You don’t have to be a psychic to see EJ in our future

In my blog introduction, I explained the origins of my captivation with the EJ movement: the marriage of my love of nature with my love of people; a movement that started from the grassroots; the best choice we have to move forward and deal with our environmental and economic crises.

Today we’re going to look at the national movement of EJ in recent years, particularly at Green for All and its founder, Van Jones. As I look ahead to life after college and what I want to do with my education and passions, my research on Green for All really makes me think that I could spend my life working for an organization like this. They’re at the forefront of environmental justice, advocating for the poor by giving exploited communities a voice.

 Van Jones

Anthony Kapel “Van” Jones is an environmental and civil rights activist, attorney, and 2009 environmental advisor to the Obama White House. So this guy knows what he’s talking about when he says stuff like, “We are entering an era during which our very survival will demand invention and innovation on a scale never before seen in the history of human civilization. Only the business community has the requisite skills, experience, and capital to meet that need.” He shifted his focus in social justice specifically to the environment once he understood the potential for green jobs to save both our environment and the economy.


Green jobs

According to the United Nations Environment Program, a green or green-collar job is defined as “work in agricultural, manufacturing, research and development, administrative, and service activities that contribute(s) substantially to preserving or restoring environmental quality.” Before Green for All, Van Jones advocated clean-energy, energy-efficient work in the San Francisco Bay Area and statewide throughout California. Since then, green jobs have garnered national attention for their holistic approach to complex problems, namely environmental degradation and unemployment. In 2007 a Green Jobs Act was passed, allocating $125 million to green job training programs. Similarly, in August 2009, the Obama administration established a national green job training program called Pathways out of Poverty, aimed towards individuals living below or near poverty level to provide them with skills needed to enter the green job market.

Green for All

In response to his shift in focus to environmentalism, Van Jones founded Green for All, a national NGO dedicated to “building an inclusive green economy strong enough to lift people out of poverty.” The organization was officially launched in September 2007 at the Clinton Global Intitiative. Green for All gave EJ its first national presence, as the movement has its history in the local community and stirs up grassroots movements in response to injustices.

From what I can tell, Green for All successfully addresses a multitude of issues that disproportionately affect the underserved poor. “We must insist that the coming ‘green wave’ lift all boats,” Jones says. “Those low income communities that were locked out of the pollution-based economy must be locked into the clean and green economy.” Its approach mainly focuses on creating a clean energy economy in America, making us energy independent and thus improving security, reducing pollution, benefiting our health and creating millions of jobs. More than that, Green for All explains, “Building a clean energy economy is a chance to reinvigorate and reinvest in the best part of the American dream: the idea that everyone gets a chance to succeed.

The principles of Van Jones and Green for All reminded me of the principles of the “triple bottom line” of social justice: people, planet and profit. The triple bottom line reflects a totally new mindset and foreign way of evaluating success in the business world by considering the human and environmental costs at play. This is the same mindset (perhaps, a social conscience) that nudges people to boycott Wal-Mart, buy fair trade coffee and reuse a ceramic mug at Starbucks. A mindset that cares about other people is not the cheapest or most convenient way to live, but then again our ability to care about others is what makes us human.

Green for All has a cool blog that you should check out here, and I’ll be following it on my own throughout the semester. Pressing headlines from the blog read “Want Jobs? Fix America’s Water Crisis” and “Corporations are poisoning our kids. Take Action Now!”

The current CEO of Green for All, Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins, explains the relationship between green jobs and economic improvement in her summer blog post, Our Big Chance to Get America on its Feet: “If we want to stay competitive in the global marketplace—and keep our communities healthy and prosperous—we need to fix our infrastructure. We need to make it modern, efficient, and sustainable. And to do that, we’ll need workers. Lots of them.”

With Green for All leading the way, EJ and a green-collar economy are proving to be the sustainable future. It provides a multifaceted solution to an issue not only of environmental preservation but of justice and basic civil rights as well. It was so nice to see how much hope there is throughout the movement, that not everyone has given up; there are still experts out there who are coming up with innovative, brand-new perspectives and technology that will save the planet.

Lastly, Van Jones turns 44 in two days. Happy birthday, friend! Here’s to the budding of a green-collar economy by the time 45 rolls around.

Isn’t this a weird cake? 

Signing out,


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