Van Jones in Newsweek and on Glenn Beck

Van-jones-photo

Even Van Jones recognizes there’s no unified definition of a green job.

And as a senior advisor to the White House Council on Environmental Quality and founder and former executive director at Green for All, a national organization working to build an inclusive economy, Jones is about as definitive a source as you can find.

That’s why those tracking new developments in green jobs should check out Daniel Stone’s interview with Jones in this week’s Newsweek. Despite the lack of a consensus definition of what constitutes a green job, $60 billion of the recovery package going to fund them.

As Jones observes, many of these opportunities may not immediately look green—8,000 manufactured parts go into a wind turbine, as much steel as 26 cars. Also noteworthy is his answer to a question about those who don’t think you can save the economy and the earth at the same time: A cough. “That’s clearly a false choice. That’s like saying, ‘Who do you love more, your kids or your grandkids?’”

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Jones also has made some headlines recently for what he hasn’t said—but what Glenn Beck, the Fox pundit most recently known for accusing the President of being a racist, said about him. For those who have followed Jones’ career, the accusations are so spurious that any self-respecting network would be embarrassed for itself, but this is, after all, Fox News. Colorofchange.org is calling for advertisers to withdraw from the show over the race-baiting comments about the President. So far, more than 45 have done so.

In fact, those who have read Jones’ excellent book, The Green Collar Economy, will realize the degree to which Jones is working for a cleaner, greener, and inclusive economy—the very things it would seem Glenn Beck opposes.

*** UPDATE 9/6/09***

Many readers have written in to contest my claim that Glenn Beck’s claims were spurious. In fact, as many have claimed, Van Jones held radical beliefs earlier in his career and was a member of the group STORM, which had sympathies with left-wing and communist philosophies, and he stated in a speech that “white polluters and the white environmentalists are essentially steering poison into the people of color communities.” (Some may object to how Van Jones phrased this statement, but it’s worth pointing out that it is validated by a recent study by the University of Massachusetts and University of Southern California.)

In addition, there is a video circulating on the Web in which Van Jones likens former President George W. Bush oil policy to a crackhead with an addiction, and he signed a petition in 2004 calling for an investigation into the Bush administration’s knowledge of an impending attack in 2001–which he has indicated he did not read carefully, and apologized for this week.

As a result of this controversy, Van Jones resigned early this morning from his post with the White House Council on Environmental Quality, citing a desire not to be a distraction during the historic debate over health care reform.

Many Republicans had called on him to resign; Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) said in a statement, “His extremist views and coarse rhetoric have no place in this administration or the public debate.

No doubt many of the commentators to my earlier post will be pleased.

This writer, however, is disappointed. Jones’ has been working toward a solution to both social equity and climate change. There is no vision for solving these problems on the right, and often an unwillingness to  acknowledge them. The fact is, going green will require radically new thinking. We won’t get there by doing things the old ways. Only a massive, painful reinvention will avert an ecological catastrophe. If you read Van Jones, you’ll see how his radical early thinking has informed his eco-capitalist leadership on the green economy. His ideas are profoundly humanistic. He advocates for a more inclusive, more democratic way of doing things. I’m not sure we can say the same for Glenn Beck.

So let’s celebrate Jones’ brief tenure with the Obama Administration with an excerpt from The Green Collar Economy:

The best answer to our ecological crisis also responds to our socioeconomic crisis. The surest path to safe streets and peaceful communities is not more police and prisons, but ecologically sound economic development. And that same path can lead us to a new, green economy–one with the power to life people out of poverty while respecting and repairing the environment.

Frank Marquardt is the author of The Solar Job Guide.


Frank Marquardt is the author of The Solar Job Guide and Green Careers, and a contributor to How Green Is Your City? He has contributed to 100s of career guides over the past 10 years. Frank is also director of content strategy at Native Instinct, an interactive agency.