Sunday, September 6, 2009

In Support of Van Jones

(NOTE: While searching for information other than my own experience, I found Greening The Ghetto by Elizabeth Kolbert in the New Yorker . Italicized text below is from this article.)

In 2007 I had the opportunity to hear Van Jones speak at Co-op America (now Green America) Green Business Conference in Chicago. He spoke of his goal of bringing environmental principles to the rescue of urban communities – have you ever noticed how dirty, polluting industries are often located in the “poor” (i.e. black, Hispanic & immigrant) parts of cities? That “job training” programs train young people for these same toxic and polluting industries (which are also being out-sourced in record numbers)?

I also appreciated when he pointed out that the green movement will not succeed if it is only affluent white people (98% of the room was white). If we don’t bring people of color along with us, as equals, the green movement is doomed. As green entrepreneurs we had a responsibility and an opportunity to really make a difference.

He spoke of his time at Yale, Jones saw a lot of things that disturbed him. One was the video of the Rodney King beating, which took place during his second semester. Another was crime. “I was seeing kids at Yale do drugs and talk about it openly, and have nothing happen to them or, if anything, get sent to rehab,” he said. “And then I was seeing kids three blocks away, in the housing projects, doing the same drugs, in smaller amounts, go to prison.”

I was absolutely mesmerized. Articulate, insightful, charismatic and absolutely right on, I was on my feet at the end of his talk.

Fox News has suddenly discovered Van Jones, and is determined to bring him down. He is not saying what Fox News wants to hear. He is the antithesis of everything Fox stands for. He is an educated Black man, who speaks his mind, intelligently. He is working to bring all of us together, to flatten inequities, to change the planet. I am really disheartened by all of the hate speech surrounding him now, and the ecstatic crowing now that he has resigned from his White House appointment. I resent that racist Fox News and their followers lack the clarity and insight to see beyond their fears.

Yes Magazine, in Stand with Van Jones, a Real Patriot, has this to say:
"Van Jones has resigned, and the Obama administration has accepted his resignation. It's an extraordinary moment. Van was not accused of breaking the law, flouting the Constitution of the United States, accepting bribes, condoning torture or other violations of international law, or going on tax-payer funded junkets to conduct adulterous affairs. No, Van was brought down for a couple of things he later regretted saying over the course of an otherwise remarkable career.

Were the attacks really about the Color of Change petition to get advertisers to stop sponsoring Glenn Beck's program on Fox? Was it a case of taking down a rising star who had the audacity to lead while black? Or was it the opening round of the battle to come over clean energy/climate legislation? In any case, it's a sad day for America and for the Obama administration."

Since when is being a revolutionary in America a BAD thing? Seems to me our country was founded by revolutionaries...

The modern environmental movement is sometimes said to have begun in the eighteen-nineties, when John Muir founded the Sierra Club, and sometimes in the nineteen-sixties, when Rachel Carson published “Silent Spring.” Muir and Carson saw themselves fighting narrow, private interests on behalf of the public in the broadest possible sense—all people, including those who had not been born. But stop by a meeting of any of the major environmental groups, and you will see that the broad American public has yet to join up. Chances are that most of the attendees will be white, and the few who aren’t will be affluent and middle-aged. A 2006 study commissioned by Earthjustice, a nonprofit environmental-law group, found that the “ecological base”—defined as Americans who report the environment as being central to their concerns—is “nearly ninety percent white, mostly college-educated, higher-income, and over thirty-five.”

“Your goal has to be to get the greenest solutions to the poorest people,” Jones told me. “That’s the only goal that’s morally compelling enough to generate enough energy to pull this transition off. The challenge is making this an everybody movement, so your main icons are Joe Six-Pack—Joe the Plumber—becoming Joe the Solar Guy, or that kid on the street corner putting down his handgun, picking up a caulk gun.”

“I think Van Jones is a big part of the future of environmentalism,” Gus Speth, the dean of Yale’s School of Forestry and Environmental Studies and a co-founder of the Natural Resources Defense Council, told me. “He, more than anyone else, is bringing together a concern about the environment and a concern about social justice. And, if I had just one thing to say, it is that we in the environmental movement cannot fail Van Jones.”

But don’t take my word for it. Make your own decision.

The Re:Visionary Project – Van Jones from Urban ReVision on Vimeo

1 comment:

  1. This resignation - and how and why it came about - is so heart wrenching to me. Van Jones was the best green hope, imo, in the administration. He is articulate, compelling and basically brought down by a racist. And somehow we, the American people, let that happen. For me, though, it just motivates me to pay more attention, to start working for the climate change bill. We cannot let Fox News prevent meaningful change. Thanks for the post.


Now it's your turn - what do YOU think?