I Support "Green Jobs, Not Jails" & Why You Should Read The Green Collar Economy, Too

11/24/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

If you feel like I do, you're probably in the market for some uplifting news. Save the prospect of Obama winning the presidential election, there's very little of it these days. Lo and behold, out of the barrage of grim, gray news I found a hopeful ray of light - green light, that is - in the form of a book.

The Green Collar Economy: How One Solution Can Fix Our Two Biggest Problems is the first book written by activist and political advisor Van Jones. Jones is the founder and president of Green For All, a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress, a board member of 1Sky and the Apollo Alliance, and a graduate of Yale Law School. Now, here's the impressive part...

With The Green Collar Economy Jones has crafted a brilliant and accessible guide to how we, as a nation, can get ourselves out of this disturbing economic and environmental mess. It's pretty amazing, really. What's more amazing is that everything proposed in The Green Collar Economy is possible. Now we have to spread the word and get to work.

The book brings to light a crucial issue, one that not enough people are talking about - or perhaps even thinking about...yet. While many Americans are already engaged in "green" (or slightly greener) living, buying Seventh Generation products and hybrid cars, there's a large contingent of this country that doesn't see a place for itself on that more privileged path to saving the Earth. Americans of more modest means are not only unable to buy hybrid cars, they don't want to. To paraphrase Jones, they're wondering what saving a polar bear has to do with putting food on the table?

But, what if there were a way to save the Earth and strengthen the economy at the same time? Hard to imagine? Consider this:

"If we are going to beat global warming, we are going to have to weatherize millions of buildings, install millions of solar panels, manufacture millions of wind-turbine parts, plant and care for millions of trees, build millions of plug-in hybrid vehicles, and construct thousands of solar farms, wind farms, and wave farms. That will require thousands of contracts and millions of jobs - producing billions of dollars in economic stimulus." (Van Jones, The Green Collar Economy)

There is already a tremendous call for green jobs in this country, and a number of impressive pioneers are already out there fueling the green-collar workforce. Take, for example, Majora Carter. She founded Sustainable South Bronx, whose mission is "Environmental justice solutions through innovative, economically sustainable projects informed by community needs." One project of Sustainable South Bronx is installing Green Roofs, which offer the following benefits:

- Conserve energy by reducing temperature in building/home;

- Prevent stormwater overflow;

- Improve air quality;

- Reduce costs over time due to energy conservation and rooftop longevity;

- Provide space for urban agriculture;

- Create (green) jobs

This is just one example from just one of the many organizations championing the green-collar movement. Yup, I said movement. And I'll say it again, because, as Jones so clearly states, the only way we're going to create this green-collar economy is by turning it into a movement. He also reminds us that, "Any movement that seeks enduring, transformative change must be founded on enduring, transformative principles," and goes on to outline three principles essential to the foundation of the green-collar economy: equal protection, equal opportunity, and reverence for all creation. Those sound pretty good to me.

The most exciting thing about this movement is the potential. The more Americans invested, the more inclusive the scope, the more ideas will be born and the greater our capacity to reverse the bleak prospects for our economy, our planet, and our country. Jones has delivered a powerful call to action, and I say there's no time to waste. So pick up a copy of The Green Collar Economy. And start spreading the good, green news.