Van Jones On Earth Day: The New Environmentalists Wear Hard Hats

Our guest blogger is Van Jones, a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress focusing on green-collar jobs.

Forty years after the first Earth Day, we’re now embarking on Earth Day 2.0, with a different kind of environmentalism. Sleeves rolled up, hard hat, lunch bucket — that’s going to become the image of the environmentalist rather than just our beloved tree huggers.

We’re going to see a tug of war now between the interests that want to keep things in the old way and people that want to do things in a new way. Why is it important for ordinary voices to be heard? Because, frankly, if we had a clean energy economy, we would have more work, more wealth, and better health for regular people. That’s what’s not getting through. There are way more jobs putting up solar panels, building smart batteries, making wind turbines, putting them up, than we will ever have again in America in the coal lines. Period.

We need to be moving toward a technology-based job agenda rather than continuing to pull down on our natural resources that we are now beginning to see dwindle here in America. You’ll have more wealth. There are way more entrepreneurial opportunities for new businesses and new products and new services in the clean energy space. Not many people are going to go out and start an oil company tomorrow. But people can go start a solar company tomorrow.


So Earth Day 2.0 now just means straight-up common sense. There’s more wealth to be had for ordinary people in a new economy. And also from a health point of view, the green agenda is about cleaner air, cleaner water, healthier food. And so the stuff that ordinary people are dealing with — the questions around work, wealth, and health — we have much better answers, those of us who are champions for the green economy, than the people who are the champions of the dirty energy economy.

Listen to the podcast with Van Jones.