Van Jones is founding president of Rebuild the Dream, a pioneering initiative to restore good jobs and economic opportunity. He is the co-founder of three, thriving organizations: the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, Color of Change, and Green For All. Jones is the author ofThe New York Times best seller, The Green Collar Economy, and most recently, the book Rebuild the Dream.
A Yale-educated attorney, Van worked as the green jobs advisor to the Obama White House in 2009. There, he helped run the inter-agency process that oversaw $80 billion in green recovery spending. Time Magazine has named Jones one of the 100 most influential people in the world. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife and two children.
Question: Why are people today more committed to the environment?
Jones: I feel like we had this whole new generation of so-called [millennials] that are purpose driven. They’re community oriented, they’re solution oriented, and, I think, we got to make sure that they have the opportunity to serve and, you know, really services, you know, helping the people, helping the planet.
Question: What is Green For All?
Jones: Green For All is a national organization. We’re working to get what we call green-collar jobs in the solar industry, wind industry, organic food, green construction, building [went] retrofits for disadvantaged communities. So, if you think about what it would take to beat global warming, we are going to have to weatherize millions of buildings, retrofit them so they don’t leak so much energy. That’s good for your energy bill, it’s also good for the climate crisis because that means the power plants can work a little bit less hard and put out less pollution. Well, if you’re going to weatherize millions of buildings, that’s thousands of contracts, it’s millions of jobs, it’s a huge economic stimulus. And we got to put up millions of solar panels. We got to build thousands of wind farms. We got to plant millions of trees and take care of them. We got to bring the food closer to the place so we aren’t trucking food back and forth so much, again, adding to greenhouse gas emissions. Well, all of that is work, a tremendous amount of work, thousands of contracts, millions of jobs. We want to make sure that people who most need work get a chance to do some of this work that must need to be done. We want to reboot, repower, reengineer our energy system, our energy infrastructure, and in so doing, it will create an awful lot of jobs. Put the United States for being the world leader in pollution and move us to be the world leader in solutions. So, well, you can’t get it done with only the environmentalist over here or cool green business guys over here or, you know, senators giving speeches over there, it requires a cross class, cross color, cross sector effort.
Question: How do you use technology to get your message out?
Jones: We’re calling for green jobs now and people who are going to the website, they’re putting in their own events, they’re self-organizing, they’re uploading pictures, uploading videos. We’re promoting good solutions and it’s going to be a good opportunity for us to see the two pathways forward that United States can go from being the world leader in pollution to the world leader in solutions if we focus on green jobs for everybody.