I just arrived home from the Good Jobs, Green Jobs conference, and I’m trying to take a step back and put a context around the whole experience. I’ve got a wide-ranging set of impressions, and they all add up to something - I’m trying to find the right word – transcendent is too much, "bigger than all of us" maybe – but at least game-changing and culture-shaking.
I don’t know how many attendees have real sense of history, but it felt a little like the populist movement from the turn of the 20th century was making a comeback, with Van Jones as Eugene V. Debs and his minister (Lennox something, I forget) as William Jennings Bryan. Only this crowd gets the whole capitalist thing – they just want it tempered -- to make it green and fair. I like to think my socialist great-grandparents, who marched for the 44-hour workweek almost a hundred years ago, are somewhere up there smiling down on the proceedings.
Imagine 2500 or 3000 people (depending on whom you ask). Maybe 500 (I’m guessing) are white working people, decked out in United Steel Workers of America caps or jackets. A smaller, but significant, number are minorities of the hip hop variety, representing Green for All and full of the spirit of it all. Lots of others are wonky green types, some techy, some business-y, many from all levels of government, from environmental groups – you know, the folks you expect at these things (like me).
Somehow or other we all seem to be converging on a thread of shared reality – that the planet really is in trouble, that our economy needs help, and that we KNOW the way out. Just listen to us. Level the playing field. Put the workers back to work – in the new reality. Steelworkers making wind turbines. Ghetto kids weatherizing houses. Appalachia remaining Appalachia, and not a moonscape of denuded sinkholes in place of verdant mountains.
Do we really all share a vision? Can we make it all happen in time to save the planet? I don’t know. I’m inspired to get off my ass, but I’m not sure I can do enough fast enough from the bureaucratic bowels where I reside. (Not being anything resembling 25, and having a family to support, my best options are doing my best from within the beast. But hey, Lisa Jackson is now my boss, and she spoke at the conference, and she made me proud once again to be where I am...it’s certainly been a while...)
So something was definitely stirring at the conference, and we can build on it – hey, the president was getting all wonky about weatherization on the news – how cool is that? – energy efficiency is the big huge low-hanging fruit, don’t you know. (Yes, as a matter of fact, I did know, but I’m really really glad the powers that be have a clue now too...).
Other impressions from the conference: Joe Romm from Climate Progress and Matt Wasson from Appalachian Voices keeping it real about the b.s. the carbon capture and sequestration really is. The marketing guy from Recycled Energy Development, the guy from Cree, the LED company in my home state of North Carolina, and the concentrated solar guy from Infirnia Corp. in Washington state.
Reasons I love DC, at least to come back to (I lived there for a brief time 20 years ago) – sitting in the hotel bar one evening, and the woman next to me requested the TV be changed to MSNBC – just in time for Rachel Maddow. The USW guy next to me watching intently! Who knew? Maybe there is a god. And the inspirational phenomenon that is Van Jones.
So what does it all add up to? Well, if you’re not doing something to push the green economy, then get off your ass. If you are, then work harder. Keep on keeping on. Convince everybody. Work local. Work global. The next ten years will determine our fate. CCS is a total crock. Obama needs us to keep pushing. Level the playing field – take away all the incentives and advantages the utilities and the coal guys enjoy. Convert waste heat to power. Update the grid. Distribute the generation.
Yes we can.