Van Jones and Billy Parish at Northern Arizona University, Monday, March 22, 2010. (Photo: John Christopher Strobel)
On Monday, March 22, Van Jones and Billy Parish appeared together for a presentation entitled "Challenging America: Achieving Sustainability and Justice Through the Green Collar Economy" at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff. The former Obama administration Green Jobs Adviser, Center for American Progress Senior Fellow and author of "The Green Collar Economy: How One Solution Can Fix Our Two Biggest Problems" and the Yale drop-out founder of the Energy Action Coalition and Clean Energy Corps provided a demonstration of the signature mix of inspirational vision and practical rigor that characterizes both men's work in support of environmental responsibility, diversity, social justice and democracy.
Billy Parish began his presentation by asking whether Franklin McCain, Ezell Blair Jr., Joseph McNeil and David Richmond were present in the hall. No one stood up.
Billy Parish went out on a limb at a recent NAU presentation to put in a word for unpopular international climate reparations. (Photo: John Christopher Strobel)
"Brother Billy" - as Van Jones occasionally referred to him - proceeded to provide a rough sketch of his own trajectory from the safety and predictability of a privileged background to the decision to come "off the tracks" and plunge into committed organizing. He compared being alive now to coming of age at the cusp of the agrarian or industrial revolutions - or in the late 1950's, as the civil rights struggle was poised to take off. He described the green economy revolution as the only way to reconcile the crisis in resource availability and the social justice requirement to provide jobs for all the billion people poised to enter the global job market over the next three years. A steady-state economy will exhaust global resources of every kind and provide only 300 million jobs for those billion people, while transforming every system on which our economy depends "from how food is grown and processed, to how energy is delivered, to how we do the laundry" could create jobs for all.
Parish cited specific initiatives in Northern Arizona - the creation of green affordable housing for Navajo elders and a local burger restaurant that serves sustainably raised local food only - as examples of what needs to happen and can happen. He closed his prepared remarks with the reinvocation of the four young African-American freshmen at the Agricultural and Technical College of North Carolina who entered the Greensboro Woolworth's and sat down on stools previously reserved exclusively for whites and pointed out that, "Acts of courage inspire courage," that we have a very small window only to reverse climate change, and, finally, that "every single one of us is part of the problem. Every single one of us can be part of the solution."
Van Jones began his prepared remarks by addressing them exclusively to the "weird" students and the "sensitive" students, those who are uncomfortable with the fact that an increasing number of people have "no jobs and no hope of jobs" that people around the world suffer and struggle. "Something about this is calling to you, but you don't know what to do. Well, you're not alone."
Jones declared, "We can solve the two biggest problems you're ever going to face in your lives with the same solutions." Although it's going to look as though there a lot of different problems, there really are only two:
1. An incredible long-term, structural, economic crisis.
2. An extreme ecological crisis.