Positive Environment News

Business Books: US Activist Urges Poor To Think Green

Date: 31-Oct-08
Country: US
Author: Nichola Groom

Now, he's got a solution he ripped off straight from the West Coast elite -- urging the nation's toughest neighbourhoods to think green.

In his book, "The Green Collar Economy" (Harper One, $25.99), Jones argues that the predominantly white and wealthy environmental movement and those living in low-income, mainly black and immigrant communities should join forces to attack two of the nation's biggest problems: climate change and poverty.

"Green solutions up until now have been for the 'eco-elite,"' Jones said in an interview. "If you can buy a hybrid car, you're good. If you can put a solar panel on your second house, great. But if you are a regular guy trying to get bus fare for tomorrow, you have no business being interested in this stuff at all. That is what's going to change."

A Yale-trained attorney, Jones got involved in the environmental movement after spending several tough years working on youth anti-violence initiatives.

"I just burned out and I found out about these meditation retreats in Marin County," he said, referring to an affluent enclave across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco. "Over there I started seeing salads and hybrid cars and solar panels and thought -- what if we got Oakland and Marin County together?"

The environment, Jones argues, isn't just about melting ice caps, rainforest destruction and disappearing polar bears -- issues that have been the focus of relatively affluent environmentalists.

Americans who are less affluent are just as concerned about environmental issues, though they are more likely to be dirty air, polluted water, and asthma rates.

If people of more modest means are not included in the environmental movement, Jones warns, they are more likely to be targeted by deep-pocketed polluting industries eager to convince Americans that green policies will mean higher prices on everything from cars to energy.

To tackle climate change and repair the nation's crumbling economy, Jones advocates a government-backed "Green New Deal" to create jobs in the manufacturing sector, which has increasingly shifted work to low-cost producers overseas.

"We built our economy on consumption rather than production, credit rather than creativity," Jones said, placing the blame on leaders from both political parties.

In some low-income communities, green jobs are already cropping up, such as a program in Richmond, California -- a city that boasts one of the state's highest crime rates -- that is training people to install solar panels in the community.

To kickstart more such programs, Jones would like to see a "green" economic stimulus package -- "not a giving people checks to go to Wal-Mart stimulus."

The country should begin with easier, less costly measures such as weatherizing old buildings so they need less energy for heating and cooling. Eventually, however, we can be producing wind turbines, solar panels and hybrid cars ourselves instead of shipping them in from overseas.

"You can put Detroit back to work," Jones said. "Not making SUVs that destroy the world, but wind turbines that could help save the world."

(Reporting by Nichola Groom; Editing by Eddie Evans)

© Thomson Reuters 2008 All rights reserved

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