First you must know that the largest industry in Washington, DC, is the distribution of tote bags and printed reports. So, in that sense, the February 4-6, second annual Green Jobs, Good Jobs conference – held at the sprawling Marriott Wardman Park hotel near the zoo – was a wild success. A turn away crowd of 2500, plus assorted media, showed up to promote, absorb and generally cheer on the blue-green agenda, the long-sought alliance between labor and enviros.

Whether flying thousands of conferees in from around the country really promotes reduction of greenhouse gases is a question worth asking. Just not here. It was hard enough to get these groups together to have to face the biggest question of all: Can technology save us from technology-generated pollution?

[In the interests of full disclosure, I wrote part of a job quality report funded by unions and the Sierra Club that was distributed at the conference.]

On Thursday afternoon, Kansas Governor Kathleen Sibelius – a serious contender for the newly re-opened top HHS slot – rocked the grand ballroom. Kansas, she said, had blocked the building of a coal-fired power plant in the state. Wild cheers. But definitely not from any mineworkers in the room. And, Greensburg, Kansas, leveled by a 1994 tornado, she said, was being rebuilt with state assistance as “the greenest town in rural America.” And so it went, speakers taking shots at the departed Bush administration, calling for a green army, demanding solar and wind power and generally behaving as green boosters.

If merely repeating the word green in every possible configuration could produce environmental improvement, we’d be farther along than we are. As it is, I began to get sort of green at the gills. There was little emphasis on reducing demand or promoting a significantly more modest standard of living. It was go-go, build-build.

The conference was a mixture of green entrepreneurs, green advocates, government officials and union people, dominated by members of USW. If this conference is any indication, labor and environmentalists seem to have grown to accept each other as necessary allies, even if the mesomorphic steelworkers and the spindly eco-geeks didn’t exactly pal around easily. OK, that’s stereotyping and many overcame it, but it was still there.

There were a lot of imaginative and probing workshops ranging from job creation to, seriously, Making Green Jobs Cool. But the variety of positions and opinions at the conference was truly on display at the Green Jobs Expo. There were the American Wind Energy Association and groSolar, as well as federal offices like the U.S. EPA Office of Brownfields and Land Revitalization.

At the same time, one of the most serious operations belonged to the Alliance for American Manufacturing, a labor/management group whose aim seems to be promoting the domestic steel industry. AAM teamed up with the Political Economy Research Association to produce a well-researched report on infrastructure development.

At the other end of the spectrum was Live Green which, for a yearly membership fee of $13 offers minimal discounts at other green businesses. Like 10 percent off at eco-workshops at Green Living Consulting. I asked the staff at the booth whether the customers were actually green, or were they sort of flesh-colored. Polite smiles.

The juxtaposition between old heavy industry painted green and New Age green marketing was kind of startling, if you stopped to think about it. But fortunately for the conference, nobody seemed to find it strange. Where this is all going, especially in the midst of a serious economic collapse, is anyone’s guess. Anyone?

Alec Dubro is a veteran Washington DC-based writer specializing in labor and nonprofits. He also publishes The Washington Pox (

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The new head of the Environmental Protection has a history of suing the agency for trying to do its job.

The reach of this story extends from the lowliest working stiff to the highest court in the land.

By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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