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Best Environmentalist 

Van Jones

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.

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