Van Jones: "This Is Not Your Grandma's Environmental Movement Anymore"
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VJ: I literally came out of protesting on the streets of Seattle in 1999 and getting run over by a police car in 2000 while protesting against the World Bank in Washington, D.C. … and then in 2002, I was part of the World Economic Forum as a so-called young global leader. So within 48 months, I got a chance to be on both sides of the barricades. What I realized very quickly is that we (on the left) live in a very small world. Those of us seeking social justice and solutions to the world's problems live in a very small world but imagine it to be a much bigger. And the people who seem to us to be a very tiny elite, far off and mysterious, actually live in a fairly big world. The way they look at the planet is like they're looking at an index card covered in supply routes. We (protestors) had imagined ourselves this huge threat. But we were, at best, bemusing. To the extent that the people inside did care, it was almost like we were paying them a compliment -- it reinforced their sense of power.
So for one thing, I got a different perspective. I realized that those of us who want change and see a desperate need for it from a human and planetary point of view -- we need to think bigger, dream bigger and get bigger. We can't be proud of ourselves for having a collective that includes 12 people, or for organizing a rally at which we're able to get a couple hundred or even thousands of people. The question needs to be: How do you have a daily conversation with millions of people?
AC: Can you talk about the world-changing potential inherent in the roles of: 1. Father 2. Organizational founder/social entrepreneur, and 3. Author
VJ: Well, I think parenting is one of the most important jobs, because you can hit two or three generations with the values in your house and the traditions you establish. But I don't think I'm very good at it, and I don't know anybody who thinks they're very good at it. Probably almost everyone gets an A in grandparenting, but in parenting, if you get a B-minus you're doing pretty good.
Every morning, my son Cabral says to me, "Are you going on an airplane?" because he's trying to establish whether or not he's going to see me when he gets home from school. And when I say "yes," he says "why?" And I say, "Well, I gotta go fix the world." Recently, this answer stopped working, and he looks at me as I'm getting my suitcase together, and he asks: "Daddy, why do you have to fix the world?" There's no good answer for a 4 1/2-year-old.
AC: Is there a good answer for a 35-year-old?
VJ: You know, it's my calling. The difference between being 40 and being 30 is: when you're 30, you're driven. If you stay in it for another 10 years, by the time you're 40, you're either done or you're called. I don't feel driven anymore -- I feel called to do what I'm doing, to take the stands that I'm taking. It's not in my hands. I've been giving the same speech for eight years. It's not like suddenly I gave a much better speech and everyone started paying attention. No -- the world changed. Now some of us who had been saying things that were considered outlandish just two years ago, we have the microphone. It won't last. I'm probably in my 13th minute here -- I want to use it well. There's probably some grand plan ensuring that some of our species Hula-hoop and some people do political oratory.