Envisioning the next American economy

Human and environmental rights pioneer Van Jones brings ideas on solutions of poverty and pollution for Assembly Series

Van Jones, JD, wants to put Americans to work — millions of Americans, and not just any kind of work.


The former special adviser on green jobs to President Barack Obama has a clear vision to solve the two most profound challenges facing the United States today: poverty and pollution.

Jones will share his vision, “Beyond Green Jobs: The Next American Economy,” at an Assembly Series lecture at noon Tuesday, Nov. 30, in Graham Chapel on the campus of Washington University in St. Louis.

The event is free and open to the public. Jones’ visit is a joint initiative of WUSTL’s Green Action and the School of Law’s Law & Culture Initiative, in collaboration with the Assembly Series and the Public Interest Law & Policy Speaker Series.

Jones is co-founder of three successful nonprofit organizations tackling environmental and poverty-related problems and author of the path-breaking book The Green Collar Economy: How One Solution Can Fix Our Two Biggest Problems.

At the center of Jones’ eco-capitalistic vision is the need to begin basing the U.S. economy not on consumption but on production, not on credit but creativity, not on borrowing but on building, and not on environmental destruction but on environmental restoration.

In his book, Jones writes, “We are entering an era during which our very survival will demand invention and innovation on a scale never before seen in the history of human civilization. Only the business community has the requisite skills, experience, and capital to meet that need. On that score, neither government nor the nonprofit and voluntary sectors can compete, not even remotely.

“So in the end, our success and survival as a species are largely and directly tied to the new eco-entrepreneurs — and the success and survival of their enterprises.”

The globally recognized, award-winning pioneer in human rights and the clean energy movement is serving a one-year appointment as a distinguished visiting fellow at Princeton University’s Center for African American Studies and the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. In addition, he is spearheading a green opportunity initiative as a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, a Washington, D.C., think tank.

Among his most recent honors are being named one of Time magazine’s “100 Most Influential People” in 2009 and one of Time’s “Environmental Heroes” in 2008. His work has been profiled in Thomas Friedman’s bestseller Hot, Flat & Crowded, and Wilford Welch’s book Tactics of Hope.

Jones earned a bachelor’s degree in communications and political science from the University of Tennessee, Martin, and a law degree from Yale University.

For more information, visit assemblyseries.wustl.edu or call (314) 935-4620.

This is the Assembly Series’ final program of the fall 2010 semester. Visit the website in January for the spring 2011 schedule.