I received a last-minute invitation to attend a special gathering at the Los Angeles Cathedral on Monday. As Bill Clinton was parading around
the city with Mayor Villaraigosa, a select and powerful group of religious leaders and grass-roots community organizers in the L.A. area came together at the behest of the organization Progressive Christians Uniting
for an event titled "Joining Faith to Action in Building America's Green Future."
The goal was for diverse local groups to join forces and begin the process of mapping out an agenda for the city of Los Angeles that will ensure "all boats are raised" by the coming wave of green stimulus funding. For over a decade, Van Jones has been paving the way for a political agenda that brings together the environmental and social justice movements. In his early work as an activist with the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, Jones saw that green collar jobs could solve two problems at the same time — improving environmental health while stimulating economic growth.
It is this platform that has guided his work with the United Nations for the World Environment Day, the U.S. House of Representatives in the ground-breaking Green Jobs Act of 2007, and the Center for American Progress Green Jobs Report (PDF). His carefully developed argument is detailed in the bestseller The Green Collar Economy.
In his talk (5 minute excerpt above) Van Jones, with unmatched charisma, displays a profound comprehension of the issues at stake. In the first 15 minutes he moves from an explanation of why our economy collapsed — consumption, credit and environmental degradation — to a common solution for both our environmental and ecological problems. He then moves into a territory that is seldom discussed in the context of environmentalism — the Church.
It's hard to remember that only a few years ago, the word "christian" and the word "environment" were almost antithetical. So successful was the polarizing political rhetoric of the Christian right, that issues as broad as climate change, solar energy, and environmental conservation were quite literally "demonized" as the work of god-hating liberals. As Van says, "Christianity became associated with all the badness in the world."
This was a great loss, both for the environmental movement and for the Church. Many Christians during the Bush era managed to maintain their faith both in God AND science. Global warming and evolution were not at all in opposition to the teachings of the Bible, but somehow Christians everywhere felt like they had to hide their green beliefs for fear of being ostracized. There were bright lights, like the Evangelical Environmental Network, but really it took the collapse of the right-wing evangelical movement, Hurricane Katrina and An Inconvenient Truth, to give Christians the freedom to get back into the environmental game.
Now environmental Christians are out in spades, as demonstrated by the packed event for Progressive Christians Uniting. Having an audience of religious leaders and theologians, Van Jones started to talk about his own connection to the environmental movement as a Christian, and to describe the theological core of his movement for Green Jobs — reverence for all humanity and for all of God's creations.
I highly recommend listening to the talk in its entirety, which I've posted up on Greendig.net.
The PCU has set Environmental Protection & Green Jobs as its Priority 1. Their first major initiative is called the Eighth Day Project, a CSA or Community Supported Agriculture program that brings local, organic produce to inner city neighborhoods.