Creating a Green Collar Work Force: Include Our Inmates

The Green Collar Economy is activist and political advisor Van Jones' new book. Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. wrote the forward

The premise: We can solve both our economic crises and our environmental problems with one solution: creation of green collar jobs, a green collar work force and a green economy.

Jones says we cannot drill and burn our way out of our energy and environmental problems. Here's what we can do to solve the crisis, and at the same time, address our declining economy, poverty and inequality. [More...]

In a nutshell, create a green collar work force.

"Give the work that most needs to be done to people who most need the work."

Put people to work in green jobs. Examples: installing solar panels, weatherizing buildings, manufacturing wind turbine parts, build plug-in hybrid vehicles, construct solar farms, wind farms and wave farms.

This will create thousands of contracts and millions of jobs, producing billions of dollars in economic stimulus.

"The green collar work force would be the "2.0 version" of the blue collar work force, upgraded to meet today's environmental challenges.

Green collar jobs are not high-tech and futuristic....Most are middle-skill jobs...that require more education than high school but less than a four year degree. These jobs are within reach for lower-skilled and low-income workers, as long as they have access to effective training programs. These jobs are the first step on a pathway to economic self-sufficiency.

Another advantage: These jobs are not readily outsourced.

Why I like this approach: It's also about "reclaiming thrown away lives....about gathering up people -- at risk youth, veterans coming home from war, people living in poverty" -- and those released from prison-- and giving them a second chance while solving our most important problems.

Jones cites our high incarceration statistics and the disproportionate numbers of African Americans who are incarcerated. His plan calls for honoring equal opportunity for all.

To solve our global problems, we need to engage and unleash the genius of all people, at all levels of society. Some of the minds that can solve our toughest problems are undoubtedly trapped behind prison bars, stuck behind desks in schools without decent books or isolated in rural communities. A green economy that is designed to pull them in -- as skilled laborers, innovators, inventors, and owners -- will be more dynamic, more robust, and better able to save the earth.

...equal protection and equal opportunity go hand in had. Especially for the vulnerable, we have a duty to do two things: we must minimize their pain and maximize our gain. We are one human family. So on a good day, we should not leave anyone out. And on a bad day, we should not leave anyone behind.

The role for Government:

helping to finance money-saving weatherization and solarization for low income homes, reinvesting in science and math programs in public schools, supporting vocational and technical training in the green trades, and shifting money from the failed incarceration industry to smarter, cheaper programs that get better results by focusing on emotional healing, economic opportunity, and rehabilitation.

Jones calls for the creation of a new coalition to create his "Green New Deal" which he calls the "Green Growth Alliance." The five main partners would be Labor, social justice activists, environmentalists, students and faith organizations. These partners, Jones says, would ally themselves with "green business" and "change the face of politics in this country."

Jones views faith as essential to the movement. It's about opposing theocracy but not theology; denouncing bias in the Christian church while not branding all Christians as bigots; and separating fundamentalism from faith.

He talks about the need to engage people of color in the movement and the need for slogans. Perhaps the best is "Green Jobs, Not Jails."

It speaks to the full range of urban concerns, addressing simultaneously issues of economic justice, criminal justice and environmental justice....My hope is that it will someday be adopted and embraced by the entire green movement as the central goal guiding our efforts.

Jones says our new President must take a leadership role in this. One suggestion: Creation of a Civic Justice Corps to provide the huge numbers of people being released from prison with a path to living wage green jobs and careers."

Similar programs are already underway in some cities. They need to be expanded.

For more on Jones' unique and inspiring proposals, get a copy of The Green Collar Economy. His outlook is positive, a great relief from the doom and gloom take on economic and environmental news we see everywhere else. Also check out his organization, Green For All.

Finally, two suggestions I'd make: Giving inmates time off their sentences if they complete green jobs training while in prison and creating incentive programs to encourage green employers to hire former offenders.

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  • Display: Sort:
    Thanks for Informing Us (5.00 / 0) (#1)
    by BackFromOhio on Sat Oct 11, 2008 at 04:56:56 PM EST
    about this book.  Seems like a very worthy read.

    Home Wind Turbines, Now (2.00 / 1) (#5)
    by Home Wind Turbine on Sun Oct 12, 2008 at 10:41:47 PM EST
    I am a designer, developer, and fabricator of small wind turbines and energy products that my company sells online. We have a growing dealer network of individuals who use my products. Customers have found the kits to be easy to deploy and understand. Many customers have found it easy to become customer/dealers. They are able to do this with no further investment and they see how easy people are to get interested.

    I am most excited about small wind energy myself and would like to see people saving money, making power with home wind turbines like I do. I am selling home wind turbine kits to customers nationwide. I have projects in design, fabrication, marketing, and distribution of wind turbines for rural, residential, and comminity wind projects. My business is WindEnergy7.com, we sell Home Wind Turbine Kits

    Green Propaganda (none / 0) (#2)
    by koshembos on Sat Oct 11, 2008 at 05:19:43 PM EST
    We are all the way for green economy. However, the assumption that we can achieve it on Monday is wrong. There are technologies that are well developed, e.g. Solar energy creation in residential houses. This technology, however, is still quite expensive and I do see the money for it coming soon. (To cover my roof with solar singles the estimate is about $20,000; I'll do it for $5000.) Other such technologies are either not yet ripe or still very expensive.

    As a long tern plan, it will work, but I doubt it will affect us in the next 2-3 years.

    Unfortunately, I just don't see it (none / 0) (#3)
    by BrianJ on Sat Oct 11, 2008 at 05:44:50 PM EST
    Or any other major changes happening now-  where's the money going to come from?  We're running trillion-dollar deficits and there's probably not a major bank in the country that is truly solvent.

    Like the major candidates' platforms, this book is in the realm of alternate history.


    America's ability to find solutions (none / 0) (#4)
    by thereyougo on Sun Oct 12, 2008 at 03:01:06 PM EST
    has never been the problem in getting the nation out of the grip of oil.

    It was the policies from DC that done it.

    I have absolutely no doubt we can wean ourselves out of this rut that oil brings if the greedy bastids in DC will help us. But we the People have got to lead and leave them behind.

    Some of them are listening, and the lobbyists will try to pull us back, but we are now watching the ballot box for the votes that bring the government back to the People.

    I have faith still.

    Re:economic recovery (none / 0) (#6)
    by shareasus on Mon Feb 23, 2009 at 03:55:19 AM EST
    Barack Obama started on the green collar job band-wagon running up to the US elections and talking about the economic recovery package this week said "Because of what we did, companies - large and small - that produce renewable energy can now apply for loan guarantees and tax credits and find ways to grow, instead of laying people off; and families can lower their energy bills by weatherizing their homes."

    Career Blogger

    Kind for Information (none / 0) (#7)
    by indianholiday on Thu Mar 05, 2009 at 03:18:33 AM EST

    Friends, its really nice job Keep it up.

    Sumit Singh
    Varanasi Hotels