During the Great Depression, President Franklin D. Roosevelt gave America a new deal when change was desperately needed. The New Deal refers to several policies and programs that FDR and his administration implemented in the 1930s, which were intended to lift up the working class and help bring the country out of the Great Depression and into a new era. Not only was The New Deal the beginning of programs like social security, new policies also gave workers the right to unionize, and major infrastructure projects across the country employed many people who had been seeking work.
Although it has been decades since original The New Deal, it looks like we may be in need of a modern version. Today, we are not just facing one crisis in our country: while many working class people have struggled to make ends meet ever since the recession, we’re also getting more and more alarming headlines about climate change each and every day. Is it possible to tackle both of the monumental problems at the same time? Plenty of progressives in Congress think that the answer is yes. Enter the “Green New Deal.”
Back in 2007, Thomas L. Friedman mentioned the idea of a Green New Deal in The New York Times, when he wrote about how changing the electricity grid to run on renewables would be a huge win for the environment and the economy. The idea didn’t get much buzz for a while, but now, several politicians are putting it at the forefront of their message, and it’s gaining traction. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who has been making headlines for her bold policy proposals, has been a huge proponent of the Green New Deal, and as the youngest member of Congress, it’s clear that she knows how vital this program would be—after all, her generation could be looking at a bleak future for the planet if we don’t act now.
So, what exactly is the Green New Deal, and what would this proposal mean for America? Essentially, the core idea is to decarbonize the economy. That means investing in the infrastructure that would be necessary to power the country with clean energy, like renewables—which would create plenty of jobs in a variety of fields. For example, workers would be needed to construct new public transport systems, to convert buildings to solar energy, and much more. Yes, transitioning America over to a “green” economy would take an enormous amount of work—but we have the manpower. In fact, a federal jobs guarantee is a key part of the proposal. And that’s part of the reason that the idea is so popular.
As unfortunate as it is, not everyone is super invested in the environmental movement. Not everyone is going to change their lifestyle, reduce their carbon footprint, or even stay informed about climate change. But everyone has to have their material needs met—they need a job that allows them to support themselves. If we can tie economic advancement to the environmental movement, the idea will gain support from people who would probably never refer to themselves as environmentalists.
Here’s what sets the Green New Deal apart from the original New Deal—it has to include a “just transition.” In other words, politicians and activists must ensure that the communities who need the help most are not left behind in the transition to a green economy. This means that policies should be made with the needs of low-income communities in mind first—communities that need the assistance more than others.
As of right now, the Green New Deal refers as much to policy proposals as it does to a certain vision of the future. The fact that such an ambitious idea is on the political table and entering the public consciousness is a huge achievement in and of itself. And these are the type of policies that we truly need at a time of environmental crisis.
What would have to happen to get this kind of legislation passed? Well, it will certainly mean a tough battle during the 2020 presidential election. If we want to see the Green New Deal become a reality, we need an administration that views these problems as the threat that they really are—not a hoax or a minor problem that can be ignored until it is too late. We need a brand new New Deal, and we need it as soon as we can get it. This is America’s chance to be a world leader in the fight against climate change.
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