What will tomorrow bring for those who inherit our planet?
The Millennials and Gen Z, those in their teens to 40 — going to school, working, having children, and planning their futures, do not believe that those in power, particularly the current administration, have any concerns for their futures and the world they will inhabit.
The climate crisis promises severe weather, affecting food production, infrastructure and global stability. They have to contend with gross and increasing economic disparities, declining life expectancy due to environmental degradation, lack of health care and diminishing resources.
In response, the youth are taking matters into their own hands by creating and mobilizing the Sunrise Movement with the Green New Deal. The Green New Deal (GND) is an innovative and comprehensive approach to addressing our climate crisis, economic inequality, the dilapidation of our public infrastructure, the control of our economy by fossil fuel oligarchs and possibilities for a better life.
Given the systemic connection between many issues we face today, we need systemic solutions that are as bold and all-encompassing as the GND. In the words of 16-year-old climate activist Grete Thunberg from Sweden, speaking before the United Nations, “Until you start focusing on what needs to be done, rather than what is politically possible, there is no hope. We cannot solve a crisis without treating it as a crisis. We already have all the facts and solutions. All we have to do is to wake up and change.”
On Feb. 6, U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and U.S. Sen. Edward Markey introduced the Green New Deal Resolution in the House of Representatives. It lays out the goals and the broad principles a plan of action should follow.
Over 640 groups nationwide, including progressive unions, indigenous groups, organizations for social justice and environmental groups such as Greenpeace, Food and Water Watch, 350.org and Center for Biological Diversity participated in outlining what climate legislation should look like. It is a plan to create a plan, to be discussed and worked out — not a binding agreement, but a resolution for action.
The GND takes from President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s 1933 New Deal that laid the groundwork for the fight for economic freedom in the U.S. during the time of the Great Depression. The federal government mobilized and was able to create the greatest middle class the U.S. has ever seen. At that time, in reaction to Roosevelt’s New Deal, big business and other moneyed interests hunkered down and made “socialism” a dirty word, a calculated technique of fear-mongering that is being perpetuated again.
The GND presents a historic opportunity to create millions of good, high-wage jobs, to provide unprecedented levels of prosperity and economic security for all people of the United States.
The goals outlined in the GND include:
• Net-zero greenhouse gas emissions;
• Create millions of good, living-wage jobs;
• Invest in infrastructure to meet the challenges of the 21st century;
• Clean air and water, climate and community resilience, health care for all, access to nature, and a sustainable environment;
• Promote justice and equity particularly in marginalized and indigenous communities.
Fourteen projects to accomplish the above goals through a 10-year national mobilization are outlined in the resolution. To read the resolution in full go to https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-resolution/109/text
It is estimated that a failure to respond to climate disruption will result in more than $500 billion in lost annual economic output in the U.S. by the year 2100. And there will be a trillion-dollar loss of public infrastructure and coastal real estate, not to mention mass migrations from regions most affected by climate disruption and the huge impact on the quality of life.
We are the richest nation in history, but resources are being hoarded by the top .01 percent. Polluters are externalizing their costs, our military budget is larger than the combined spending of the next top 10 spenders. U.S. spends over $643 billion a year on military (and growing). Russia spends $63 billion.
Ten years ago excellent legislation to address the climate crisis, the Waxman-Markey Bill, was introduced. It never made it to the Senate floor despite Obama in the White House and a pro-environment Democratic House and Senate. What it lacked was a social movement. Research shows that no campaigns fail once they have the active and sustained participation of just 3.5 percent of the population. It is we, the people, who provide the momentum for movement and change.
The GND is setting the stage for the 2020 elections. It is revealing that most of the 2020 presidential candidates have co-sponsored the GND resolution and resolved not to accept fossil-fuel money. Unfortunately, U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard has not done so yet.
U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono is the only Hawaii congress person who has boldly co-sponsored the resolution so far. U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz has said he endorses but has not co-sponsored. He has requested Majority Leader Mitch McConnell schedule a full day of floor debate on the GND before a vote is taken. U.S. Rep. Ed Case has had committee meetings on climate change but has been timid about committing to the GND. An unprecedented 79 congressional members have co-sponsored the resolution as of this week.
Who is opposing the GND? Follow the money. The fossil-fuel industry is a huge contributor to political campaigns. Big money is already posting misleading ads regarding the GND. Climate deniers like U.S. Sen. John Barrasso from Wyoming, chair of the Committee on Environment and Public Works, are saying untruthful, uneducated things, like “ice cream, cheeseburgers will be a thing of the past because under the GND livestock will be banned.”
The resolution DOES call on the federal government to make investments in policies and projects that would eventually change the way we design buildings, travel and eat.
The younger generation is rising to meet the challenge of our climate crisis, and the opportunity to build a more just and equitable world.
Their message to our political leadership is “step up or step aside.” The work ahead is assuring that the GND is not appropriated, watered down, or otherwise compromised. It must be bold and capable of addressing systemic crisis at a deep level, guaranteeing environmental, economic and social justice for all.
To quote Grete Thunberg again, speaking to world leaders, “I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day, and then I want you to act.”
Laurel Brier is a resident of Anahola.