Overwhelmingly White, the Green Movement is Reaching For The Rainbow.(Reposted from, "The Seattle Times, Published on Monday, March 10, 2008, by Paula Bock.)
"What's a nice black guy like me doing in a movement like this?" Van Jones strides the stage at the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Center, a charismatic lawyer who grew up in rural Tennessee, graduated from Yale Law, and founded the Ella Baker Center for jobs and justice in Oakland, California.
Tall, 39, his pate shaved, he cuts a striking silhouette in a black turtleneck and blazer, but it's his daring message that electrifies the crowd. He's in Seattle to talk about "The Unbearable Whiteness of Green" and how the environmental movement needs to include people of color and the poor if there's any hope of slowing global warming.
All 250 seats quickly fill: Boomers wearing fleece, techies fiddling with gadgets, eco-chic in ethnic garb.
On an ordinary Wednesday night on an ever-warming planet, this is clearly Seattle's coolest spot, and for a predominantly white city, the crowd is remarkably racially diverse.
"The Prius people, the polar-bear crowd are great," Jones says. "We're not mad at them. We like them! At the same time, if the only people who can participate are the kind who can afford to put solar panels on their second home, the green movement is going to be too small to fix the problem. If we want to beat global warming, there's no way to do it without helping a lot of poor people. If you design a solution that does not do that, it's a solution that's too timid."
In Jones' eyes, the first wave of environmentalism, led by Teddy Roosevelt and John Muir, focused on preserving the nation's natural beauty in parks. The second wave, led by Rachel Carson of "Silent Spring," concentrated on federal regulation of toxics. The third wave, he says, is about investment. Initially, that meant individual consumer choice: hybrid cars, organic food, energy-efficient light bulbs. Now, it's evolved into major public spending and community-wide action.
Jones' grand vision? Think New Deal and civil-rights movement combined with a clean-green industrial revolution. The nation needs to train masses of "green-collar" workers to conduct energy audits, weatherize and retrofit buildings, install solar panels and maintain hybrid vehicles, wind farms and bio-fuel factories. The icing? Wiring buildings and installing solar panels can't be outsourced.
"Brother," Jones says, "put down that hand gun and pick up this caulk gun."
(Click on title link to read the entire article.)