I'm not a big Thomas Friedman fan, but his column today is interesting. It's about Van Jones, Yale law graduate and head of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights in Oakland, California, which helps kids avoid jail and secure jobs, trying to bring America's underclass into the green movement.
“We need a different on-ramp” for people from disadvantaged communities, says Mr. Jones. “The leaders of the climate establishment came in through one door and now they want to squeeze everyone through that same door. It’s not going to work. If we want to have a broad-based environmental movement, we need more entry points.”
...One thing spurring him in this project, he explained, was the way that the big oil companies bought ads in black-owned newspapers in California in 2006 showing an African-American woman filling her gas tank with a horrified look at the pump price. The ads...tried to scare African-Americans into thinking that the tax on the companies would be passed on at the pump....Using his little center in Oakland, Mr. Jones has been on a crusade to help underprivileged African-Americans and other disadvantaged communities understand why they would be the biggest beneficiaries of a greener America. It’s about jobs. The more government requires buildings to be more energy efficient, the more work there will be retrofitting buildings all across America with solar panels, insulation and other weatherizing materials. Those are manual-labor jobs that can’t be outsourced.
...“You can’t take a building you want to weatherize, put it on a ship to China and then have them do it and send it back,” said Mr. Jones. “So we are going to have to put people to work in this country — weatherizing millions of buildings, putting up solar panels, constructing wind farms. Those green-collar jobs can provide a pathway out of poverty for someone who has not gone to college.”
Let’s tell our disaffected youth: “You can make more money if you put down that handgun and pick up a caulk gun.”
...The blue-collar, stepping-stone, manufacturing jobs are leaving. And they’re not being replaced by anything. So you have this whole generation of young blacks who are basically in economic free fall.” Green-collar retrofitting jobs are a great way to catch them.