Visionary Imagination: The Green New Deal

By Wanda Guthrie

For quite a few years I have been following the work of the Yale Forum on Religion and Ecology. The objective of the Forum established by Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grim has been to establish a new academic field of study that will guide environmental policy and environmental humanities.

Twenty years ago the intersection of religion and ecology was neither a field of study nor a force for transformation. This work was originally influenced by my favorite “geologian” Thomas Berry. He wrote that participation in the Dream of the Earth has the potential to open up the human species to an ecologically viable future. Transforming the relation of the human being to itself, to the planet, and to the elements of the cosmos requires a vision that can facilitate a reinvention of human nature. To dream of the Earth is “to reinvent the human — at the species level”. The goal of this reinvention is to “place the human within the dynamics of the planet.” It is the historical mission of our times, a mission that calls for the emergence of a human species that can enact socially just and ecologically sustainable ways of dwelling in the world and this mission requires visionary imagination.

Reimagining an environmentally just vision, the Green New Deal may be likened to FDR’s New Deal policies and his 1944 vision of a 2nd Bill of Rights and the Freedom Budget of 1966. In his 1944 State of the Union address, President Franklin Roosevelt called for an Economic Bill of Rights, stating that “Necessitous men are not free men.” Those “who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.” Roosevelt died before he could introduce these rights as a constitutional commitment.

The dream continued and in 1966 the Freedom Budget for All Americans addressed the changes that promised to eliminate poverty within a 10 year period. The plan called for the employment, decent housing, health care, and education for all people and acknowledged these as basic human rights. When the government provides opportunities and privileges for white people and rich people they call these programs ‘subsidies.’ When they do it for people of color and poor people these programs are disparaged as ‘welfare.’ The fact is that everybody in this country lives on welfare.

Suburbs were built with federally subsidized credit. The highways that take our white brothers and sisters to the suburbs were built with nearly 90% federally subsidized money. Everybody is on welfare in this country. “The problem is that we all too often have socialism for the rich and rugged, free enterprise capitalism for the poor. That’s the problem.” said Martin Luther King, Jr., in response to the 1968 Poor People’s Campaign. The Rev Dr. King was assassinated and the campaign for the Freedom Budget for All Americans slowly died.

The Green New Deal has been introduced as a modern-day resolution to these inequalities. It echos the call for ambitious changes and a 10 year plan of mobilization. This timely call for environmental and human rights is a call for reinvention of what it means to be human. Here are the ten pillars of the Green New Deal as laid out in the proposal by Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, the new Congressperson from NY, early in 2019:

“Guaranteeing a job with a family-sustaining wage, adequate family and medical leave, paid vacations, and retirement security to all people of the United States.” “Providing all people of the United States with — (i) high-quality health care; (ii) affordable, safe, and adequate housing; (iii) economic security; and (iv) access to clean water, clean air, healthy and affordable food, and nature.”

“Providing resources, training, and highquality education, including higher education to all people of the United States.”

“Meeting 100 percent of the power demand in the United States through clean, renewable, and zero emission energy sources.”

“Repairing and upgrading the infrastructure in the United States, including . . . by eliminating pollution and greenhouse gas emissions as much as technologically feasible.”

“Building or upgrading to energy-efficient, distributed, and ‘smart’ power grids, and working to ensure affordable access to electricity.”

“Upgrading all existing buildings in the United States and building new buildings to achieve maximal energy efficiency, water efficiency, safety, affordability, comfort, and durability, including through electrification.”

“Overhauling transportation systems in the United States to eliminate pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector as much as is technologically feasible, including through investment in — (i) zero-emission vehicle infrastructure and manufacturing; (ii) clean, affordable, and accessible public transportation; and (iii) high-speed rail.”

“Spurring massive growth in clean manufacturing in the United States and removing pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from manufacturing and industry as much as is technologically feasible.”

“Working collaboratively with farmers and ranchers in the United States to eliminate pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the agricultural sector as much as is technologically feasible.”

Wanda is Convener of the Thomas Merton Center EcoJustice Working Group and Board Member of PA Interfaith Power & Light.

(TMC newspaper VOL. 49 No. 2 March 2019. All rights reserved.)

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