Friday, July 25, 2008

Van Jones and the Green Economy

sketch by SezA few days ago I had the chance to see Van Jones speaking at a forum in Mountain View.

It was very interesting to juxtapose this charismatic black man, with his vibrant and compelling manifesto of the Green Economy and its role in uplifting the poor and marginalised; with the article I recently read in "The Economist" (see my post below).

Over the years I have become pretty good at seeing through emotional pitches and marketing dirty tricks to the truth underneath, and the tenor of Jones presentation primed my BS detectors at first.

But he is presenting some brilliant reasoning, couched in this fluent and mellifluous delivery. Jones is a law graduate, and he has plenty of substance here.

There were a couple of points he made that I wanted to jump up and shout "Amen" to, and here they are:
  • saving the world from global warming through green innovation is not a technological problem alone, it will require a green workforce doing things like making and fitting solar panels;
  • the past centuries pollution-based economies concentrated wealth in the hands of few at the expense of the vulnerable populations;
  • now the new centuries green solution-based economy will help a vulnerable world, while providing jobs and self-determination to many


This is a heart-warming idea with a beautiful vision, of seeing poverty rolled back and diverse peoples joining together in uplifting themselves and their planet.

But it is more than that - it is sound economics and social pragmatics.

As I outline in the previous post - without giving details - the green revolution is a guerilla revolution. It is not be lead from the top, and won by an army of the state.

The key I contend is locality.

What solution is best varies, and it varies largely by locality.

We will never be able to say wind farms are best, cover the globe in those and we'll be right as rain. You can't pick one solution and multiply it wider and deeper.

Instead you need to look around you.

Is there used vegetable oil around that is going to waste? Get a few people together in a co-op, and they can make a small business out of filtering and cleaning the oil for sale as a diesel fuel replacement.

Solar panels work because the electricity from them can be used right where it is generated, minimizing line loss, transformer inefficiencies and infrastructure costs - recharge your electric car from the panels on your carport roof.

Electric cable-cars in the hills over here, bio-diesel and CNG buses on the long flat fast busways over there.

And as the gathering sense of urgency propels more and more of affluent America and the west, the more we realize the shortage we have of the green workforce that Jones talks about.

Jones is looking for help.

I think he will find plenty of people in Silicon Valley who will act locally, even if by doing a few small acts.

I think I just did. :-)