Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Green Collar Economy

I'm not exactly sure what I thought the Green Collar Economy by Van Jones was going to be about, but I had a feeling I was not going to be that impressed. Because, you know, I'm now, Arduous, the eco-cynical grad student and all. Plus, we've been hearing about this Green Collar Economy for what seems like ages, and sometimes it's hard for me not to feel like the whole green economy thang is just a ploy to get people to consume more.

So imagine my surprise when I realized, that contrary to my expectations, Green Collar Economy is not about how you can cash in on the green bubble. Instead, Green Collar Economy is fundamentally about environmental justice and equity. This is a book about how we link concern for the environment with concern for human welfare. It is in fact a book that is right up my alley.

Van Jones, an African-American who is both an environmentalist activist and human rights activist, is a powerful and incredibly important addition to the environmental movement. Which lets face it, is a bit too white and a bit too male. Consequently, his perception of the environmental crisis is different. While others ignore the inequitous consequences of climate change, Van Jones confronts them head on. He notes that Katrina was most disasterous for the poor, the black, the vulnerable. Jones argues:
The guiltless will bear the brunt and suffer the wrath of an enraged Mother
Nature. People in wealthy countries can cushion the blows. That's why, as the
1999 edition of the World Disasters Report concludes, about 96 percent of all
deaths from natural disasters happen in developing countries. Our actions- and
refusals to act- in the wealthier nations are funneling more disasters and death
toward the poorest people on Earth.

Van Jones also discusses the class conflicts and racism that has been part of the environmentalist movement for the past 100 odd years. While many environmentalists would rather sweep these conflicts under the rug, Van Jones argues that we cannot hide from these injustices. However, even here, Van Jones is amazingly diplomatic. He acknowledges the successes of environmentalist conservationists, while also noting their failure to address the needs of Native Americans. He understands the importance of the zero population growth campaign while also uncovering its racist implications. In other words, Van Jones doesn't throw the baby out of the bathwater, but he doesn't feel the need to cover up the past either.

I didn't necessarily agree with all of Van Jones' policy proposals, though I do share his vision for a new Green New Deal or Apollo Project. In particular, Van Jones' proposal "Hoopties for hybrids" provides a very tangible reminder of how a good idea in theory can result in bad policy in practice. But overall, this is a smart and important book with a refreshing perspective on the crises we face.

7 comments:

Oldnovice said...

Good example of how we must weigh everything before we make decisions. NOTHING is EVER so clear cut as it seems on the surface.

Erin aka Conscious Shopper said...

I loved this book! I'm hoping we see a bigger merger of environmentalism and social justice as the movement moves forward.

Green Bean said...

I really enjoyed this book too. Loved to hear about environmentalism from a more inclusive viewpoint. Oh, and don't forget to mosey on over to the Worm so that Chile can include your review. :) Cuz I know you've got nothing else going on.

Anonymous said...

Cash for clunkers was great. Used up 3 billion dollars of our kids' tax money in the future for a boost to car sales for a few weeks. I think it's working, the weather is cooler already. Who else's money can we take and give to other people now under guise of Mother Earth Worship initiatives? I'm thinking maybe the great grandkids wouldn't mind paying for people's cars today! Who's great kids wouldn't want to pay for Great grandpa's Car!

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