Van Jones: The Green Movement’s Black Hero


“When people think about climate change, often the first thought that comes to mind has to do with all the solar panels, wind farms, and green rooftops we need, and how quickly it needs to be done. But the question that rarely follows is, “how much manual labor will this take and who’s going to do it?” It’s also becoming clear that more and more people in under-served communities, especially young people, are getting left behind while the rest of us struggle to climb closer and closer to the American dream. Can we think of these people not as a burden, but as an underused resource? The man who isn’t afraid to ask these questions, and who has an answer, is Van Jones, President and co-founder of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights (EBC) based in Oakland, California.” (Excerpt from, “community Heros” by Rosemary Prizker. Click on this link to read entire article.)

Van Jones inserting the reality Gratefully, there is a development occurring that makes us ask, “Is the Overwhelmingly White, Green Movement finally reaching out to blacks and other people of color … or are people like that black people can and will play an integral part of this “New Green Movement“?

“What’s a nice black guy like me doing in a movement like this?” asks Van Jones. The tall, 39 year old cuts a striking silhouette in a black turtleneck and blazer as he strides the stage at the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Center. A charismatic lawyer who grew up in rural Tennessee, Jones graduated from Yale Law, and founded the Ella Baker Center for jobs and justice in Oakland.
“>”The Prius people, the polar-bear crowd are great,” Jones says. “We’re not mad at them. We like them! At the same time, if the only people who can participate are the kind who can afford to put solar panels on their second home, the green movement is going to be too small to fix the problem. If we want to beat global warming, there’s no way to do it without helping a lot of poor people. If you design a solution that does not do that, it’s a solution that’s too timid.”

“In Jones’ eyes, the first wave of environmentalism, led by Teddy Roosevelt and John Muir, focused on preserving the nation’s natural beauty in parks. The second wave, led by Rachel Carson of “Silent Spring,” concentrated on federal regulation of toxics. The third wave, he says, is about investment. Initially, that meant individual consumer choice: hybrid cars, organic food, energy-efficient light bulbs. Now, it’s evolved into major public spending and community-wide action.

Jones’ grand vision? Think New Deal and civil-rights movement combined with a clean-green industrial revolution. The nation needs to train masses of “green-collar” workers to conduct energy audits, weatherize and retrofit buildings, install solar panels and maintain hybrid vehicles, wind farms and bio-fuel factories. The icing? Wiring buildings and installing solar panels can’t be outsourced.

“Brother,” Jones says, “put down that hand gun and pick up this caulk gun.”

[Partially re-written from article written by Paula Bock. Click this link to read the entire article.]