Van Jones represents a paradigm shift in the environmental movement.
Throughout the 20th century, the stereotypical environmentalist was a
scruffy backpacker or a pro bono lawyer who fought to protect scenic
rivers, unspoiled forests, and endangered species. But with the advent
of the global warming crisis, Jones has helped usher in a new era,
combining environmentalism with social justice. From Jones'
perspective, the urgent need to change from a fossil-fuel-based economy
to one that thrives on green technology also provides an opportunity to
revitalize our urban centers. The Oakland activist has been a fierce
advocate of social justice issues for years, founding the Ella Baker
Center for Human Rights in the 1990s. And in 2007, he launched Green
for All, recognizing that low-income urban workers should be trained
for renewable energy jobs. Last fall, his book, The Green Collar
Economy, became a bestseller. And then earlier this year, he joined
the Obama administration as the president's "special adviser for green
jobs, enterprise, and innovation." As a Washington, DC, insider and an
adviser to Obama, Jones now has the ability to effect true change. It's
a far cry from being a community organizer in Oakland. But if Jones is
successful, he can do more to help his city, and many others, than he
could ever do from here — while helping fight global warming at
the same time.