A Thoughtful Discussion On The Green New Deal

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Photo: Michael Reynolds/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Thanks to Sarah Jones for The Future Is Ours for the Taking, an updated primer on the big policy bundle proposed to make the USA economy greener, healthier and more prosperous than ever:

In New York City and around the world, millions of people took to the streets on Friday morning. A single demand unified them: Leaders must act, and act now, to stop climate change from getting any worse. “I want you to unite behind science. And then I want you to take real action. Thank you,” Greta Thunberg, the teen climate-change activist from Sweden, told Congress on Wednesday.

And a growing number of climate-change activists have coalesced around an answer to this imperative, a Green New Deal. The proposal, which would transition the U.S. economy to clean energy and create millions of new jobs, has become a rallying cry for organizations like the Sunrise Movement and left-wing Democrats like Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Although Ocasio-Cortez helped popularize the Green New Deal, and so has her fellow congressional democratic socialist, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, the basic concept is at least 12 years old. Not long after New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman called for a “Green New Deal” in 2007, a group of British academics and activists began drafting a substantive proposal that was published in July 2008.

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Photo: Simone Padovani/Awakening/Getty Images

Why do you think it has taken this long for the Green New Deal to catch fire in the public imagination?

For several reasons. Really, it takes an American, doesn’t it? I mean, when the Americans decide something is important, then it suddenly becomes important, and that’s fantastic. But I think what happened back in 2008 was that we were going through this grim financial crisis and London was at the heart of it already thanks to the City of London. We were writing [the British Green New Deal] after the date that I called Detonation Day — on the ninth of August 2007, when interbank lending froze and the system blew up.

Then in October 2008, with the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the whole thing becomes real for millions of people. Then it became quite hard to push the green story. The climate-breakdown story just wasn’t sexy at that point. Over the years, it has been picked up by various people; Jill Stein in the United States began to campaign on it. But on the whole it remained in the margins until Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez last year decided to make it part of her pitch. We owe everything to these Justice Democrats for lifting this issue way up into the stratosphere. It’s really been important, the role they play.

How would you say Ocasio-Cortez, the Justice Democrats, and the Sunrise Movement have changed the fight for a Green New Deal globally?

It’s quite extraordinary. Ocasio-Cortez was a David taking on Goliath, taking on Joe Crowley, one of the really big heavyweights in the Democratic Party. It was a huge achievement. And it was her profile that helped project the Green New Deal into the public domain. But it was also a steady, long, continuous process that’s being done by groups like the Sunrise Movement, going to Congress and standing outside Nancy Pelosi’s office at what I thought was just a pivotal moment.

Read the whole interview here.

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