Afro-Netizen has promoted books before. However, the timing of the publication of "The Green Collar Economy" by GreenForAll founder, Van Jones, the presidential campaign and what's going on between Wall Street, Main Street and MLK Boulevard highlights the importance of Jones' book.
You have heard Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi -- even Republican political figures reference "green collar jobs" in the rally cry for a new economy built on energy independence and a heightened environmental stewardship that for the next generation of American voters may become an inviolable non-partisan issue like Social Security or, dare I say, Israel.
Beyond the political rhetoric whose growing lexicon has now subsumed "green collar" this and "green economy that, is the actual substance and context that every voter -- every American -- should understand. Most especially, we as people of color must commit to understand and advocate for our integral inclusion and leadership in the shaping of the social policy and business development in the emerging "green economy".
As Jones articulates so well, the green economy's success depends on our early and broad involvement as people of color to ensure that the fruits of our country's labor in this area produce not just a more vibrant workforce, but secure the type of "eco-equity" that the mainstream American environmental movement has been conspicuously silent on.
So, without further ado, here's a taste of a groundbreaking book we all should read and spread the word about with as much zeal as we do the chain letters that (rightly or wrongly) compel us to think, feel or do something away from our computer screens.
Still not sure what the heck "green collar jobs" are and why we should care?
The possibilities are endless. Someone says “green jobs,” and our minds go to Buck Rogers.
Let’s be clear, the main piece of technology in the green economy is a caulk gun. Hundreds of thousands of green-collar jobs will be weatherizing and energy-retroﬁtting every building in the United States. Buildings with leaky windows, ill-ﬁtting doors, poor insulation, and old appliances can gobble up 30 percent more energy.
That means owners are paying 30 percent more on their heating bills. And it often means that 30 percent more coal-ﬁ red carbon is going into the atmosphere. Drafty buildings create broke, chilly people—and an overheated planet.
Another bit of high-tech green technology is the clipboard. That tool is used by energy auditors as they point out energy-saving opportunities to homeowners and renters. This job does not require much training and can be an early entry point into the booming world of energy consultation and efﬁciency. And one consultation can save an owner hundreds—or even thousands—of dollars annually.
Other green-collar workers can then follow up with other tasks for building owners: wrapping hot-water heaters with blankets, blowing insulation, plugging holes, repairing cracks, hauling out old appliances, replacing old windows with the double-glazed kind.
Other pieces of green tech are ladders, wrenches, hammers, tool belts, and nonslip work boots. Those are the space-age gadgets used by solar-panel installers every day.
The point is this. When you think about the emerging green economy, don’t think of George Jetson with a jet pack. Think of Joe Sixpack with a hard hat and lunch bucket, sleeves rolled up, going off to ﬁx America. Think of Rosie the Riveter, manufacturing parts for hybrid buses or wind turbines. Those images will represent the true face of a green-collar America.
This week, coinciding with the opening session of the United Nations, the Clinton Global Initiative is holding its third annual summit, inviting attendees from around the world to discuss what can be done about some of the most serious issues of our day. The main themes addressed by this year’s conference are: poverty alleviation, education, climate change and global health. I attended the conference on behalf of Afro-Netizen and was charged with the task of identifying which of the issues discussed would be relevant to Afro-Netizen’s audience.
It was an interesting day. This morning’s plenary discussed the issue of climate change. Included on the panel, moderated by Tom Brokaw, were former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, former Prime Minister of Norway, Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland, U.S. Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, and Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi.
Often in discussions of development and climate change, Africa is treated as a footnote or as the world’s forgotten stepchild. PM Meles was the only panelist from a developing country, and fortunately for Africa, he held it down. Each of his remarks drew applause from the audience, which wasn’t true of the other panelists. While Blair and Harlem Brundtland talked about the need to create incentives for conservation in countries like China, the United States and Britain, the Ethiopian Prime Minister highlighted his country's leadership in organic farming methods, efforts at creating biofuel alternatives and success in generating electricity through hydroelectric power. According to Meles, Congo and Ethiopia combined have the ability, through the level of hydroelectric power that they produce, to fuel the energy needs of the entire continent. The main reason why this has not happened is that the infrastructure to allow this type of energy sharing to occur is not in place.
He was direct in his advocacy for Africa. “Africa contributed nothing to global warming because we did not develop in the way that the large industrialized nations did.” It needed to be said because most people in the room knew that Africans are already paying the price for the environmental effects of global warming, and this is expected to get worse. “Africa’s only option,” according to the Prime Minister, “is to grow in a carbon neutral fashion.” And guess what? Ethiopia is a pioneer in Africa in creating ethanol from sugar or corn. But, the trucks and cars currently on the roads in Ethiopia can’t run on the biofuels that the country produces. In order for this to change, developed nations are going to have to convince car manufacturers to partner with African nations and create flex fuel cars, allowing Africa to profit from its own agricultural production.
The Prime Minister’s remarks raise the issue of fair trade policies in relation to Africa. It is one thing for North Americans and Europeans to sit around and expound upon issues associated with global warming and sustainable development. It is another thing altogether to hear African leaders say “Hey, we are not asking for your charity” or, in the exact words of the Prime Minister, “This is an issue of rights, not a question of philanthropy. We did not pollute and we deserve the right to sell our sugar here.” (an obvious dig at the farm subsidies and protectionist tariffs that the U.S. and European countries use to keep African crops out of their markets.)
Applause again. Go ‘head Meles! It was refreshing to hear the perspective of an African leader and know that there were so many in the audience who agreed with him. Let’s hope that participants at this forum will take his intervention seriously and truly partner with African nations so that Africans can reap the benefits of their own natural resources.
Mary Dillard is an Associate Professor of African History at Sarah Lawrence College. Her research interests are education, health care, and gender studies in Africa. She lives in New York City.
In response to mounting ecological crises, the United States is going through its most important economic transformation since the New Deal. Unfortunately, the vital process of change along more eco-friendly lines is moving ahead with practically zero participation from people of color.
Hundreds of mayors and several governors are bucking the Bush administration and committing themselves to the carbon-cutting principles of the Kyoto treaty on climate change. The U.S. Congress is debating an energy bill this year that could be a watershed for alternative energy sources. What’s more, regular people are way ahead of these leaders. U.S polls show super-majorities want strong action on the climate crisis and other environmental perils. And consumers are reshaping markets by demanding hybrid cars, bio-fuels, solar panels, organic food and more. As a result, the “lifestyles of health and sustainability” sector of the U.S. economy has ballooned into a $240 billion gold mine. And total sales are growing on a near-vertical axis.
The Economist magazine calls it “The Greening of America.” Indeed, we are witnessing the slow death of the Earth-devouring, suicidal version of capitalism. We’re even seeing the birth of some form of “eco-capitalism.” To be sure, a more “ecologically sound” market system will not be a utopia. But at least it will buy our species a few extra decades or centuries on this planet.
That’s the good news. Here is the bad news.
The celebrated "lifestyles" sector is probably the most racially segregated part of the U.S. economy; at present, it is almost exclusively the province of affluent white people. Few entrepreneurs of color are positioned to reap the benefits of the government’s push to green the economy. We are seeing a major debate about the direction of the U.S. economy—in which communities of color apparently have nothing to say. Our near-silence on such key issues has no precedent, at least not since before the Civil War.
How can this be? Black, Latino, Asian and Native American communities suffer the most from the environmental ills of our industrial society. Our folks desperately need the new economic activity, investments and opportunities that this major transition is beginning to generate. To put it bluntly, people of color have much more directly at stake in the greening of America than white college students do. Why are they marching for carbon caps, while most of us just yawn and change the channel?
When these new formations and networks emerge, all racial justice activists will become, in some sense, environmental justice activists.
More people of color have not yet grabbed the microphone for three reasons: our long-standing pattern of viewing environmental issues as luxury concerns; the mainstream media’s “whites only” coverage of the green phenomenon; and serious structural impediments to action within the racial justice movement itself.
First of all, too often we have said: “We are overwhelmed with violence, bad housing, failing schools, excessive incarceration, poor healthcare and joblessness. We can’t afford to worry about spotted owls, redwood trees and polar bears.” But Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath taught us that the coming ecological disasters will hit the poor first and worst. More of us are beginning to see that there can be no separation between our concern for vulnerable people and our concern for a vulnerable planet.
Secondly, any U.S. magazine’s “Special Green Issue” typically will not show many people of color, despite the incredible achievements of numerous environmentalists of color across the country. Many racial justice activists see this kind of coverage, shrug our shoulders and understandably assume that green equals white.
But this is a mistake. When did we start trusting the corporate media to fairly calculate our interests in any major topic or development in U.S. society? When have our activists and advocates ever accepted their frame and parameters in determining what is important or what we should do? It should not surprise anyone that the mainstream media does not reflect our deep and profound interests in the greening of the economy. And it is high time for us to make our own assessment and create our own strategy for shaping the process in accordance with our interests.
Finally, at least among committed activists, there is a deeper reason that we have not mobilized at the appropriate scale. And that reason can be found within the structure of our racial justice movement itself. Our present deployment of resources simply does not let us meet the challenges and opportunities that the green revolution is generating, simply because it is nobody’s job to take them on. Click here to read more