Van Jones, the founder of Green For All who I met last month in Los Angeles has been appointed Special Advisor for Green Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation at the Obama White House.
Working with the Council on Environmental Quality, Jones will help to shape the new Administration’s energy and climate initiatives with a specific interest in improvements and opportunities for vulnerable communities.
Green aspects of Obama’s recovery package will put billions of dollars on the table to repair the economy and restore its environment. Jones’ job, in his words, is to “ensure those dollars travel the long way from the signing ceremony, through various levels of government, to get to communities across America. There are a thousand ways that folks from disadvantaged communities could be left out and left behind”.
I’m not aware of anyone in Europe who explicitly connects green innovation with work for disadvantaged communities to the extent that Jones has done. Proof that the organisation he founded, Green For All, is more inclusive than many environmental groups is that has grown in just 14 months to become a national organization with 32 staff members, a multi-million dollar annual budget, and an online network of 70,000 people.
I was concerned, when I first heard Jones refer to “green collar jobs”, that his idea was retrain an army of unemployed auto workers to retrofit expensive solar panels to poor peoples’ roofs. But the Green For All site lists a lot of urban food and community development activities as well. And as Jones himself cautions,”the green economy cannot be built with solar sweat shops and Wal-Mart wind farms”.
Green For All’s most notable achievement was to secure $500 million from the federal government to support green job training programs across the country. These funds were an important part of President Obama’s Recovery and Reinvestment Act ”To be successful, the green justice forces need to be able to work from the bottom-up and the top-down” Jones states today. “Now we will be much better able to – on both fronts”.
Jones is succeeded as CEO of Green for All by Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins.