By: Thomas Hoffman
Despite her being only 16 years old, Greta Thunberg, the founder of the Student Strike for the Climate Movement, has the clearest vision of the problems we face. When speaking to world economic leaders in Davos, she had this to say, “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. I want you to act as you would in a crisis. I want you to act as if our house is on fire. Because it is!”
She knows that the only number that counts is the ppm of CO2 in the atmosphere. And no matter how you spin it – that number is still increasing.
We have run out of time to act gradually on climate. There have been smart and clever policy fixes that have been proposed: a price on carbon, cap and trade, and massive subsidies for renewables. They have all been debated, and alas, they have all died. Just when those policies might have saved us, we blew it.
A friend of mine once announced at a training for environmental groups on air quality that Pittsburgh did not have an air pollution problem. There was a large outcry, “Yes we do – our air is almost as bad as LA’s.” He said, “Nope you don’t have an air pollution problem.
You have a political problem. current federal minimum wage plus benefits. This will raise all wages and reduce poverty and inequality in this country. It will provide education, training and apprenticeships. The GND will guarantee worker rights and good union jobs just as in the original New Deal of the 30’s. This will guarantee working families a decent life and future. It will promote “good “ employers and wage standards such as Davis-Bacon and project labor agreements.
This will ensure that the jobs fixing the climate raise wages and improve working conditions. The GND will tax rich individuals and corporations to fix our climate crisis. This will have the added benefit of reducing the growing and unsustainable inequality in our country. These policies have broad support. They are necessary for our survival. They will, however, face unbelievable opposition from the powerful and rich in our country. So, as my friend pointed out, we are in a political fight for our lives. We need everyone. Voting rights for the people who have been dis-enfranchised by the right and the current administration are truly life and death issues in our climate crisis world. People who want dirty air have more power than those who want clean air.”
It is the same with climate. We need a strategy that will spark a political movement and spark the imagination of everyone in the country. In This Changes Everything, Naomi Klein is hopeful that the climate crisis we face could bring all our progressive movements together. No one movement alone can get the job done – we need everyone in.
The Green New Deal (GND) is designed to be that strategy. It is big, bold and visionary because it has to be. It is the only plan out there that is even remotely the same size as the global catastrophe we face.
The GND is designed to excite and engage a coalition that is powerful enough to win in the face of the forces who want the status quo. To pick just a few strategies:
The GND projects will clean up the air, water and land pollution that threatens the health of marginalized and low-income communities. It will fix gross inequities in transportation, education and health in those neighborhoods.
The GND will guarantee a publicoption job with a wage twice the The Nation magazine recently talked to young people in their early 20’s about climate. I’d like to end with a quote from one of them:
“Twelve years. That is how long climate-change activists say we have to limit the climate-change catastrophe. Twelve years from now, I will not even be 40 years old. My generation is the generation that will undoubtedly inherit this crisis if we do not act now. But there is hope. As a young, black woman who lives on the intersection of multiple identities, it is important for policies to be intersectional. The Green New Deal does just that. It does not just offer solutions like the reduction of greenhouse-gas emissions and pollution, but it goes deeper and calls for “high-quality healthcare for all, affordable safe and adequate housing, economic security, and access to clean water, clean air, healthy, and affordable food, and nature.”—Rebekah Barber, 2016 graduate of North Carolina Central University. Currently a researcher at the Institute for Southern Studies.
Tom Hoffman works for the Sierra Club. Obsessed with winning a green first solution for our sewage in the rivers problems. Has also worked for Clean Water Action and the Service Employees International Union.
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