FIRED UP from Good Jobs, Green Jobs

Authors: Pauli Ojea Today I’m sitting in my sunny Oakland office feeling FIRED UP. Why? Because I just got back from an invigorating few days in Washington, DC at the Good Jobs, Green Jobs Conference. Over 3,000 people came together last week to talk about how to transition to the clean, green economy that will take us out of this economic mess, bring good jobs to our workers, and increase health and wealth for all. Though the entire conference was buzzing with great ideas, inspirational speakers, and informative discussions, below are some of my favorite moments: Opening plenary: Larry Cohen of the Communications Workers of America proclaims, “Science is back.” I take a moment to silently celebrate this observation, and try not to get too distracted by dreaming up all of the new possibilities that exist. Panel on Climate Equity and Environmental Justice (Green For All track): Dr. Robert Bullard, Director of the Environmental Justice Resource Center at Clark Atlanta University, presents a slide show about how climate change impacts communities of color and low-income communities on a more profound scale than wealthier communities. He draws parallels between the current economic disaster and Hurricane Katrina and asks us to think about “who gets left behind in the wake of a disaster, whether it’s a natural or economic disaster.” He points to the disparity in the aid and financial resources spent in New Orleans after Katrina and warned that the same might go for the stimulus package if we don’t organize. He shows photographs from Katrina that I’ve seen many times before. They still bring me to tears. John Moore, Green For All Academy fellow, green builder, and policy analyst for the City of New Orleans shares with us how green economic development strategies are unfolding in his city. He thanks the packed room for “still caring about New Orleans.” Nia Robinson of the Environmental Justice Climate Change Initiative talks about a report her organization produced, in partnership with Redefining Progress, which discusses the impact of climate change on African Americans. I learn that African Americans produce 20% less greenhouse gas emissions than whites. However, African Americans and other communities of color tend to bear the brunt of the disastrous consequences of this issue. Ian Kim of the Ella Baker Center closes up this panel, starting out by reminding us that we’re at a point now where history in unfolding before us every single day. He also asks us to raise our hands if we think we might hold just a piece of the solution to the climate change puzzle. All hands go up. He says that by working together, by putting all the pieces of this puzzle together, we may be able to find make some real, lasting solutions. He winds up with a quote from a letter that Alice Walker sent to Obama, “We must all of us learn not to have enemies, but only confused adversaries who are ourselves in disguise.” Closing Plenary on Friday, part of the Green For All track: We start with “green jobs gospel,” brought to us by the DC Labor Choir. Winona LaDuke, Van Jones, Fred Redmond, and Reverend Yearwood all give fiery speeches that make us grateful we got up out of our cozy beds for the 8 AM session. Green For All Academy members Vanessa German and Tem Blessed open our minds and loosen up our limbs with their poetry and song. (You can catch Tem’s video at: A few hours later, we leave the conference halls and proceed to Congress’ halls, to ask our elected officials to help create a greener economy that works for all. Pauli Ojea is a Policy Associate at Green For All.

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