Like the afterschool programs of yesteryear, green jobs guru Van Jones announced at a White House news conference today that Americans should anticipate “A very special Earth Day; an Earth Day for everybody.”
While Earth Days of the past have always been open to everyone, some say the low-income and impoverished communities of our country have been excluded from the celebration and the solutions.
Jones announced that President Barack Obama’s “Everybody Earth Day Agenda” is the beginning of a new energy policy for the U.S. that is more egalitarian. To bring that point home, on Earth Day, Obama will visit a closed-down Maytag factory in Newton, Iowa that is now home to a wind turbine factory which brought 140 new green collar jobs back to the town. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Obama’s plan to jumpstart the economy, allocated $16.8 billion to the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy to, among other things, repurpose manufacturing factories like this one across the country.
“You can fight pollution and poverty at the same time,” says Jones, the special adviser for green jobs, enterprise, and innovation for the Council on Environmental Quality.
From his perspective, investing in a green workforce is a cure all. For example, the money paid to a green worker for home weatherization will cut a homeowners energy bill, cut air pollution, cut asthma, cut global warming emissions, and increase the value of that home all while reducing unemployment.
“Those dollars that are spent on weatherization and energy efficiency are the hardest working dollars in the history of American politics. Those dollars work overtime, triple time, and quadruple time,” Jones says.
He also announced that the federal government is partnering with city and state governments to put people to work in the places that need it most. In addition, Hilda Solis, secretary of the interior, will be paying close attention to make sure that green jobs are good jobs that pay fair wages, he says.