Book Review – Rebuild the Dream

Joanna Schroeder

This week I read Rebuild the Dream, by Van Jones, which ironically turned out to be a great book to read with the presidential election just three weeks away. Personally, I believe this country is in an economic mess and I wonder at the so called leaders in Washington who threw up their hands and left early without making several key policy decisions that have such an economic impact. But I realize these leaders are in DC because we the people put them there. In an age of instant entertainment TV, Americans seem to no longer go to the polls and vote on import issues like economy and foreign policy and rather vote on social issues. It has been this way, as far as I can tell, since President Regan was in office.

What, I’m sure you are wondering, does my diatribe have to do with Rebuild the Dream? A lot. Van Jones hits the mark in the book about the economic struggles this country is having and offers suggestions on turning things around. And it starts at the grassroots level with people just like you and I.

Jones’s true calling is working with the private sector and policy leaders to spread the benefits of green job opportunities into struggling communities. Many of the green job opportunities he refers to include educating youth and adults about things such as solar panel installation and installing wind turbines. Many will recall that for a short time, Jones worked as part of the White House Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy (he did not work directly with President Obama). Quite frankly, I think his work has and will continue, to have greater impact in the private sector because this is where true change evolves and succeeds as his book aptly demonstrates.

But what the book really focuses on are the main insights Jones has gleaned from reviewing the past years of political struggle in the U.S. (2003-2011).  He focuses on three areas in the first part of the book: the political movements around Barack Obama in 2007-2008; the Tea Party movement in 2009-2010; and the emergence of Occupy Wall Street and the 99 percent movements. (I am part of the 99 percent and more than likely you too are part of the 99 percent.)

In the second part of the book he discusses what he calls the Heart Space/Head Space grid (on target and brilliant); the “American Story” framework for studying political narratives; and a novel application of the swarm theory to the Obama phenomenon, the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street.

I learned a great deal from this book, and there were two areas that really struck me and I feel are particularity missing in the renewable energy industry. First is the understanding of the emotional or non-rational dimension of social change. Second is the telling of American stories, that relate to how to craft a story. A good story always has a villains, threat, hero, vision and in terms of policy, patriotism.

Whether you read this before or after the elections on November 5, 2012, this is a must-read book for the renewable energy industry.

Win a copy of Rebuild the Dream. Email me at with the subject line: Rebuild the Dream and include your contact information in the body of the email by EOD Tuesday, October 22 2012.  I will announce the winner in the DomesticFuel newsletter on October 23. You can sign up to receive the newsletter here.

book reviews, Energy, global warming, Government, Opinion, Solar