URB publisher, Raymond Roker, decided out of sheer ambition and a dose of chutzpah, to do a post every day (well, almost) between now and the election and tie it to a letter of the alphabet. All the posts–in order, from A to Z–will be election and politics oriented.
G is for Green for All (Eco living for the rest of us)
My magazine‘s senior editor Brandon hasn’t had a car since he moved to Los Angeles five years ago. He takes the bus. My boy Yosi (of Obama/Hope campaign fame) is a daily bike commuter from his home near Downtown to an office in Hollywood. My half sister Natalie lives in Eugene, Oregon, and is pretty green in a typical Pacific Northwest fashion. But while all of this is maybe inspiring and commendable, in our dramatically more eco-aware society, it doesn’t usually raise an eyebrow.
But rapper Ludacris going green? Or Mexican Americans in South Central, LA planting a organic gardens or rejuvenating the ecology of the LA River? What about a black Harlem resident installing solar panels on her brownstone or shopping only from a local organic grocer? This kind of activity piques interest and gets special attention–or none at all. The website and social movement Green for All is on a mission to make these scenarios as common as Brandon, Yosi and Natalie’s daily activities are.
The activist behind Green for All is Van Jones, a rising star in the discussion of a “green economy.” For me, Jones is a new kind of change agent. Quite simply, I’ve just never seen many brown faces mouthing words like “sustainability” and “climate change” It’s inspiring for me, having lived with an understanding of the environment and our impact on it, but having also been disappointed in how behind the curve most non-whites were in the discussion. And, maybe worse, how we often aren’t even missed. Flip open any magazine, or tune into a cable special, and it’s never somebody in a hoodie and dark skin speaking about saving the planet. You don’t get points in the street for going solar or electric. TI isn’t showing up at the BET Awards in a Prius. Vanity Fair‘s 2007 annual “Green Issue” had virtually no brown faces–and no Van Jones (Like I’ve said, Conde Nast has issues with color).
Of course, this is just the media’s selective point of view–nothing new here. Years ago, I’d see flicks of beautiful NY graffiti depicting environmental messages and anti-nuclear pleas on the sides of trains. These kids, inner city survivors mostly, had to believe there was a smarter way to manage the environment than what they inherited in their burned out neighborhoods. But somewhere along the evolution of a green awakening in this country, those kids weren’t called upon or encouraged to stand up and take part. Jones’ aim–along with a growing legion of contemporaries–is to change that dramatically, bringing what’s long been the luxury of being green into the ‘hood and well beyond.
But Jones clearly doesn’t discriminate. Expanding his message and audience, his new book, The Green Collar Economy: How One Solution Can Fix Our Two Biggest Problems, is a national referendum on building a vibrant and essential green economy in America. Much like NY Times columnist Thomas Friedman’s Hot, Flat and Crowded, the message is that the U.S. has a unique opportunity to create both jobs and wealth through ecologically sound industries and innovation. I love Friedman and what he has to say, but I can’t help but be more enthusiastic about Jones’ book. With it, the green message can start reaching a more diverse audience with mainstream clout and credibility.
Along with an Obama victory (!) in Nov, folks like Jones will help represent a new, more progressive face for a browning America. One that isn’t just about crowded neighborhoods, crime, pollution and poverty. My hope would be to see open-minded citizens of all stripes able to tap into and learn from a wider field of green advocates. Van Jones and Green for All have been a big step towards that manifestation.