Van Jones Addresses Need for Innovation

Anthony K. Van Jones has a plan, one that will address the problems of America’s failing economy and devastated environment simultaneously—he just needs young minds to pull it off.

At this week’s All School Meeting, Jones, a pioneer in human rights and clean-energy economics, shared his vision for a greener future for America, stressing the vital role that the current generation of students will play in shaping the future.

Jones began his presentation by comparing the current struggle for equality in environmentalism to the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s.

He said that similar to Martin Luther King Jr. and other African Americans who persevered to obtain equality, the next generation must come up with innovative ideas to solve Earth’s environmental problems.

Jones said that the current generation’s efforts to conserve the environment, a movement he referred to as the “Wave of Environmentalism,” are crucial in determining whether human beings will have a 22nd century.

Praising the diversity, technological expertise and open-mindedness of the students of the current generation, Jones said that these young adults will be the ones to find new solutions to pollution and poverty in the coming decades.

“When they stop using technology as toys, and start using it as tools, it presents a big opportunity,” he said.

Jones encouraged students to step out of their comfort zones, become more actively involved in their respective communities and engage in the ongoing effort to conserve the environment. He particularly stressed contributing to “fourth quadrant” efforts, projects that simultaneously address environmental and social issues like initiatives in impoverished, polluted neighborhoods.

“Students need to go to lots of different worlds, be uncomfortable and seek out that feeling of idiosyncrasy in order to obtain wisdom. Tolerance was a virtue in the last century, now it must become a necessity,” he continued.

“By seeing these many different places, Jones said students will learn more about the haves and have-nots of different societies, allowing them to address environmental and economic problems more effectively. Go to the most marginal places, go to the most vulnerable people, and you will be richer in knowledge,” Jones added.

Contribution to poor, industrial communities is critical to forming a “green economy,” based on environmentally safe industries.

Jones has been named one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People for his green initiatives and was appointed by President Barack Obama in 2009 to the position of Advisor for Green Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation.

A senior member of Color of Change, a non-profit organization founded by Jones in 2005, Jones is also an advocate for African Americans and works to represent the group’s voice in the American government, particularly in the context of green jobs.

Jones also started the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights in 1996, a non-government organization that works for alternatives to violence for African Americans in San Francisco. The organization provides a hotline and lawyer referrals for victims of police violence in the area.

Incorporating his experience as a pioneer in human rights and a law student at Yale University, Jones started the Green for All organization in 2007. The organization is dedicated to building an inclusive green economy and has served as a foundation for many green initiatives.

Jones presented his ideas for this new type of economy in his book, “The Green-Collar Economy,” a detailed proposal of a solution that could fix the United States’ ecological and economic crises.