Last Monday morning I had the unique opportunity to hear Van Jones deliver a speech to attendees at the AASHE2008 conference. Van Jones is probably the best speaker I have ever heard. Sorry, Al Gore. Gore's speech at Harvard last month was good, but Van Jones was incredible. He spoke for nearly an hour and his points are still clear in my mind. Take a look at part of his speech on YouTube. Jones is co-founder of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights and the author of The Green Collar Economy: How One Solution Can Fix Our Two Biggest Problems. Many people think Van Jones should be in the Obama Whitehouse.
Van Jones provided great inspiration to me. He started by telling the audience that there is no time to worry and to just get the job done. This resonated with me and probably most of the other campus sustainability representatives at the conference.
On a national scale, Jones outlined three initiatives to move America towards a sustainable future. First he said we need to put a price on carbon and make the polluters pay. Second we need to retrofit America. Retrofitting America creates jobs and will pay for itself in energy savings. Third we need to repower America. To make this happen, Jones suggested we invoke that it is in the best interest of national security. The national highway system was a project that was overwhelming to imagine. People argued the cost would be so high there was no way it could be done. In the interest of national security the highway system was completed and you can say some other benefits were realized. Shifting our energy supply to renewables is on a scale similar to highways.
At the end of his speech Van Jones rallied the audience, "Barack Obama has done his job and taken America back." He followed, "Now let's do our job and take America forward." He is absolutely right. We have put the right man in place but he can't do it alone. We all need to get on board and just get the job done.