6-12 January: The Green Collar Economy and Feminists: What Were They Thinking?

So as part of this blog and as a way to become a better advocate for human rights, animal rights, the planet, and overall to just become a more informed human being, I’ll be sharing a book and a documentary or film every week, or maybe every two weeks once I’m busy with my last semester at Dickinson College. This week I’ve chosen The Green Collar Economy and the Netflix documentary Feminists: What Were They Thinking?

The books and films I’ll be reviewing will cover a range of topics, from this week’s coverage of a more sustainable economic model and feminist figures, to veganism, climate change, sustainable lifestyles, the Flint water crisis, and how social change happens. I’m always open to suggestions about what to read or watch next! Feel free to comment below or reach out to me with ideas.

Let’s get started with The Green Collar Economy

Where did I find out about this book? I actually was given this book as a present! For four semesters I’ve lived in special interest housing on Dickinson College’s campus called the Treehouse, or the Center for Sustainable Living. At the end of every fall semester, the fourteen residents organize a Secret Snowflake gift exchange among ourselves. For Fall 2018, my housemate Billy Irving gave me two books, one of which is The Green Collar Economy by Van Jones. He bought them in a used-books store from his town in Pennsylvania. What do I love more than being given a book? Being given a thrifted book!

Who Wrote The Green Collar Economy? US new commentator, political activist, and non-practicing attorney Anthony Kapel “Van” Jones wrote this book in 2008. You can find his website here. He sounds like an amazing person, and has founded or led a handful of organizations focused on environmental and social justice. One of his non-profit organizations, a “social justice accelerator” called the Dream Corps, has three main initiatives: #YesWeCode, which supports and encourages young people from underrepresented backgrounds to find success in the tech sector; #Cut50, which aims to reduce the US’s prison population and incarceration rate while creating safer communities; and Green For All, which relates directly to the goals in The Green Collar Economy! Dream Corps also has a fourth initiative on reducing hate and divisions in our society called #LoveArmy.

Jones’ book was the first environmental book written by an African-American to make the New York Times bestseller list.

Image from: www.ampthemag.com

What’s the Book About?

We need an environmental movement that combines greenhouse gas emissions reductions, renewable energy, and environmental justice with job opportunities, responsible economic growth, and the revitalization of rural areas and our country’s inner cities. In Van Jones’ words, we need a green-collar economy: “one that will create good, productive jobs while restoring the health of our planet’s living systems.” To lead this charge, we need to confront three fundamental fallacies that have been promoted by our political and economic elites. Democrats and Republicans alike have told the US public for decades that we can grow our economy based on

  1. consumption rather than production
  2. credit rather than thrift
  3. ecological destruction rather than ecological restoration

Jones writes about the need to reverse these trends in order to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, environmental degradation, rising inequality, and stagflation (when the inflation rate is high, the economic growth rate slows, and unemployment climbs). We should move towards “deliberately cutting demand for energy and intelligently increasing its supply.” And the time to do that is now. After examining the successes and failures of the two major waves of environmentalism in the US’s past, which he call the “conservation” movement of the early 1900’s and the “regulation” wave of the late 1960’s and 1970’s, Jones believes the current third wave will revolve around investment.

It is vital that this wave is more inclusive and intersectional than the past two movements. Environmental activists cannot afford to just focus on the plight of polar bears and distant tropical rainforests, as important as those are. We need to make sure we are also advocating for the survivors of natural disasters such as hurricanes in the US. We must ensure the green-collar jobs create wealth-building opportunities for low-income communities and people of color. We need to draw attention to the ecological “have-nots” that suffer from disproportionate levels of industrial pollution, food deserts, and a lack of voice in decisions. What we need to be building a movement of eco-equity: “equal protection and equal opportunity in an economy that respects the Earth.” And we need both the government/public sector and the private sector in on this.

Final Thoughts

I really like this book. It’s in-depth, easily understandable, and enlightening. The Green Collar Economy is just as relevant if not more than it was ten years ago when it was published. Anyone invested in environmental and social equity and helping our country and the planet progress should read it. 9/10

Now On to the Netflix Documentary Feminists: What Were They Thinking?

In a sense, I feel more like a humanist. I think that if there’s an advance in half of the human race, then that also helps the other half of the human race.

– Meredith Monk (composer, performer, director, vocalist, filmmaker, and choreographer)

I’m a proud feminist and I think it’s important to learn about the movement’s history, successes, figures, and failures so that we can build a more effective, inclusive, and intersectional feminism. This documentary, directed by Johanna Demetrakas and released on 12 October 2018, was a great way to hear snippets of thoughts and reflections on the 1970’s women’s movement, especially to compare between culture and society then and now. The film is framed by Emergence, a book of Cynthia Adam’s feminist photographs, as notable women such as Judy Chicago, Jane Fonda, Wendy J N Lee, Lily Tomlin, and Margaret Prescod recount particularly enlightening experiences in their childhoods, past relationships, careers, and families. Topics covered include access to contraception, reproductive justice and abortion, race, identity, sex, body image, divorce, resilience, and lesbianism.

I found the conversations around reluctance to identify as a feminist and the feminist movement’s failures in the past to include women of color thought-provoking and applicable to the present day. Artist Judy Chicago was fiery and independent, while I found scholar Kate Stimpson eloquent. Clips from protests in the mid- and late-20th century were shown, as well as the 2017 Women’s March in Washington DC, which I attended!

Wearing one of my vegan slogan T-shirts, no less!

Overall it’s a good film, and I’m excited to learn more about many of the women that I previously hadn’t known much about. I’d give it a 8/10.

Some of My Favorite Quotes from the Film:

And at 13 I had to make a choice between whether I would believe what the world said or whether I would believe my own experience. – Judy Chicago, on her father’s defamation as a labor union leader by McCarthy

Any kind of change, I mean, any healthy country, like any healthy individual, should be in perpetual revolution, perpetual change. – Jane Fonda

I think that when you are doing something that you love, it’s like throwing a rock in the pool because that love is hitting the pool and then it starts radiating out. And so, when you’re doing something that you love and sharing it with other human beings you are doing something of benefit. – Meredith Monk, on when it’s hard to believe your work, in her case her art, is making a difference in the world

Film Length: 1 hour 26 minutes

You can find the film’s website here (click the ‘ENTER’ button in the bottom right corner) and here’s the trailer:

Join me on my next book and film review for Carol J. Adam’s Protest Kitchen and Netflix Documentary Live and Let Live!

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