Q&A: Van Jones
SI: Annie Leonard (The Story of Stuff), also believes in the importance of community.
The more friends you have the more people you have in your network that you can rely on, the less money you have to spend and resources you wind up wasting, because the things in your house are being used by others, and you‘re using other people’s stuff. If done properly, you’re not just saving money, you’re also building social wealth. A wealth of connections to others. Which right now, money sometimes lets us, in the short term, substitute that. If you have enough money, you can pay someone to do that – financial capital subsistutes for social capital, chokes off social capital and leaves us isolated in our homes full of crap and our pockets full of credit cards, but no friends. Not real friends – Facebook friends, which are not the same. So that’s a dystopian future that consumerism promises, but the Earth can’t deliver on that promise to seven billion people. That’s why I’m so fascinated with the shareable economy. It’s an elegant solution not just for our ecological crisis or a balm for our economic crisis, it may hold some answer to our spiritual crisis.
SI: Does the shareable or access economy tie in to your 10-point plan to get our country back on track?
They are complementary to each other. If Washington D.C. acts right and stops wasting money on wars and stops wasting money on big tax breaks to people who don’t need them and redirects those dollars back into our neighborhoods, into our schools, into our roads and bridges, into clean energy projects – then our communities will start to recover. And then, while that’s happening, if ordinary people will reach out to each other and support those businesses that help them share (and not consume more resources and buy more things), then we can see the economy start to heal. I think you have to have both that 10-point top-down plan and bottom-up shareable economy approach.
SI: How do you feel about the progress our country is making now?
The entire green agenda has been delivered a big setback by our failure to pass a climate bill in either 2009 or 2010. It is a huge failure, a huge disappointment for the world and may have catastrophic consequences for all life on Earth. You can’t sugarcoat that. We spewed more planet-damaging carbon last year than in any year prior, so we’re still going in the wrong direction, we’re accelerating in the wrong direction.
That said, we have 2.7 million green jobs in America right now compared to 80,000 coal mining jobs. So, the green economy continues to grow, against gravity and despite Congress being missing in action but, on the energy side, we have real problems. Republicans refuse to pass the Cap and Trade bill that their candidate, John McCain ran on, China is now flooding the American market with artificially cheap solar panels, which is knocking out American green jobs, and fracking to produce artificially cheap natural gas has disrupted the business model for large-scale wind.
We have to rethink our approach here. In Rebuild the Dream, I point to ways we can engage rural audiences, conservative audiences, even Libertarian audiences in the fight – at least rhetorically. I think we’re going to need a lot more action like what 350.org is trying to do if we’re going to win people over, back to where they were in 2007, believing there is a problem and believing there is a solution, and believing that the solution will create more jobs than doing nothing. That’s where we were in 2007. In 2008 we got hammered by an incredible backlash of far-right wingers and pollution-based mega-dollars, including coal.