September 11, 2013

Going Green.  Green Jobs.  Green Energy.  What is sustainable energy? And, what does it have to do with economic growth and the City of Newark?  When we talk about green economy, it is more than investing in solar panels and energy efficient cars. Green economy is an infrastructure based on sustainable development and knowledge of ecological economics.  Green economy is a system that results in improved human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities. 

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Many folks may only remember Van Jones as the former special advisor to the Obama White House for Green Jobs (and the surrounding controversy of his resignation), but what’s also true is that this civil rights attorney, author, activist, and lobbyist has always been fighting to provide access and equity for poor people and increase clean energy.  As the keynote speaker for the Leadership Newark Public Policy Summit:  “Rebuild the Dream That is Newark”, Van Jones is no stranger to speaking on economic revitalization and a green future.

Jones is no stranger to Newark either.  In Newark, February 2008, at the Council for New Jersey Grantmakers’ event, “Organizing for Newark’s Green Future”, Jones stated that Newark was poised to be a national model for the nation in creating policies to improve the environment and providing a “pathway out of poverty”.  Seeing green economy as a possible solution to the violation of human rights in America, Jones founded Green For All, an organization dedicated to “building an inclusive green economy strong enough to lift people out of poverty” ( This Yale Law School graduate’s also founded two critically important civil rights organizations, the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights in 1996 ( and Rebuild The Dream (of which he is currently the president) in 2011 (

As a recognizable leader in green economy, Jones has written two significant books; The Green Collar Economy: How One Solution Can Fix Our Two Biggest Problems (2008) in which he outlines clear and practical plans of fixing our dire poverty and environmental problems by investing and developing an economic model of “green jobs”; and recently, Rebuild The Dream (2012) where he discusses his personal journey from grassroots organizer to political insider and galvanize social movement to “prepare citizens and community members at the grassroots level to see their power differently-and to exercise their own leadership more boldly” (Jones, 2012).

In the 21st century, we find both our economy and environment, globally, on a downward spiral.  Newark, as have many other urban centers, has experienced increased poverty, childhood obesity, lack of green areas, and declining economic growth.  South Ward resident and Newark’s prominent environmental advocate and educator, Kim Gaddy states, “The major area being overlooked in the green economic plans for Newark is the fact that sustainability starts with the city’s current residents, ensuring that they are included in the city’s growing prosperity, with access to good jobs, thriving neighborhoods and a healthy environment.  In addition, Micro-Green businesses must be developed in the neighborhood that will hire local residents…Newark is making strides with the Office of Sustainability and the Newark Environmental Commission.” As a burgeoning leader in green economics and green jobs, Newark has the potential to rise to the top.

As Newark works to build ongoing environmental and economic simultaneously, residents are in need of education on what is the “green economy” what it means and how they can benefit.  It is our hope that at the upcoming Leadership Newark Public Policy Summit, we can provide a neutral environment where community building and collaboration can take place, and where we can develop the methodology to further educate our residents, and get the word out, about how “micro-green communities” can have greater impact, and uplift the community, in a holistic way – mind, body, and economically.  We are excited to hear our keynote Van Jones provide a broad based view of some of the challenges we face across the country, and issue the challenge for us here in Newark to “Rebuild The Dream”.

Stay updated on the Leadership Newark Public Policy Summit by checking out the Summit website at and joining our email list on the Leadership Newark website home page.  We will continue to announce new developments on our Facebook (leadershipnewark) and Twitter (@leadershipnwk) over the coming weeks.