Green New Deal for the 21st Century

The Green New Deal is an emerging idea that is gaining momentum because it gives us a vision of a better future and a way forward that includes everyone.

Imagine living in the United States of America where clean air, clean water, healthy food, a safe place to study, work, and live, and an opportunity to thrive is available and accessible to everyone.

Even though the framers of the U.S. Constitution were not a diverse bunch (being all white men), I still think they envisioned the America that I described above and said so in the preamble to the Constitution using late 18th-century language.

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

Everyone needs a habitable planet to live on but the U.S. federal government is actively making climate change worse by ramping up fossil fuel development, dismantling protections for people and the environment, and denying that there is a problem.

Apparently, many of our elected officials have forgotten whom they work for or just do not care. We the people need to take back our power and demand that they either step to the plate or take a hike (we made progress during the last election).

The Green New Deal could be the rallying cry we so desperately need to unite us and mobilize our country to do the work necessary to keep Earth habitable for everyone.

So, what is the Green New Deal? After a quick refresher of the 1930s New Deal that inspired the Green New Deal, we will take a look the green version.

1930s New Deal

The stock market crash of 1929 led to the Great Depression that was well underway in 1932 when Franklin D. Roosevelt accepted the Democratic Party’s nomination for president and declared,

“I pledge you, I pledge myself, to a new deal for the American people.”

By the time he took office on March 4, 1933, the banking system had collapsed, unemployment was at almost 25%, and millions of people had lost their homes and farms.

As he had promised the American people, President Roosevelt immediately set about making the New Deal a reality.

Civilian Conservation Corps Rock Creek Bridge in Little Rock, Arkansas
Bridge across Rock Creek in Little Rock, Arkansas built by the Civilian Conservation Corps – Photo Credit Eric Hunt – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0.

From 1933 to 1936, millions of federally funded jobs put people back to work on projects as diverse as planting trees to building bridges to painting murals, new federal agencies formed, and Congress enacted legislation reforming the banking industry and stock market, strengthening protections for workers, and setting up the social security system.

A lot has changed in the United States since the New Deal ended some eighty or so years ago. The Green New Deal is for the country we are today.

2020s Green New Deal

Ideas for a Green New Deal have been swirling around for well over a decade but had not gained much traction, until just after the November 2018 elections.

On November 13, 2018, young activists wearing black Sunrise Movement t-shirts and holding yellow signs saying “Green Jobs for All” and “What is Your Plan?” occupied soon to be Speaker of the House Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s office. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a newly elected congresswoman from New York stopped by to add her support for a Green New Deal.

The Sunrise Movement’s message is simple, audacious, and inclusive.

“We’re fighting for a just transition to 100% renewable energy within 12 years—the time frame set by the world’s leading climate scientists.”

Rep. Ocasio-Cortez and other representatives supported the formation of a House Select Committee for a Green New Deal with the authority to develop a detailed national Green New Deal plan and draft legislation in 2 years or less, with implementation taking place the following 10 years (currently there is no plan to do anything).

Major goals of the Plan include:

  • Transitioning to 100% renewable energy
  • Building a national smart electricity grid
  • Making all buildings energy efficient, comfortable, and safe
  • Eliminating greenhouse gas emissions from manufacturing, agriculture, and other industries
  • Upgrading water infrastructure to ensure everyone has access to clean water
  • Investing in drawing down greenhouse gases
  • Making “green” a major U.S. export and helping other countries bring about a global Green New Deal
  • Guaranteeing a living wage job to every person who wants one
  • Helping people transition from fossil fuel energy jobs
  • Providing a just transition for all workers and people living in disadvantaged communities

Speaker of the House Pelosi, who has the power to establish committees and appoint representatives to committees, nixed the idea.

Instead, she decided to resurrect the Select Committee on Energy Independence & Global Warming (2007-2010) renaming it the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis and appointing Rep. Kathy Castor of Florida to chair it. This committee will not be working on a plan for a Green New Deal.

The thing is the proverbial genie is out of the bottle. The Green New Deal idea is garnering increasing media attention and gaining proponents in the House of Representatives. Even a few 2020 presidential hopefuls are talking about it.

“Green is the new red, white and blue.” – Thomas L. Friedman

What Can You Do?

  • Learn more about the Green New Deal. Of course, you can read whatever you want; however, on your behalf, I have slogged through dozens of articles and selected several that I think will give you a good grasp of the topic and will point you to other articles and resources.
  • Talk about the Green New Deal with your family, friends, neighbors, coworkers, and community leaders.
  • Tell your elected officials that you want them to support the Green New Deal and share with them what is important to you.
  • Join an organization that is mobilizing to support the Green New Deal.
  • Participate in a Green New Deal protest march, sit-in, or rally (please refrain from hopping on an airplane to do so).

I am in. Are you in?

Featured Image at Top: Piece of paper in a typewriter with the words “If not now, when?” – Photo Credit iStock/IvelinRadkov

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Amity and Prosperity – Book Review

No one should be sacrificed in the name of energy.

Amity and Prosperity: One Family and the Fracturing of America could be anyone’s story and that is why you should read this book by Eliza Griswold.

Not long ago, I was scrolling down the New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2018 list, when I spotted Amity and Prosperity. I instantly knew I wanted to read the book and the holiday season seemed the perfect occasion to do it.

At this time of year, our hearts are filled generosity and goodwill towards other people. Juxtaposed against this are rampant consumerism and a significant boost in fossil fuel use as people crank up their heaters, cook and bake holiday foods, light up homes and neighborhoods, ship packages overnight, and fly across the country to enjoy festivities with family and friends.

The thing is that mining for coal, drilling for oil, and fracking for natural gas are industrial activities with terrible side effects especially for the people who live where it occurs. This is not okay. We need to get off fossil fuels and protect everyone’s right to clean air, water, and a habitable planet to live on.

In Amity and Prosperity, Griswold brings to life the stories of real people struggling to live their lives in the shadow of the ever-expanding natural gas fracking industry in Appalachia. It is easy to look away or say you do not want to read or hear about it, but I believe we all have a responsibility to find out what is really going on in our country and then try to change it.

Book Review

Appalachia is a place of natural beauty with warm-hearted patriotic people living on land abundant in energy resources like coal, oil, and natural gas. Many families have lived in the same area and even on the same land for generations. Over 150 years of mining and drilling for fossil fuels has taken a heavy toll on the people and the land.

As you read Amity and Prosperity you will meet Stacey Haney, a nurse, and single mother, and her two children Harley and Paige as well as their neighbors, other family members, and people in and around the community of Amity in Washington County, Pennsylvania (yes, it is a real town). Attorneys, state and federal agency employees, and fracking industry representatives will also make appearances.

Amity and Prosperity Book CoverEliza Griswold and Stacey Haney met on March 23, 2011, at the Morgantown Airport at a West Virginia/Pennsylvania Monongahela Area Watersheds Compact meeting, where Stacey had spoken about living near a Marcellus shale natural gas fracking operation.

After the meeting, her daughter Paige said, “You did good, Mom. You only cried twice.”

The next day, Griswold visited the Haney’s for the first time. Over the course of seven years, she would make 37 trips and follow the stories of 45 people.

All Stacey Haney was asking for was to be able to get safe clean drinking water from her well so she and her kids could be healthy and live happily on their farm.

“The people have a right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and esthetic values of the environment. Pennsylvania’s public natural resources are the common property of all the people, including generations yet to come. As trustee of these resources, the Commonwealth shall conserve and maintain them for the benefit of all people.”

—Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Article 1, Section 27 Natural resources and the public estate (1967 amendment)

The Bottom Line

When poet, journalist, and author Eliza Griswold rode across a river in Nigeria on an empty oil drum in 2007, she did not know it would lead to writing Amity and Prosperity.

After visiting and writing about places like Nigeria, where extremely poor people live on land that is rich in energy resources, Griswold decided, she wanted to return home and tell the stories of the people who live where energy extraction takes place in the United States.

One thing that struck me while reading the book is that Griswold herself is inconspicuous, present but not seen. She allowed the people living in Washington County, Pennsylvania to tell their stories, often in their own words with seemingly very little interference from her. I like that.

Imagine the courage it would take to open up your life to public scrutiny.

Stacey Haney would probably have been satisfied to live her entire life without becoming the heroine of a book and chances are her children would have preferred that, too. Yet, courageously and honestly, they and others did share their daily lives and struggles with readers everywhere.

Somehow, I get the feeling that Stacey Haney would not care about being an inspiration to anyone, but she is to me.

Featured Image at Top: Part of an American Flag Reflected in Waterdrops – Photo Credit iStock/perkijl

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