The Green-Collar Economy: Jobs, Justice and Prosperity


"I want to suggest to you that we have a problem that we can solve. And in solving it, we will not only rescue and redeem the project of this green revolution, but we can rescue and redeem the country as a whole, and help to save the whole Earth."

The next economy that’s now emerging is a restoration economy. It’s founded in restoring the ecosystems whose life-support services nature provides for free, like clean air and water, pollination and healthy soil. It’s also founded in job-creation – putting people to work on the mammoth endeavor of restoring the health of both lands and communities.


Bioneers Series IX - Program 05-09


The Green-Collar Economy: Jobs, Justice and Prosperity



00:00               Underwriting narration (00:13)


Bioneers: Revolution from the Heart of Nature is made possible in part by Organic Valley, a farmer-owned cooperative producing local food with the future in mind since 1988. Learn more at


00:14               Welcome (00:05)


00:19               Van Jones Teaser (00:18)


I want to suggest to you that we have a problem that we can solve. And in solving it, we will not only rescue and redeem the project of this green revolution, but we can rescue and redeem the country as a whole, and help to save the whole Earth.


00:38               Macy (00:09)


00:47               Billboard (00:28)


We stand at the threshold of a historic opportunity in the human experiment: to re-imagine how to live on Earth in ways that honor the web of life, each other and future generations.

It's a revolution from the heart of nature - and the human heart.


In this series - The Bioneers: Revolution from the Heart of Nature - we celebrate social and scientific innovators with breakthrough solutions for restoring people and planet - creating a future environment of hope.


01:15               Theme music fade out (00:13)


01:28     NARRATION 1 (1:07)


Just how dumb do they think we are?


Who would believe that destroying the ecosystems on which all life depends, while dis-employing more and more people, is somehow good for the economy? Whose economy?


But that’s exactly the fiction that has been successfully marketed to us: jobs versus the environment.


The next economy that’s now emerging is a restoration economy. It’s founded in restoring the ecosystems whose life-support services nature provides for free, like clean air and water, pollination and healthy soil. It’s also founded in job-creation – putting people to work on the mammoth endeavor of restoring the health of both lands and communities.


It’s simple, really: Taking care of nature means taking care of people – and taking care of people means taking care of nature.


My name is Neil Harvey. Join us for the next half hour as we explore “The Green-Collar Economy: Jobs, Justice and Prosperity” with Majora Carter and Van Jones. It’s the Bioneers: Revolution from the Heart of Nature.


02:38     Music fade (00:10)


02:49               Jones 1a (01:12)


I spent the past twenty years trying desperately to get people to pay attention to what’s going on in urban America. I mean, we would call newspapers, we would call television stations, and we would say, “Kids are dying; we’re going to funerals every other weekend.” “Not interested.” “We got kids going to school in Oakland, thirty kids in a classroom, six books, no chalk.” “Not interested.” “Police brutality.” “Not interested.”


“The United States is now the number one incarcerator in the world: five percent of the world’s population, 25 percent of the world’s prisoners, mostly Black, Brown and poor folks, one out of every four people in the world locked up in the United States.” “Not interested.”


And then we said, “Well, we want green jobs and not jails for our youth.” And they said, “Green? Green? Green? Give that man a microphone!” 


03:59     NARRATION 2 (00:35)


Van Jones rose to national prominence on the premise of “green-collar jobs, not jails.” This visionary community leader has teamed up with numerous allies from both the social justice and environmental communities to help leverage the buzz about green-collar employment into a national movement.  Through his Oakland, California-based non-profit, Green For All, Van Jones proposes a radically simple solution for both environmental destruction and social inequality--bring the rising green revolution to low-income, urban America. Van Jones spoke at a recent Bioneers Conference.


04:39               Jones 1b (02:18)


The question now has to be asked, and it has to be answered: As this movement moves from the margin to the center of politics, from the margin to the center of culture, from the margin to the center of the economy, who are we going to take with us, and who are we going to leave behind? Who are we going to take with us, and who are we going to leave behind? That is the central, moral challenge that we face.


These young men are growing up in West Oakland. They have asthma rates off the charts, pollution off the charts. It’s right by the port where the cheap goods come in from Asia and then the trucks sit there and idle, idle, idle, idle to take stuff to the Wal-Marts all around the country, and they sit there and breathe that in. Children walk in to school every day setting off metal detectors when they walk in the building, not because they have a gun, but because they have an inhaler. Are these young people a part of this green revolution? Do they have a place? This is the question.


I want to suggest to you that we have a problem that we can solve, and in solving it, we will not only rescue and redeem the project of this green revolution, but we can rescue and redeem the country as a whole, and help to save the whole Earth, and that project is this: We have, now, not just ecological problems, but we have new solutions. We have new products, new services, new technologies, we have solar power, wind energy, hybrid this, high-performing building, organic agriculture. We have the solutions. We have a green wave that’s rising. Can we make sure that green wave lifts all boats? Can we make sure the green wave lifts all boats? I say that we can. And I say that in making sure that the green wave lifts all boats, we will not only beat global warming, but we will slash poverty and will unite this country.


06:56     NARRATION 3 (00:29)


Van Jones has been an outspoken advocate for green-collar jobs from Oakland to the halls of Congress.


Green for All - the nonprofit advocacy group he founded – as well as the Apollo Alliance, Center for American Progress and Wisconsin Strategy group have helped define green-collar workforce development in the new economy.


Van Jones says the rightful place for low-income people in the green economy is at work.


07:25               Jones 2 (02:xx)


The good thing about a green collar job, number one, if you teach a young person how to put up a solar panel, that young person is on the way to becoming an electrical engineer. They can join the United Electrical Workers’ Union. That’s a green pathway out of poverty. You teach a young person how to weatherize a building so it doesn’t leak so much energy, that young person is on their way to becoming a glazer. They can join a union. That’s a green pathway out of poverty.


The good thing about a green collar job is it can’t be off-shored, or outsourced. You can’t put a building like this on a boat, send it to India or China, have them weatherize it, put a solar panel on it, send it back. You can’t do it, it don’t work that way. That’s not how the green economy works. God bless India and China, we want them to do well economically, but we also want to make sure that people here can have dignified work. So it’s a good thing.


The other good thing about the green economy is if you get people in on the ground floor, what it means is those young people today might be installing a solar panel. It’s a growing industry. In a couple years, maybe just two years, they’ll be a manager. And maybe in three or four or five, they’ll be an owner themselves or a contractor. So you’re talking about building a green economy that’s strong enough to lift people out of poverty. And I would say that the moral challenge that we face is to do that.


When you give that young man or young woman that extra support, when you take the people who most need work and connect them with the work that most needs doing, when you do that, you save. If that young person were to not get that training and get in trouble, you’ve got to spend 30, 40, 50, $60,000 a year for that person in prison. You’re going to spend more money for the children that they leave behind. You save that young person’s life, you save a whole bunch of money, and you save the soul of this country, is what you save, when you invest and give people a chance, and give people hope, and give people opportunity.  It’s a green economy!


09:48     NARRATION 4 (01:30)


Pie in the sky? From Green Corps Chicago to LA’s Green Jobs Campaign, city leaders are starting to realize the potential for addressing urban ills by developing a well-trained green workforce. For starters, The American Solar Energy Society reports that in 2006, energy efficiency and renewable energy industries generated $970 billion in revenues and created nearly 8.5 million jobs. One academic study finds that, if 25 per cent of all US energy were produced from renewable sources by 2025, we would generate 5 million new green-collar jobs. Work that pays enough to support a family and that provides training for a career path out of poverty.


Van Jones points to the Solar Richmond program. By 2010, it plans to have five megawatts of solar energy installed on residential and commercial rooftops in this polluted, dis-employed San Francisco Bay Area suburb notorious for environmental injustice. The training program does not charge low-income homeowners for the labor of young construction trainees. 


11:04               Jones 3  (02:)


They got up every morning. They spent nine weeks at the Solar Richmond program. They had to learn that 9:00 means 9:00. They had to learn how to use tools, and they had to transform themselves.


But it used to be, in the old, gray, pollution-based economy, they didn’t have jobs for people, didn’t include people. It used to be that these folks were seen as the villains. These are the villains. These are the bad guys. We’ve got to hire a bunch of police. We’ve got to have more prisons, because these are the villains.


In this green economy you are looking into the eyes of the ecological heroes, the ecological heroes. If we give them the tools and the training and the technology, they can retrofit a nation. We can weatherize millions of buildings, put up millions of solar panels. They can save their own lives and their own children. And we have the obligation to do that.


Now, in closing, let me say this: When you look back at the Civil Rights movement that we get so dewy-eyed about, I hate to tell you this, the buses that people were beaten to try to integrate were not biodiesel buses. They weren’t. They weren’t biodiesel buses. When they were trying to integrate the lunch counters, the sandwiches they ordered were not organic tofu sandwiches. They weren’t. The schoolhouse they were trying to integrate was not a green building.


But people poured their blood out on the ground in this country to integrate, yes, even a pollution and poison-based economy. People poured their blood out on the ground to integrate a pollution and poison-based economy. What should you and I be willing to do to make sure that the green economy that we are birthing with our own hands and our own efforts has a place in it for everybody? Let’s do whatever it takes to make sure that the green wave lifts all boats. Thank you very much.


13:16     Narration 5 - Lead to Mid Break (00:25)


Van Jones, co-founder of "Green for All". When we return we go from Oakland to the South Bronx and the work of environmental justice leader, Majora Carter, who’s been described as a force of nature herself.


This is “The Green-Collar Economy: Jobs, Justice and Prosperity.” I'm Neil Harvey. You are listening to The Bioneers: Revolution from the Heart of Nature.


13:41               MID BREAK (01:03)





14:44     NARRATION 6 (00:)


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Environmental justice means taking a stand for both healthy ecosystems and healthy communities. It’s the vision of urban renewal that replants trees in asphalt deserts, that re-wilds cemented-in creeks, restores neighborhood parks. Environmental justice advocates dream of transforming the wounds of inner cities and dis-employed working people into vibrant urban neighborhoods where residents find job opportunities, and training, for living-wage work in the new restoration economy.


This dream is already taking shape on the ground. In New York’s South Bronx, a local corporation is pushing the boundaries of what everyone believed was possible in urban America.


15:37               Carter 1a (00:29)


I’m from the South Bronx, and it’s a poor community of color with some really significant environmental, social and economic problems. But it’s not all that particularly unique, quite frankly. There’s a South Bronx in every city in the country, probably world, they go by other names – East Palo Alto, West Oakland, sometimes the Ninth Ward of New Orleans, places like that.


16:06     NARRATION 8 (00:51)


“Sustainable South Bronx” was founded by the unstoppable Majora Carter. Carter was recently named one of the twenty-five most influential African-Americans by Essence Magazine. She won a MacArthur Genius Award for her fierce persistence and visionary leadership in implementing economically sustainable urban environmental restoration projects. 


Majora Carter has lived her whole life in the South Bronx. She successfully shifted New York City development projects that would further degrade her community towards positive environmental service based models. But she focused on the greening of her hometown only after she accidentally discovered its hidden natural beauty. Majora Carter spoke at a recent Bioneers conference.



16:52               Carter 2 (05:02)


Now I started down this green-collar road because of a dog. Literally, I owe my career to that animal. Her name is Xena, found her when she was a little stray that I didn’t want, but she showed up and I took her in. We were fighting against this huge waste facility that was coming on the waterfront, but interestingly enough at the same time we kept getting all these notices about doing some work on the Bronx River, doing some restoration work. I was like, it’s a bit beyond restoring. Come on. And I wasn’t quite as innovative and imaginative as I am right now.


But during one early morning jog, she took me into what I thought was just one of our many illegal garbage dumps in the neighborhood, and it turns out it actually dead-ended at the Bronx River.


I was like, wait, we’re a peninsula surrounded on three sides by water, why can’t we get to it? So, I wrote a proposal for a $1.25 million federal transportation grant that would create a waterfront path going all the way around our waterfront, including dedicated on-street bike paths as well. And after a series of many, many different clean ups, we were able to create the kind of waterfront park, actually the very first one that we’ve had in more than sixty years. (applause)


What we’re doing with this program called Project BEST, or Bronx Environmental Stewardship Training, is helping people to realize that they can actually have not just a personal stake in the betterment of our environment, but also a financial one. There’s 25 percent unemployment in our community, helping people to see the world in those terms is also really amazing. So we’re training people in the skills of environmental restoration, everything from cleaning up contaminated lands -- we’ve even showed them different kinds of projects called Crime Prevention through Environmental Design, like how you prune a tree so that street lights can filter into a street where criminal activity cannot happen, because when you shine lights on things that stuff is more difficult to do. So that’s helpful.


We’re so excited about this because we’ve seen the kind of impact that it can have on a real live person, like a single mom who has never had a job and who has been dependent on public assistance because she’s not, number one, it’s not like they go out of their way to help you feel more whole as a human being when you’re on those systems, and number two, for her to actually be able to take – and them, because it’s many of them – that have taken control of their own lives and help save the world in the process.


This year we also created a program called Smart Roofs, which is our very own green-roof installation business. We wanted to do that so we can practice what we preach by promoting a green roof enterprise while creating jobs. (applause)


We haven’t done all these yet, but that’s the idea. But the point is if you do green roofs like this on a massive scale, you’re reducing urban heat island effect, you’re mitigating the amount of storm water that’s going into our water treatment plants, which, of course, end up mostly in poor communities of color. They both add up to using less energy consumption and less brain damaging pollution, and more family stability through green-collar jobs. This is some of our folks out doing the very first residential green roof in all of New York City.


Lastly, this is our eco proposed and eco industrial center, which is a collection of businesses that recycle and use recycled materials. It would sit on a 25-acre plot of land that actually has good barge and rail access which would incorporate jobs, and city-wide solid waste mitigation, as well as fewer trucks. The greenway could also run through it, and it would produce a more healthy future for the South Bronx. Think about it, in places like this, where we’ve got such a high unemployment rate and we need this kind of work. These dreams, those jobs are dreams for all of us.


But unfortunately, right now, our city has decided that place, instead, would be much better used for a 2,000 bed jail. Yes, so, while we’re saying clean-tech industry for a better economy, a better environment, a better future, our city is saying jails. They’re doing this huge, big city-wide plan, sustainability plan for the future, and I’m not sure if my dear city considers those 2,000 beds part of a plan for low-income affordable housing.


But just remember that it is the same practices that give us excess carbon dioxide and other toxic industry also entrench poverty. If we can talk about putting a cap on our carbon emissions, then we damn well better learn how to put a cap on our poverty emissions. (applause)


21:51     NARRATION 9 (00:22)


The struggle continues. Which path will we choose? Majora Carter now travels the country consulting on green-collar economic development and climate change adaptation strategies. Her vision extends far beyond restoring the South Bronx.  And she’s not shy about giving advice.


22:11               Carter 4 (03:44)


What can America do? Number one, America needs to level the economic playing field by training and employing a massive green-collar work force. We need government investment on the scale of the Marshall plan, with coordinated incentives, funding and regulations to make clean tech industries. (applause)


Because if we’re not making clean tech, green-collar jobs flourish domestically, and if it’s not coming from the top down, it’s already coming from the bottom up. I’m not sure what we can do until any of you in your positions, as you’re given campaign contributions or you get a chance to talk to anybody, we’ve got to make sure that that is on in the public debate as well.


And what can the private sector do? Private sector really needs to put their money where their mouth is. If they say they’re green, then make the investments in clean-tech industries, especially in the communities in this country that are used to support the hyper-consumption that created many of the problems that we have already.

It’s a smart business move when it comes right down to it. Get in on the ground floor of a new market, and in many underserved communities, there are incentives to do that kind of work. Unfortunately, in my neighborhood, it’s more waste facilities and more heavily trucking industries that aren’t trying to go green at all that are doing this stuff. There’s an access to a labor pool. Granted, they need training, that’s where organizations like ours come in. We need to cultivate both the goodwill for the community and also being on the ground floor of getting the kind of PR to do that and great business sense.


So, invest in your eco-industrial park in the South Bronx. Do a solar manufacturing plant in Oakland. The list goes on. Go to Philly, go to coal country, and, yes, this is a Black girl from the South Bronx talking about solidarity with poor, White folks down there, and all over this country as well. (applause) We need to be creating the kind of the markets for products and services we can be proud of by actually putting dollars into community-supportive infrastructure and land-use plans that benefit the majority of our community and our people – educated, happy and healthy people. (applause)


Environmental justice is civil rights in the 21st Century. Why? Because the benefits range as far as supporting the polar bears, profits and most importantly people. We’re saying green for all and you all are going to be saying it pretty soon. That’s because we really believe that you shouldn’t have to have a ton of green in order to be green. Green should be more than some little niche thing that only the super, super wealthy can afford, and because this transitional green economy should move people out of poverty so that our country can set the example of how to profit from equality. (applause)


Why are we still building monuments to our collective failures when we could be building monuments to hope and possibility? I hope you’ll join me. Thank you. (Applause)


25:46     NARRATION 10 and fade (00:33)


Majora Carter from the South Bronx in New York. Van Jones of Oakland, California.  Community leaders. National leaders. Environmental leaders. Champions of justice. “The Green-Collar Economy: Jobs, Justice and Prosperity”.


26:19               Bioneers IX - Program Close/Credits (1:50)

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The Bioneers: Revolution from the Heart of Nature is a production of Collective Heritage Institute.
Executive Producer: Kenny Ausubel
Written by Catherine Stifter and Kenny Ausubel
Senior Producer: Neil Harvey
Managing Producer: Stephanie Welch
Production Management: Aaron Leventman and Chuck Castleberry
Station Relations by Creative PR

Distribution is by WFMT Radio Network

Original recordings provided by Reference Media Group

Our theme music is taken from the album "Journey Between" by Baka Beyond and used by permission of Hannibal Records, a Rykodisc label. Additional music was made available by Sounds True, at For more music information, please visit
The opinions expressed in The Bioneers Revolution from the Heart of Nature radio series are those of the presenters and are not necessarily those of Collective Heritage Institute, the underwriters, or this radio station.
My name is Neil Harvey. Thank you for listening. I invite you to join the Bioneers in inspiring a shift to live on Earth in ways that honor the web of life, each other and future generations.   


This is program number 05-09


28:16               Closing underwriting narration (00:13)                 


Bioneers: Revolution from the Heart of Nature is made possible in part by Organic Valley, a farmer-owned cooperative producing local food with the future in mind since 1988. Learn more at


28:30               END

The Green-Collar Economy: Jobs, Justice and Prosperity | VAN JONES and MAJORA CARTER

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The Green-Collar Economy: Jobs, Justice and Prosperity


Posted by Bioneers on Apr 23 2013 in category 2009 Bioneers Radio Series

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