Originally introduced in Congress in 2018, the Green New Deal was reintroduced last month, a few days after the United Nations chief announced that the world is on the verge of a climate ‘abyss’ as global temperatures continue to rise. The scientific community affirms his declaration that “2021 must be the year of action.”
The U.S. has led in its contributions to the creating the climate crisis, and now we must lead in combatting it. The GND is calling for a 10-year, national economic mobilization to rapidly transition the U.S. to a zero-carbon economy.
In doing so it will regenerate and reorganize our economy in ways that significantly reduce income inequality and redress legacies of systemic oppression. Opponents have criticized the GND as a Trojan horse to bring in a progressive and ‘socialist’ agenda, such as universal health-care and free higher education.
In the process of transforming the physical and organizational structures of our societies at the speed and scale that scientists have called for, there is an opportunity to fix an economic model that is failing the majority of people on multiple fronts. The things that are destroying our planet are also destroying people’s quality of life in many other ways, from gross income and social inequalities to crumbling infrastructures and a loss of social cohesion.
The five big goals for the Green New Deal are:
• To achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions through a fair and just transition for all communities and workers;
• To create millions of good, high-wage jobs and ensure prosperity for all people of the United States;
• To invest in the infrastructure and industry of the U.S. to sustainably meet the challenges of the 21st century;
• To secure clean air and water, climate and community resiliency, healthy food, access to nature and a sustainable environment;
• To promote justice and equity by stopping current, preventing future, and repairing historic oppression of frontline and vulnerable communities, including indigenous peoples, communities of color, migrant communities, deindustrialized communities, depopulated rural communities, the poor, low-income workers, women, the elderly, the unhoused, people with disabilities and the youth.
The GND would achieve these goals through an extensive set of projects and policies. Policy is the work to enact our shared values — to mold the world, through our democracy, into what we think it should be.
The GND is designed, first and foremost, to address the climate crisis at the speed, scale and scope required to prevent catastrophic levels of warming.
It comes from an analysis that identifies the climate crisis as a consequence of systems — neoliberalism, strategic racism, unfettered capitalism, colonialism and their interaction, rather than only a consequence of greenhouse-gas emissions.
Principles that guide the GND lie in the inconvenient truth that we are not a nation of prosperity for all. We are a nation of gross inequity, more so than any other G7 country. Our incomes have doubled for the top 1% since 1980 and stayed stagnate for the bottom 90%. Almost 80% of Americans now live paycheck to paycheck. People struggling to get even their basic needs met in a time of glutinous, unprecedented private wealth is a manufactured crisis.
In the last decade, 12 men gave $3.4 billion to federal candidates and political groups. The success of the GND depends on the ability to reroute power away from the 1% who have captured the financial, political, cultural and intellectual resources and return it to all of us and to the political and economic institutions designed to serve us. We will be better served in a society that takes care of people’s basic needs and avoids destroying the very place that gives us life.
The GND is a living document — an evolving, fluid blueprint. It has changed and evolved since it was first conceived in 2006. In 2019 the idea of a Blue New Deal was added given the oceans’ importance to both climatic systems and our economy. And nearly 40% of Americans live in coastal counties where lives, homes and infrastructure are at risk. This year, a Red New Deal has been suggested, which highlights the important role of indigenous people as the protectors of 80% of the biodiversity on Earth. Indigenous people make up only 5% of the population. The proposed Red New Deal is in recognition of the knowledge they hold in living in harmony with the earth, the leadership roles they are taking to end harmful extraction practices and the gross oppression to which they have been subjected with the intention of extinction.
Rather than just bracing ourselves for sacrifice and hard times, what if we envision an opportunity for a better life for all — greater equity and opportunity for everyone and living in harmony with our environment? Democracy at its best.
Laurel Brier is involved with the Kaua‘i Climate Action Coalition, previously known as Apollo Kaua‘i. The KCAC meets the third Monday of the month at 5 p.m. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org. KCAC joins with Surfrider and Zero Waste Kaua‘i to offer a monthly educational series on the climate crisis and related topics the second Wednesday of the month on Zoom and the ZWK Facebook Live page.