Van Jones and the Vision for a New Urban Environmentalism

This morning we’re featuring a post from Streetsblog Network member Where,
an always thought-provoking international blog that "brings together
urbanists from all walks of life living in cities around the world to
poke, prod, and otherwise examine everything urban in an effort to
maintain a global conversation about this increasingly vital subject
matter."

Today Where is looking at Van Jones, Obama’s green jobs adviser. Jones is a longtime activist and author, most recently, of The Green Collar Economy: How One Solution Can Fix Our Two Biggest Problems.
As Where says, Jones advocates the development of green infrastructure
as a solution to both urban poverty and global warming:

greencollar_1203.jpgPhoto of Van Jones via Green for All.

In
today’s political climate of economic crisis and recovery, this concept
makes environmental concern more politically viable. It has rallied
unions, corporations, politicians, and local activists behind
alternative energy as an agent for job creation.

Still, there
is skepticism about the merits of combined solutions to global warming
and poverty. Some see a lack of environmental concern among less
affluent communities as a major impediment. Others point out that
environmental conservation places disproportionate strain on people
living in poverty. Some policy experts see the two problems as too
distinct to be addressed with a joint solution. Jones responds by
explaining the benefits of a holistic approach that encourages combined
efforts. He considers poverty alleviation without environmental
consideration a short-term fix, resulting in greater problems down the
road. He adds that people living in poverty will support environmental
causes that address their most pressing needs.

In another interview, Jones critiques the politically expedient allocation of infrastructure dollars:

Well,
the people who were global warming deniers, once they came around to
believing in global warming, then they said “we’re still for Drill Baby
Drill.” And then when that was no longer the
conversation, they became the “we’re for shovel-ready” voices — as
opposed to people-ready or planet-ready. So now they want the stimulus
to go to “shovel-ready” projects. What are “shovel ready” projects?
They’re sprawl-ready projects. Every governor’s got a load of highways
to nowhere that they can throw money, contractors, and unions at, and
get a lot of political payoff in the short term. But then we’re
actually feeding what we’re fighting, if our aim is an
energy-independent, climate-smart country. “Shovel ready” gets pitted
against green jobs because green jobs will have a little longer
turnaround, in terms of training people, getting regulations in place,
making sure companies are ready to go.

Elsewhere around the network, Baltimore Spokes
argues that motorists will never understand a biker’s point of view
unless they ride the roads on two wheels themselves — and that doing
so for at least 100 hours should be a requirement for a driver’s
license.

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