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Friday August 23rd 2019

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That's what she said

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Finish This Book


A review of Van Jones’ “The Green Collar Economy: How One Solution Can Fix Our Two Biggest Problems

I thought I would just skim this book.  I thought I would just hit the high points, enough to write a credible review and throw a few insightful comments Van’s way should I actually run into him at the upcoming PLAN-Boulder County Annual Dinner, where he is the keynote speaker.

Instead, I find myself studying this book.  I found the foreword by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. riveting – seriously, I’m not just saying that to get some cosmic karmic points for actually reading a foreword at all.  I’m saying it because Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. – or at the very least, the person who wrote things that got approved by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. – says things like

Carbon dependence has eroded our economic power, destroyed our moral authority, diminished our international influence and prestige, endangered our national security, and damaged our health and landscapes.  It is subverting everything we value.

D-ang, if that’s not getting to the heart of the matter, I don’t know what is.  As I underlined every other paragraph, I wanted to learn more.

The book starts with a “reality check” that quantifies where we are today with regard to the impact of decades of shortsighted economic and environmental policies.  And I quote, “Democrats and Republicans together assured the American public that we could grow our economy based on: (1) consumption rather than production, (2) credit rather than thrift, and (3) ecological destruction rather than ecological restoration.” The opening makes a strong economic case for the grim fact that when energy costs go up, all prices tend to rise.

Last Sunday’s New York Times provided ample evidence that this fundamental law of supply and demand is indeed playing itself out.  In an article titled, “Oil Flows, but High Prices Jangle Nerves,” the author finally gets around to mentioning at the end of the article  that, “… over the last two years, there is a much closer connection between food and energy pricesPart of the reason is biofuels, but oil is also vital for fertilizers, transportation and agricultural equipment, especially in the developing world, where demand is increasing.” He highlights the assertion that, “A region’s turmoil could also increase the cost of food,” in reference to the fact that 90 percent of growth in oil production will have to be met by the Middle East and North Africa. Do we really want to be a part of a system that trades short term economic gain for the next generation’s ecological, personal and financial health?

Chapters One and Two offer a sobering primer on the history of environmentalism in the US and the blind spot that it held for the impact of some environmental advocacy on those less socially or racially advantaged. It made me think about my own elitist perspective on environmental action.

I can’t wait to finish this book.  I love the practical, articulate, and quantifiable benefits it offers for the financial, social and health benefits that spring from economic and environmental conservation.  I’m already thinking about the Action Items it suggests at its conclusion.

Van Jones’ unique take on our failure, as environmentalists, to face the economic truth of the interdependence between environmental and social well-fare is compelling me to read on.  I hope that the burning curiosity that makes me want to finish this book compels to you finish this book, too, and that we all meet back here to discuss the ending…

Van Jones, author of “The Green Collar Economy” is the keynote speaker at this year’s  PLAN-Boulder County Annual Dinner coming up on Wednesday, March 2nd.  For reservations and tickets, please visit

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