By Father Bud Grant
Although 83 percent of voters have not yet heard of it, “The Green New Deal” (GND) is making news, not shockingly, because it is a politicized concept.
It is disparaged as “a socialist wish-list” by the Republican National Committee (RNC) and embraced by it’s best-known advocate, 29 year old Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, as a “green dream” of the “green generation” that has “the troops, the money, and the readiness to fight” (“Liberal Democrats Formally Call for a ‘Green New Deal,’” New York Times, Feb. 7, 2019).
In the media it has become a clash between status quo Democrats and the newly elected “Justice Democrats.” Some charge that the GND has been “scrubbed” to conceal its more outlandish ambitions (“The Mysterious Case of AOC’s Scrubbed ‘Green New Deal’ Details,” Washington Examiner, Feb. 9, 2019). It should be noted that we are talking about a draft of a policy statement, not a bill before Congress.
The term originates with Thomas Friedman in 2007. He called for an FDR-like mobilization against climate change. Former President Barack Obama inserted the concept in his 2008 campaign platform and, in 2016, so did Jill Stein (Green Party) and Bernie Sanders. (“The Green New Deal, explained,” Vox, Feb. 7 2019). Back in July 2008 the British “Green New Deal Group” published its “first report” (neweconomics.org). Premised on the “triple crunch” of credit crisis, climate change and “peak oil,” the report’s authors sought a fundamental shift toward a sustainable economic model.
Ocasio-Cortez’s new GND policy statement is intended to inform the to-be-created GND Select Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives. You can read the draft-resolution at ocasio-cortez.house.gov. This sounds pretty esoteric, under-the-radar stuff, but it already has 40 sponsors, about half of whom are now running for president. An amazing 81 percent of voters support it, including majorities of both political parties and across the ideological spectrum. Of course, the pollsters first had to explain what it was.
They did a good job: “Some members of Congress … say that a Green New Deal will produce jobs and strengthen America’s economy by accelerating the transition from fossil fuels to clean, renewable energy … generate 100 percent of the nation’s electricity from clean, renewable sources within the next 10 years; upgrade the nation’s energy grid, buildings, and transportation infrastructure; increase energy efficiency; invest in green technology research and development; and provide training for jobs in the new green economy” (Yale Program on
Climate Change Communication & George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication, Dec. 2018).
Remarkably like Pope Francis’ apostolic letter, Laudato Si, the GND resolution braids environmental protection (drafters have even referred to the earth as “creation”), new jobs and justice for those marginalized in the current economic system, including “depopulated rural communities.”
This statement draft, intended to inform a committee that has not yet been seated, has already been subjected to critique from environmentalists. Most cautiously embrace it, though its 10-year implementation plan is being rejected as too little too late to meet the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) projection that we have perhaps only 12 years to address climate change.
It leaves things out, such as addressing the problem that Americans do not live where we work (“The Green New Deal’s Huge Flaw,” Slate, Feb. 7, 2019). It is otherwise wildly inclusive … net zero greenhouse gas emissions, millions of good jobs, infrastructure investment, clean environment and justice.
It is, indeed, a “green dream.” But in these dark days of February, in a divisive political climate and given a gloomy environmental prognosis, perhaps we need to dream. “In the last days, says the Lord, I will pour out my Spirit upon all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young will see visions, and your old will dream dreams” (Acts of the Apostles 2:27).
(Father Bud Grant is a professor of theology at St. Ambrose University in Davenport.)