The words green and economy drew me to Van Jones book, The Green Collar Economy: How One Solution Can Fix Our Two Biggest Problems. The book addresses two monumental issues facing our country—global warming and unemployment. The author suggests that green-collar jobs can go a long way towards solving both problems. It’s a compelling and thought provoking book.
The first chapter begins with a story of Hurricane Katrina as an illustration of how the poor and people of color are often the ones living on the front lines of the environmental and economic crisis. Other stories throughout the book drive this point home.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. The Green Collar Economy outlines a strategy for tackling environmental and social justice issues together. A few ideas and solutions from the book are recapped below:
The author defines a green-collar job as, “a family-supporting, career-track job that directly contributes to preserving or enhancing environmental quality”.
- Weatherizing homes and buildings reduces energy use and saves money.
- Building, maintaining, and managing solar, wind, and wave farms grows the renewable energy industry, reduces demand for fossil fuels, and provides jobs.
- Manufacturing green products that are good for the environment help people too.
Equipment and Tools
The book states that “space-age” equipment and tools are not needed for many green-collar jobs. For instance, ladders, wrenches, hammers, tool belts, and work boots are used by solar-panel installers every day. Caulk guns for weatherizing and clipboards for energy audits are important and easy to use tools.
Business, Non-Profits, and Government
Business, non-profits, and the government all have roles to play in creating a green-collar economy.
- Providing access to education and training.
- Encouraging diversity and a broader range of ideas by including more working-class people, people of color, religious groups, and nontraditional constituencies.
- Implementing policies and funding to drive renewable energy and other green industries and stimulate job creation.
The Bottom Line
The Green Collar Economy looks at the environment and economy from a different perspective than many “green” business / economy books I’ve read. The book makes it real. Along with people laid off from their jobs, are veterans returning to civilian life, people returning home from prison, and underemployed people looking for a chance to learn useful skills and make a living.
I would recommend this book to anyone interested in environmental and social justice. The author is passionate about the subject and actively works towards achieving his vision. The following excerpt sums it up.
“Let us all say together: We want to build a green economy strong enough to lift people out of poverty and into great careers for America’s children. We want this ‘green wave’ to lift all boats. This country can save the polar bears and poor kids too.”
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