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A Green Economy

By investing in green construction and retrofits in particular we can create hundreds of thousands of Jobs.


By Van Jones

VAN JONES, recently named a special adviser to the Obama administration on green jobs, is founding president of Green For All and a senior fellow with the Center for American Progress. He is also The New York Times Bestselling author of The Green Collar Economy: How One Solution Can Solve Our Two Biggest Problems (Harper One, 2008), which is endorsed by Nancy Pelosi, Tom Daschle, and Al Gore.

Green For All is a U.S. organization that promotes green-collar jobs and opportunities for the disadvantaged. Its mission is to build an inclusive, green economy—strong enough to resolve the ecological crisis and lift millions of people out of poverty.

A 1993 Yale Law graduate, Jones is a tireless advocate, committed to creating “green pathways out of poverty” and greatly expanding the coalition fighting global warming.

When greensource asked me to write an opinion piece, I tried to think of a message tailored to the green-building community who read this magazine. I came up with a few, but they all boiled down to one basic sentiment: THANK YOU.

Van Jones
Photo © Richard Hume / Experience Life Magazine
Van Jones, special adviser to the Obama administration on green jobs
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The green-building community is at the cutting edge of an economic transformation that is going to save the world and humanity from our biggest mistakes. For a species that prides itself on adapting our environment to suit our needs, we have done a remarkable job of turning our planet against us these past two centuries. The green-building trades, along with other innovators and entrepreneurs, are changing that.

Our planet is in peril. The main culprit: greenhouse-gas emissions that are turning the earth into an oven. And a lot of that is on us. America emits more greenhouse gasses than any other country. Our biggest offender is our building stock. Our buildings account for more of our greenhouse-gas emissions—a whopping 40 percent—than anything else, including transportation.

Cue the green-building community coming to the rescue. By making our buildings greener, more energy efficient, better suited to our needs and the planet’s, we can dramatically reduce our energy consumption and our greenhouse-gas emissions. It’s the biggest thing we can do right now to stop global warming.

It is also one of the biggest things we can do to get our economy on track. By investing in green construction—retrofits in particular— we can create hundreds of thousands of jobs, reduce utility bills for everyday Americans, and start building a green foundation for our economy. All this on top of making major strides in the fight against climate change.

These green-collar jobs are the key to pulling our economy out of its current tailspin. It has become increasingly clear that we cannot run our economy on credit and consumption—rather than genuine production. We need to stop borrowing and start building again. Emerging green industries like green construction allow us to do just that.

These industries can create living-wage, career-track jobs. And they can make these jobs available to everyday people who found opportunity hard to come by in the old, pollution-based economy. The green revolution we keep hearing about won’t just restore balance to the environment. It will also bring some balance to an economy that has seen the divide between rich and poor grow ever wider and more treacherous—and the safety net at the bottom of that chasm all but disappear.

For two years, I have been calling for major federal investment in job training and job creation for green construction, focusing on a massive program to retrofit America’s buildings. As I write this, the Senate is debating President Obama’s recovery package, which would kick-start such investment with provisions like $500 million for the Green Jobs Act.

As dire as the circumstances are, I join millions of Americans in feeling hopeful about tomorrow. And reading about what GreenSource readers are doing every day only feeds that hope. You are not just building structures. You are building a better, greener future for all of us. Thank you.

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This article appeared in the March 2009 print issue of GreenSource Magazine.

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