Van Jones On Jobs, Jails, And Environmental Justice
“Eco-apartheid” is a situation in which you have ecological haves and have-nots. In other words, if you are in the San Francisco Bay Area, and you visit Marin County, you’ll find hybrid vehicles, solar panels, organic food, organic everything. If you then get in your car and drive twenty minutes, you’ll be in west Oakland, where people are literally choking on the fumes of the last century’s pollution-based technologies. That’s eco-apartheid, and it’s morally wrong, because we should deliver clean jobs and health benefits not just to the wealthy, but also to the people who need them most. Eco-apartheid doesn’t work on a practical level either, because you can’t have a sustainable economy when only 20 percent of the people can afford to pay for hybrids, solar panels, and organic cuisine, while the other 80 percent are still driving pollution-based vehicles to the same pollution-based jobs and struggling to make purchases at Wal-Mart.
One night I read a short, autobiographical story about how difficult it was being a B-movie zombie. Afterward a few people I didn’t know came over to my table, the most interesting of whom was an attractive teenager who appeared to be part Asian. Though it was winter, she wore a short skirt and sat with her knees together, hands in her lap, and gazed at me.
On a soaking-wet August day I stood under an umbrella in a Jewish cemetery in Paramus, New Jersey. Though the man we were burying hadn’t been particularly observant, the service was Orthodox, and everyone followed protocol: the other women and I huddled to the side while the men lifted the heavy casket.
The cold glass jar felt good in my pudgy seven-year-old hands. It had once been filled with hard candies wrapped in brightly colored cellophane, a gift from one of my dad’s clients. Sitting on our back deck on a Colorado summer afternoon, I wondered what I should fill the jar with now that all the candy was gone.
We had been preparing for months, slowly ridding ourselves of possessions we had once thought essential. By the time we left, everything that was ours fit into three brown vinyl suitcases. My parents told me this would be enough, but, like so much they said, these words of comfort were not particularly plausible. Still, there was consolation. On our last day in Russia, as the fall of 1979 slid into winter, my brother Viktor lost his piano.