Van Jones wants to make sure the poorest citizens get a piece of the new sustainable-living boom.
When California voters went to the polls in November, 2006, they had the chance to pass a historic measure, taxing the oil industry to pay for research on clean energy. Hollywood spent $40 million on a "yes" campaign, and it had big-name endorsements from Bill Clinton, Al Gore, and Google's Larry Page. But while Tinseltown lent star power, the oil industry placed ads in several black-owned newspapers showing an African-American woman looking horrified at gas prices as she refueled her car. Soon after, the leader of the NAACP came out against the proposition. It failed to pass.For Van Jones, a 39-year-old civil-rights lawyer in Oakland, California, watching these events unfold was frustrating, but not surprising. What environmentalists fail to realize, he says, is that "for people who live in personal crisis, telling them about a planetary crisis is just demoralizing. You need to talk to these people about opportunity."In 1996, Jones co-founded the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights-a nonprofit organization designed to keep kids off the streets and out of jails. And today he is trumpeting an idea that's disarmingly simple: Let's funnel the coming wave of jobs in sustainable industries toward those who most need them, creating a "green-collar" job force that gives the working poor and minorities a chance to get ahead while also ensuring that this new economy has a labor force behind it. In 2005, Jones and his staff of 20 people launched a campaign for green-collar jobs. Two years later, they convinced the Oakland City Council to fund the first-ever Green Jobs Corps, which will begin training its first recruits later this year in fields like installing solar panels, weatherizing buildings, and laying green roofs.\n\n\n
|African-Americans will ask you, ‘What do polar bears and hybrid cars have to do with my situation?'|
|Before becoming advocates for "green collar" jobs, Van Jones and the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights launched influential campaigns to stop violence in Oakland and to reform California's youth prison system.|
Keep Reading Show less