Carter, desperation, new green jobs, environmental justice, trend setter.
- Richmond BUILD: City-run, at-risk residents, installing solar, learning a craft, making dough.
- ReBuilders Source: Employee-owned cooperative, recycling building materials, big warehouse, garbage into goods.
- Institute for Community Resource Development: Chicago, rebuilding the food system, urban grocery stores and gardens.
- Lincoln Park Coast Cultural District: Jersey; drugs, crime, and pollution then; mixed-income, mixed-use neighborhood now.
Projects this amazing can excite and inspire. They can also overwhelm. Worried that whatever you’re working on can’t achieve the success these things did? Stop worrying. It can. Just buckle down and make it happen.