White House Adviser Pushes 'Green Collar' Jobs

Van Jones

Van Jones is the White House special adviser on green jobs, enterprise and innovation. Vince Bucci/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Vince Bucci/Getty Images

Van Jones on NPR's 'This I Believe'

Before taking office, President Obama vowed to create 5 million "green" jobs over the next decade. His first major step toward this goal since becoming president was pledging some $60 billion, from the federal government's $800 billion stimulus package, to invest in clean energy and research for environmentally friendly technologies.

Van Jones is the White House special adviser on green jobs, enterprise and innovation. In his role, Jones advises the president on how to advance climate and environmentally friendly initiatives by building a sustainable work force, "with a specific interest in improvements and opportunities for vulnerable communities," according to the White House Web site.

So what is a "green collar" job?

"You can think about a green-collar job as a blue-collar job that's been upgraded, or up-skilled, to better respect the environment," says Jones, who is also the best-selling author of The Green Collar Economy: How One Solution Can Fix Our Two Biggest Problems.

Jones' commitment to issues involving both the environment and community can be traced to his time as a civil rights attorney in Oakland, Calif., where he co-founded the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights. Under his leadership, Green for All, a spinoff organization, was created in 2007. The organization helps connect the need for greener technology with the need for employment in impoverished communities.

"We have a tremendous once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to connect the people who most need work with the work that needs to be done," Jones says, referring to such "green" jobs as putting up solar panels or retrofitting buildings to conserve energy.

In a special Earth Day conversation, Van Jones speaks with Tell Me More about why he says Obama is the first "green" president and why today is an "Earth Day for everybody."

Hear the full interview with Van Jones by clicking the "Listen" button in the upper left-hand corner.

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