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'Green New Deal is focused and ambitious'
Posted June 3, 2019
We are facing a climate crisis as severe as our grandparents faced during the Dust Storms of the 1930s when 500 tornadoes touched down across the mid-continent in a 30-day period. Lake Ontario is at its highest level in recorded history. Wildfires are driving people from their homes in northern Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia. Climate change is an ecological crisis that should command all our attention and collective action. In the same way the Dust Storms of the 1930s were caused by human farming practices, the climate crisis facing us now has been caused by excessive burning of fossil fuels.
In the 1930s, enlightened leadership used all the power of government to reverse the damage that had been done to the High Plains. Vast sums of money and human power restored the soil and brought nature back into balance. The main point of Kevin Baker's recent article in Harper's May 2019 issue is that if we could do it before we can do it again.
All quotations that follow come from Baker's article, "Where Our New World Begins."
Like the New Deal of the 1930s, the Green New Deal is focused and ambitious. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) is a 29-year-old Congresswoman whose "brain trust" panel put into words what many are realizing: we simply cannot keep going on the way we have been if we are to survive. In the 1930s the same realization led to FDR's New Deal: we cannot keep going on "the same old, destructive, senseless way that has brought us to such a state."
FDR's New Deal was met with a great deal of opposition from right wing alarmists who called it "prohibitively expensive, or intrusive, or unconstitutional, or contrary to everything that was best in our American way of life." It was "socialism" and therefore evil. Similarly, the Green New Deal is being attacked for the very same reasons. Ms. Ocasio-Cortez herself has been called an "enemy of freedom," whatever that is supposed to mean.
"Coming from the right, the blowback was predictable, and predictably stupid: the Democrats want to ban cows and planes and your SUV, and go right to 'war socialism.' Even many Democrats scoffed at the plan calling it a "fantasy" that would "threaten to destroy workers' livelihoods." "There's no way to pay for it," claimed Diane Feinstein, a Democratic Senator from California. Baker continues, "We must address climate change, and we must transform the way our political and economic systems work ... - just as we did during the Great Depression ... The political establishment, even within the Democratic Party, doesn't seem to understand this, any more than the congressmen listening to Hugh Bennett understood the urgency of the moment until they looked out the window of the Capitol and watched Oklahoma blowing by.
"We have increased the temperatures of the earth by nearly one degree Celsius since the 1880s, which has let to climate events of unprecedented frequency and ferocity, including terrible fires, hurricanes, the decline and extinction of entire species, and dire food and water shortages that have precipitated wars and refugee crises. We are headed rapidly towards doubling that increase to two degrees, which could kill off the world's coral reefs, melt enough global ice to flood every city by a seashore and turn cities in the Middle East and South Asia lethally hot.
"What will happen when we get to a three degree or four degree or six degree increase - all incredibly likely, if we continue to do nothing - is so terrible as to be beyond useful contemplation...
"The Green New Deal's ideas to stop and reverse global warming - primarily by decarbonizing the US economy 'as much as technically feasible' through massive investments in renewable energy, a smart electrical grid and increased energy efficiency; ubiquitous public transportation; and making low-tech advances in sustainable agriculture, adding forests, and restoring ecosystems - are entirely practical because this is what has to be done if we are to survive on this planet. They are in line with what we have done before, when we had to."
To finance these projects, the Green New Deal proposes increasing taxes on the richest to 70 per cent. The top bracket in the 1950s was 90 per cent which fostered an expanded middle class and an age of prosperity and security for everyone. The right has successfully sold the nation's people a bill of goods that claims cutting taxes for the wealthy and services for everyone else are great ideas that will keep everyone employed and comfortable. Why ordinary people continue to believe that lie is a great mystery to me.
Pundits and politicians who attack every idea that calls all of us to action, whether it is AOC's Green New Deal or the Leap Manifesto authored by Avi Lewis and Naomi Klein in Canada, have nothing more to offer because if we are to survive, we will simply have to ignore them. Our Environment Minister, Catherine McKenna has concluded that we are the last generation that can do something about climate change. If we do not act now we condemn our children and grandchildren to an unsustainable planet.
Barbara Delargy is a retired English teacher currently living near Everett. Reach her at email@example.com