- Van Jonesserved as the green jobs adviser in the Obama White House in 2009. He is an award-winning pioneer in human rights and the clean energy economy. He is the best-selling author of The Green Collar Economy. His new book is called Rebuild the Dream.
Van Jones, former green jobs adviser to the White House, responds to Obama’s recent support for TransCanada to build the southern leg of its Keystone XL oil pipeline from Oklahoma to Texas, despite his earlier rejection of the project after large civil disobedience protests by environmental groups. “The lesson here is the fight’s never over,” Jones says. “We’re going to be circling each other for a long time in this country, until, frankly, the 350.org generation and a lot of the young people in [the] Occupy [movement] are of a certain age where they’re just running the country.” He adds that some 2.7 million green jobs have been created during the Obama administration. As the anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. approaches, Jones reflects on the ongoing fight for social and economic justice. “What we’ve got to be able to do is continue to fight for the values that we believe in long enough for the demographic change to make those ideas the permanent governing majority.” [includes rush transcript]
AMY GOODMAN: What does a “green economy” mean? “Green jobs”? You talk about missteps of the Obama administration, a number of them. Do you think now, with Keystone XL—you talked about the importance of 350.org, for example—
VAN JONES: Sure.
AMY GOODMAN: —the 1,200 arrests that ultimately led President Obama to say we’re putting a moratorium on Keystone, which many environmentalists applauded Obama. Then, recently, he announces that they’re building the southern leg of the Keystone, announcing that in Oklahoma.
VAN JONES: Mm-hmm. Well, I think that the power of the young people and the young environmentalists was demonstrated. They actually broke the seal on civil disobedience and protest against the President in August of 2011 and had a big victory by October. Huge, huge game changer. There’s been less protest, and therefore, the right wing has been able to grab some of the conversation back. I think what we’ve got to learn is—
AMY GOODMAN: Well, they thought they won for a few minutes.
VAN JONES: And—
AMY GOODMAN: The environmentalists, the activists.
VAN JONES: Yes, exactly. And so, I think that the lesson here is the fight’s never over, that there’s always going to be this tennis match back and forth. And we have this sort of rational linear view where you think, well, you go from, you know, not winning to winning, and then you’re done. It’s a cycle. It’s an endless boxing match, and we’re going to be circling each other for a long time in this country, until, frankly, the 350.org generation and a lot of the young people in Occupy are the—of a certain age where they’re just running the country. But we’ve got another 10 or 15 years where we’re going to be in a battle about what it means to be an American, what policies we’re going to have. And we can’t relent. We can’t, you know, declare victory and then sit down. You declare victory, and then you ramp it up and go for the next victory.
AMY GOODMAN: You go to the White House to push for green jobs people are looking for. You are forced out. People are looking for—where are those green jobs?
VAN JONES: Mm-hmm. Well, we have 2.7 million of them. We promised five million, and we got 2.7 million of them. There are a hundred—there are 80,000 coal miners in America right now and 100,000 people working in the wind industry right now and another 100,000 working in solar. So the problem is that even though we created, you know, about—considering we didn’t pass cap and trade, we created a lot of green jobs. We didn’t pass cap and trade, which would have brought in a lot of private capital. The public capital and the incentives at the state level have created the opportunity for a certain number of jobs. But to get across the finish line, we’re going to have to pass another round of legislation, and we can’t do that with this Congress.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re wrapping up. Your book, the official pub date is tomorrow—
VAN JONES: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: April 4th. It’s the anniversary, what, the 44th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, fatally shot when he was 39 years old in Memphis, Tennessee. Where do you feel we must go from here?
VAN JONES: Well, I think we’ve got a big fight. I think part of the reason you see this desperation on the part of the right wing, you see this attempted corporate takeover of our democracy, is they’re looking at what the country is becoming. This country, by the end of this country, is going to look like Brazil, every color in the rainbow. We already—for the young generation, mostly these fights have been won, around marriage equality and beyond, around the environment, around diversity. So, what we’ve got to be able to do is continue to fight for the values that we believe in long enough for the demographic change to make those ideas the permanent governing majority. That’s this 15-year fight.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you very much, Van Jones, for joining us. Rebuild the Dream is his book, a former special adviser to the Obama White House. Van Jones served as the green jobs adviser, award-winning pioneer in human rights and the clean energy economy. His earlier book, The Green Collar Economy.