Monday, August 25, 2008

First Reports from the Big Tent

This'll be the first of many reports. We're on like 7 hour time delay, perhaps worse because of time zones, but given that this site targets people bored at work, my only hope is to be fully updated by Tuesday morning.

Reporting from the Big Tent in Denver
IGHIH is reporting from the sweet new media building a few blocks from the Democratic Convention called The Big Tent. This week you can expect a variety of dispatches from the bloggers stationed here, at the Convention, and at various happening around Denver. Below is the first of many posts covering the climate change panels that the hosts of The Big Tent have put together.

Van Jones: Nothing Radical Here
Big Tent is playing to a select audience of activists and journalists. We don’t need the basics, dire warnings of impending doom, or lofty rhetoric about the need to work together. Oakland area activist Van Jones wastes no time getting to the heart of how clean energy can be sold as a pragmatic solution in the current political climate, and he does so by tipping his hat to everyone’s favorite capitalist , Adam Smith.
The central premise of Van’s presentation is that establishing a green collar economy is perfectly consistent with the traditional American economical model. “The other side has climate destroying solutions,” he notes, “but by playing on our economic fears, they are winning the debate.” For anyone exposed to the harsh political attacks associating a green economy with higher taxes, higher energy bills, and a lesser quality of life, the ease with which Van distills the green economy to cutting demand, diversifying supply, and creating jobs is refreshing.
For example, he explains, weatherproofing homes, particularly for elderly folks in rural areas, immediately cuts heating costs and creates green collar jobs. Developing mass transit programs similarly cut energy costs and create jobs. A comprehensive solarization program would not only cut demand for carbon fuels, diversify supply and create green collar job, but also create legions of entrepreneurial opportunities. Finally, in speaking to the job creation the green collar economy would supply in both poor urban and rural communities, Van thundered, “the unemployed don’t just need a paycheck, they need a purpose!” The green economy model will challenge the way politicians think about the poor and the unemployed by giving them a chance not just to pay their bills, but participate in meaningful work no matter how hard their struggles have been.
Van’s second great skill, as you may have gathered, is an oratorical eloquence that takes a somewhat stilted phrase- “green collar economy” – and keeps it lively until you’ve heard it out. Just when you start to tune out (this is a panel, in a hot room, at ten in the morning, after all), Van delivers memorable phrases like “turning pollution into solutions”, “vulture culture”, “acting like crackheads for carbon,” and “taking death (carbon fuel) and blasting it into the sky.” Don King he is not- each catchy phrase is followed by serious analysis, a perfect juxtaposition for activist speakers to master.

Van concluded that the first political step is to acknowledge that “government today is on the side of the problem, providing tax credits to polluters, the Pentagon and the prison system- we need to incentive the problem solvers who use the wind and the sun.” There is nothing radical here. For those in the activist community who have felt beaten back for so long, know that you aren’t just on the side of social responsibility and justice. You’re also on the side of common sense, any way you spin it.

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