There is a battle raging for the definition of “green.” For years the stereotype meant tree-hugging polar-bear lovers and coffee-sipping Prius drivers. But public relations campaigns launched across the country have redefined “green” as anyone who has changed their light bulbs. We should all hope that the very different vision of California-based activist Van Jones, put forward in The Green Collar Economy, wins this war.
As Jones sees it, the two greatest challenges of the 21st century are the destruction of the environment and the increasing economic disparity in our country. Jones, founder of Green For All, an organization that promotes green-collar jobs and opportunities for the disadvantaged, believes we can look for solutions to both these crises in the green-collar economy.
The book begins with a stark view of these two impending dangers and what they mean for our country and world. Jones seems to take joy in slaughtering the sacred cows of the “eco-elite” and of economic activists. While he agrees that we should care about melting ice caps, dwindling numbers of polar bears, and disappearing rainforests, he acknowledges that these are concerns we can have only if our basic needs are met. If rent is due and you lose your job at the local factory because of pricey new environmental regulations, your concern for the polar bears, justifiably, isn’t high.