Author, activist and think tank fellow Van Jones will be joining the Obama administration next week as a special adviser on green jobs, reported the White House Council on Environmental Quality today. Jones will work with agencies and departments to advance the administration's climate and energy initiatives, with a special focus on improving vulnerable communities, according to a White House statement. Jones is the founder of "Green For All," an environmental group dedicated to bringing green jobs to the disadvantaged, and the author of "The Green Collar Economy." Environmental groups are, of course, thrilled with the decision - in their opinion, no one knows green jobs like Van Jones.
But there are a few questions raised - first, about the role of Hilda Solis, Secretary of Labor. A proponent of green jobs, it was thought that the responsibility would fall to her, but Climate Progress (a blog run by Jones' think tank, the Center for American Progress) assures us that, yes, both positions are necessary. "The Labor Secretary can’t tell any other Cabinet officer or agency what to do — so if you want to coordinate a crosscutting initiative that affects so many different departments, including energy, EPA, Commerce, and so on — you need to do this out of the White House." His title, by the way, does not contain the word 'Czar' - another issue raised by the Wall Street Journal regarding 'Czar fatigue.'
Jones has long been a proponent of environmental justice. He, along with other advocates like Majora Carter, try to raise awareness of the fact that the communities most hurt by unsustainable practices are often the poorest. Jones told Mother Jones Magazine last year:
"The only reason that we have the unsustainable accounting that we have right now is because incinerators, dumping grounds, and sacrifice zones were put where poor people live. It would never have been allowed if you had to put all the incinerators and nasty stuff in rich people's neighborhoods; we'd have had a sustainable economy a long time ago... We don't want to be first and worst with all the toxins and all the negative effects of global warming, and then benefit last and least from all the breakthroughs in solar, wind energy, organic food, all the positives. We want an equal share, an equitable share, of the work wealth and the benefits of the transition to a green economy."
Another two favorite quotes from Jones come from his speech at the Power Shift weekend last month:
"We could power the country with clean coal, or we could have unicorns pull our cars for us."
"If women are making 75 cents to a dollar in our green economy, something is wrong with it."
Corrected on 3/10/09: A previous version of this post stated that Van Jones will be in charge of stimulus funds dedicated to green job creation. Jones will instead be working with agencies and departments to advance the administration's climate and energy initiatives.