"Green Collar" Will Be the New Blue Collar

Authors: Keegan King Originally posted in The New Mexico Independent: http://newmexicoindependent.com/6310/green-collar-is-the-new-blue-collar This past weekend I read Van Jones’ latest book, “The Green-Collar Economy”. Van Jones is the founder and executive director of Green for All based in Oakland, California. Green for All, along with 1Sky and the Apollo Alliance, has led the charge for green jobs in America. The organization I lead –New Mexico Youth Organized — has worked closely with these groups on our local green Jobs initiative here in Albuquerque. The goal of the national campaign is to create millions of new “green” family-supporting jobs. From agriculture to renewable energy to efficiency, we stand at the forefront of a Green-Collar revolution led by Van Jones. If you’ve ever heard Van Jones speak you know that it’s an inspiring experience. “The Green-Collar Economy” was no different –- I was struck several times by the eloquent explanation of complex federal legislation, the innovative policies that Green for All is working on, and the great messaging that Van Jones is known for –- like Hoopties for Hybrids. The Hooptie, also known as a beater, clunker or jalopy, is a car that contributes to both excessive amounts of carbon emissions and the daily expenses of millions of Americans. Hoopties for Hybrids is a program that would create a low-interest loan to help people trade-up for a hybrid. The book makes it clear that with smart policies like this we can lift millions of Americans from oppressive prices at the pumps and, in one fell swoop, reduce greenhouse gases. The Dual Crisis “The Green-Collar Economy” could serve as a guidebook for policy-makers, activists and entrepreneurs on how to build a more just and equitable society for people and the planet. Van Jones expertly illustrates that the issues that will define the 21st century are two-fold –- a dual crisis of socioeconomic inequality and rampant environmental destruction. He points out that the basic economic premise at work in America and in most developing nations is one based on an outdated model. The era of exploiting unlimited natural resources and human capital, which developed during the Industrial Revolution, has outlived its usefulness. And now, because of the global predicament we find ourselves in, we have the opportunity to create a new model for economic growth, environmental conservation and equality. With new principles to guide us, smart policies and a politics that cherishes people and our planet, we can meet the challenges of the current economic crisis and build a better world for our children. Principles, Politics, Policies Van Jones is very clear that without core principles to guide their movement even the best policies fail. And without smart politics and policies even the best principles fall flat. Through a strong alliance of labor, community, local, state and federal governments, the United States can lead the way in renewable energy technology and reducing carbon emissions. The stark reality is that unless we restore the image of America abroad and model good behavior, $10-a-gallon gas will be the least of our worries in a world fighting over land, water and the last remaining drops of oil. The Green for All alliance is the first step in creating the political will necessary to transition our country to clean, green energy. Eco-populism Another important point the book makes is that if we hope to transition our economy to one built on all things green we must adopt a more inclusive movement. Jones uses a great analogy to describe the rift between poor folks in America and environmentalists. In rural and inner-city neighborhoods folks are more concerned with “Pookie” –getting a job than the plight of polar bears. Over the past century the conservationist movement has struggled to include people of color and less affluent communities. In places like New Mexico, there is a huge divide between tribal and land-grant communities and environmentalists. Historically there has been an all-or-nothing mentality from enviros that overlooked the cultural subsistence and economic development of poor people. But in “The Green-Collar Economy,” Jones shows that if we adopt the politics of eco-populism we can save the polar bears and make sure “Pookie” gets a job. New Mexico I grew up in McCarty’s village in Acoma. Acoma Pueblo is about 60 miles west of Albuquerque. My family moved to Albuquerque so that my father could work. Before that he was a land surveyor and before that he and my grandfather worked in the uranium mines in Grants. I have been blessed to work in a field that I enjoy and that lets me to make a difference. And while I carry a reverence for nature that is an inheritance from my family, I have never thought of myself as an environmentalist. Right now we are seeing the effects of years of exploitation in New Mexico. There is a whole generation of Hispanic, Native and Anglo men and women who now struggle to breathe and have developed terrible diseases from inhaling dust from these mines. Tailings that were never cleaned up now contribute to water contamination throughout the state. In addition, skyrocketing rates of cancer and birth defects in the Four Corners area have been linked to coal-powered plants. Our people have a right to work. They have a right to put food on the table without inadvertently contaminating their family. They have a right to bring home a steady paycheck without desecrating the land or their traditions. Instead of stalling with more nuclear plants and supposed “clean coal” factories, we have the ability to create new industries and millions of jobs in clean energy now. If even a fraction of the money that goes to subsidize Big Oil went to renewable energy research, we could begin to transition our economy immediately. Instead of working in conditions that harm the earth and the health of future generations, we can create jobs that nurture all of our communities. New Mexico is ready for Green Jobs now. Are you?

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