Sunday, September 20, 2009

Green Economy and A Moving Van

By Dave Rochlin - originally posted on

Did he or didn't he? We'll probably never know the true story behind Van Jones' signature on a 911 conspiracy petition that ultimately caused him to step down as green jobs czar. Politics is a dirty business (made dirtier by the internet) and he certainly is not the first or the last victim of partisanship. (Nor will he quietly vanish from the public spotlight!)

The real question is whether his passion for reinventing our economy so that tackling climate change actually creates opportunity will be a victim as well. Thomas Friedman of the New York Times did a profile on him in 2007 which featured a great quote summing up his position:

"The green economy has the power to deliver new sources of work, wealth and health to low-income people - while honoring the Earth. If you can do that, you just wiped out a whole bunch of problems. We can make what is good for poor black kids good for the polar bears and good for the country."

To that I would add that we also have a chance to solve problems in the developing world. While we tend to focus on the sky high average US footprint and the 'westernization' of successful economies (cars, televisions, appliances) leading to climate threats, there are a host of solutions to deep rural poverty issues that can be beneficiaries of action on the climate.

Imagine a future where we divert some of the $600 million we spend daily on oil imports (and $100 million per day on coal) to producing energy by capturing the wind, sun, tides, and heat. Imagine also trading out energy purchases for smarter design and construction of buildings, machines, cookstoves in Africa, and even cities. This future - where energy is a clean product rather than polluting resource controlled by a few large oil companies and countries, where we replace thoughtless disposable consumption with a skilled service and manufacturing sector, and where we practice natural capitalism (valuing ecological systems) - is an exciting and energizing counterweight to the normal doom and gloom surrounding the climate change discussion.

As Van Jones has said "Dr. King didn't get famous giving a speech that said, I have a complaint." Let's keep the dream alive.

Photo copyright psd at

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