Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Participation and Dignity

I read the New Yorker article about Van Jones yesterday. It made me think about dignity.

Long before The Carrot Project became The Carrot Project, I went to talk to a wise and mumbly friend of mine about the website with which I was planning on saving the world.

I talked about educated and purposeful consumption, about corporate social responsibility, about demand and support and a race to the top.

The wise friend listened. She paced and pondered. And she finally mumbled. I think the essence here is dignity, she said. People need dignity in their work.

She went on. I listened. And thought. And wondered. And asked questions.

And dug for an understanding of that dignity. And only made it partway there.

But maybe Van Jones can help me get me closer.

He wants to solve two problems at once. He wants to employ one at risk resource, poor people, to heal and protect another, the natural world.

He wants the government to invest in energy efficiency, energy infrastructure, and clean energy production. And he wants the investment dollars to train a new workforce and pay them to build windmills, lay transmission cables, and weatherize buildings.

He wants take a huge piece of the most important work to be done and entrust it to forgotten people in economically stagnant communities. He wants to walk into those communities, ask those people if they want change, and then give them the tools to meaningfully participate in the creation of a new world.

And maybe that's the dignity my friend mumbled that day, the dignity she connected to my desire to support the crunchiest businesses. Maybe dignified work does more than just earn a paycheck. And maybe the next generation of dignified workers will wear Van Jones's green collars.

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