Prepared and maintained by NYC DSA Ecosocialist Working Group.
Excerpts only: follow links for complete items. Updated 7/10/19
Democratic Socialists of America Ecosocialist Working Group 2/28/19
Full text of the Green New Deal Resolution introduced on February 7 by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Sen. Edward Markey (D-MA).
The Green New Deal aims to
People’s Policy Project has released a plan for a truly Global Green New Deal (GGND). We begin with a modest proposal: that lawmakers should take seriously the standard cost estimates developed by climate science and policy research, which calls for $2 trillion in annual transfers from wealthy nations to the poorer ones. Accordingly, we propose that the US should shoulder its share of this burden – about $680 billion a year – and secure proportional commitments from other member nations of the OECD. This money would go to the Green Climate Fund, the United Nation’s primary financing vehicle for the fight against climate change.
Typical green development funding models rely on a mix of public and private investment, with a heavy emphasis on the latter. Our proposal, in contrast, does not think it safe to rely on private businesses and benevolent philanthropists to get us through this emergency, which is why we have proceeded on the assumption that the public sector should cover the entire cost.
What Creates Crisis Cannot Solve It
Change From Below And to The Left
Politicians Can’t Do What Only Mass Movements Do
From Theory to Action
Mobilizing for a Just, Prosperous, and Sustainable Economy
New Consensus February 2019
Now, with the introduction of a new resolution by Representative Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Edward Markey, the campaign for a Green New Deal is poised to surge again. This [14-page] document describes in detail what the excitement is about.
“Inspired by the New Deal programs that helped us out of the Great Depression of the 1930s, the Green New Deal will provide similar relief and create an economy that makes our communities sustainable, healthy and just….
The Green New Deal perfectly sums up the scope, scale, and transformative spirit of the climate response this moment demands. In fact, with its vision for a rapid, justice-based shift to renewables, the Green New Deal is the closest thing we’ve seen to The Leap Manifesto brought to life in political language — and we couldn’t be more inspired by it. Visit The Leap's website for
Trade Unions for Just Transition: The Search for a Transformative Politics
While the focus of a Global Green New Deal is on policies aimed at reducing carbon dependency and improving the management of ecosystems and freshwater resources, such a strategy is not just about creating a greener world economy. Ensuring the correct mix of global economic policies, investments and incentives can achieve the more immediate goals of stimulating economic growth, creating jobs and reducing the vulnerability of the poor and the long-term aim of sustaining that recovery.
America's Climate Mission: Building a Just, Innovative and Inclusive Clean Energy Economy
by Governor Jay Inslee (D-WA)
Inslee’s Proposal to Shut Down the Fossil Fuel Industry (Assessment by the Next System Project)
By Natasha J. Fernández-Silber/Detroit DSA Medium 2/25/19 https://medium.com/dsa-detroit-newspaper/making-the-rust-belt-green-through-a-federal-great-lakes-authority-a548a5d46b44
Detroit DSA has begun organizing in earnest around a bold initiative to “Make the Rust Belt Green.” In collaboration with local elected officials and its coalition partners, Detroit DSA is calling for the creation of a new federal agency, in the vein of the Tennessee Valley Authority, called the “Great Lakes Authority.” The GLA would be a regional planning agency enacted under the umbrella of the “Green New Deal.” Its mandate: to bring green union jobs and economic development to the Midwest.
The Great Lakes Authority represents a credible way to bring back quality manufacturing jobs to the Midwest. Massive amounts of green infrastructure must be built to avert climate catastrophe. It should be built here, in places like Detroit, where millions of people already have manufacturing expertise and experience.
By Thea Riofrancos Viewpoint 5/16/19
After a few months of swirling discourse, we can begin to identify an emergent set of positions in the debate around the Green New Deal. The right-wing has resorted to classic red-baiting, decrying the nonbinding resolution as a “socialist monster,” a road to the serfdom of state planning, rationing, and compulsory veganism. The vanishing center is clinging tightly to its cozy attachment to a politics of triangulation: the Green New Deal is a childlike dream; serious adults know that the only option is to hew to the path of bipartisanship and incrementalism. The left, of course, knows that in the context of already-unfolding climate crisis, resurgent xenophobia, and the weakening hold on legitimacy of the neoliberal consensus, the real delusions are “market-driven” solutions and nostalgic paeans to American “norms and institutions.”
But on the left, too, there are criticisms, and outright rejections, of the Green New Deal (see here, here, here, and here). There is the charge that the Green New Deal, like the old New Deal, amounts to the state, qua executive committee of the bourgeoisie, rescuing capitalism from the planetary crisis it has created…. As sometimes the same analyses point out, this win-win-lose-lose scenario is itself based on a false understanding of contemporary capitalism. In a world of secular stagnation—declining profit rates, speculative bubbles, financialization, rentier-like behavior, and accumulation-by-upward-redistribution—the vampire-like quality of capital has never been more apparent. The notion that capital might, with a little inducement, suddenly overcome these tendencies and invest in productive activities is its own nostalgic fantasy.
These are real obstacles, real constraints, and real concerns. I argue, however, that a politics of pure negation—a politics that, in light of both the power of our enemies, and the limitations of the Green New Deal as currently conceived, positions itself primarily in opposition to the Green New Deal—is neither empirically sound nor politically strategic….
Podcast interview with Geoff Mann Against the Grain 6/12/19
We live in an age of anxiety and crisis. And there is a long tradition of thought that liberal elites have drawn on during such moments to rescue civilization as they know it from collapse: what we would call Keynesianism today, but which Geoff Mann argues dates back to the French Revolution, centuries before the birth of the economist John Maynard Keynes. Mann discusses the complicated entanglement of the Keynesian interventionist state and the left, as well as why we’re seeing the revival of Keynesianism in the Green New Deal.
By Güney Isikara and Ying Chen Developing Economics 6/7/19
What is new about the recent Green New Deal resolution sponsored by Ocasio-Cortez and Markey is that it puts climate action into the broader social context and moves away from the prevalent depoliticized framings. It recognizes the great inequality between the carbon footprint of the rich and the poor both globally and in the US context.
It recognizes that such an all-embracing transition is only possible through a deep and broad mobilization where the public sector takes the leading role, committing to massive infrastructure investments, providing the adequate capital at favorable conditions, and supporting the vulnerable sections of society by creating secure jobs and extending the realm of public goods and services.
In this piece, we build on those contributions, and unpack the dynamics inherent to the capitalist system that would need to be addressed in the ongoing discussions. We also shed light on the limitations of a market-based and growth-centered approach to tackling climate destabilization, while offering other domains of political intervention such as property relations and demarketization of subsistence.
No reaction that falls short of initiating a radical, all-embracing, and unprecedented transformation, which is very likely to run counter to the very logic of commodification and accumulation defining our capitalist economies, and hence disrupts them, will not be anywhere close to sufficient. This implies that the problematization of property relations and growth in the conventional economic sense must be part of the discussion.
While the world economy as a whole cannot keep growing in the next decade and at the same time dramatically cut its CO2 emissions, this need not mean to dispense with growth altogether and embrace degrowth. The problem asserts itself as a political question insofar as both growth and degrowth are necessary for different domains, industries, social classes, and countries in a differentiated and selective way.
Instead of recognizing growth as the crux of the debate, however, one must ask what growth means. There is no inherent connection between the growth of marketized output and an increasing living standard for working people. In fact, one of the best established facts in studies on inequality is that the working classes got very little from growth of the pie in the last few decades.
The fact that the living standard of wage laborers has been delinked from GDP growth has an important implication: their well-being can be substantially increased under circumstances of a constant, or even shrinking GDP. We need not be concerned with maintaining or boosting GDP growth while discussing climate action. On the contrary, revealing and emphasizing the lack of connection between growth and well-being is more fruitful insofar as it demystifies the content of capitalist accumulation.
Production as directed by the market mechanism, which puts profit above the satisfaction of human and social needs, is barely compatible with the notion that the living standard of the working classes is increased, while carbon emissions are drastically cut at the same time. If the economy is to be disrupted for the sake of a rapid and radical transformation of the energy infrastructure, production structure as well as consumption patterns, a demarketization of subsistence is indispensable.
Similarly, pushing for certain changes in property relations is a must for climate action. Fossil fuel companies declare that they will keep extracting and burning all the reserves they own, precisely because they own them! … The fossil fuel industry must therefore be nationalized to be able to control emissions through quantitative channels in the coming crossroad decade, which is the safest way reaching mitigation targets.
Doing the same things as in the two decades following the Kyoto Protocol and expecting a different outcome will flatly fail any meaningful climate action and drag us into abyss. The Green New Deal is a good start for change. The only way to fulfil its promises is to take up a confrontational path, intensify class struggle, spill the discussion of climate change beyond environmentalism so as to challenge and interrupt the logic of capitalism, and move toward a system where production of use-values overrides accumulation.
By Tithi Bhattacharya Jacobin 6/10/19
“As a political vision, the GND prioritizes the growth and flourishing of living beings, human and nonhuman, rather than the growth and flourishing of dead things like the “economy” and “commodity production.” In order to win such reforms and to sustain them against the inevitable backlash of the ruling class, the political project of a GND must be more than a set of regulatory reforms. The fight must encompass multiple forms of struggle in legislatures, workplaces, and the streets. And care work must be at its center.”
“If we recognize the wage for what it is — a forced, historical intervention between the laboring human and her life — then we can think about new ways to irrigate that life. We can demand that the labor of society be reorganized around jobs that enrich life rather than be harnessed in the irrational production of endless commodities.
The GND’s conception of the job guarantee program provides such a model for a new labor ecology in which work and wages are actually in the service of saving the planet rather than counterposed to its future. The GND does not simply promise to create “green” jobs but seeks to link the jobs program to multiple forms of social sustainability in ways such that jobs can become tools to “counteract systemic injustices” rather than reproduce them.”
“movements demanding social provisioning should be seen as tentative blueprints for the GND in three crucial ways. First, because they give us a sense of what kinds of social goods the GND needs to reclaim for the many; second, because the scale and militancy of the protests provide road maps for how to get them; finally, because they model a politics of what can be called insurgent caring, whereby movements demand that “care” be provided at multiple scales of life — individual, community, and planetary.
In this context, every teacher fighting against school closures, every nurse fighting against lean production, is actually trying to heal the injuries of class. Caring, in this expansive sense of the term, is a political phenomenon and the crisis of care is a deep-rooted attack on working-class life-making.”
“Schools and hospitals, public housing and transport — all such projects that sustain and improve life are not simply our means to an ecologically viable future, they are spaces which can allow us to imagine an alternative vision of wealth and experiment in ways in which human labor can be employed for the production of solidarities, mutual pleasures, and beauty.”
“Struggles that confront climate change have great potential for fusing struggles against production — strikes and labor struggles — with the struggles against the effects of such production, like movements for clean air. The recent wave of feminist strikes, teachers’ strikes, and children’s strikes are the most remarkable examples of such fusion.”
“From this perspective, the transformative potential of struggling for a radical Green New Deal is not to simply replace fossil fuels with renewable energy in such a way that yokes our air, wind, or sun to the compulsions of capitalist growth. The point is to reimagine social labor and human purpose, where care across scales — individual, social, and planetary — can finally be made whole.”
By Audrea Lim Jacobin 5/19/19
A just, equitable Green New Deal would acknowledge that land is a major source of wealth and inequality, and work towards what activists call “land justice” — the access to land that farmers need to “build healthy, equitable food systems that provide jobs and keep the food dollar in the community,” as Eric Holt-Giménez, the executive director of think tank Food First, writes.
It might do this by creating, as Penniman and the Northeast Farmers of Color have advocated in the past, a commission to “study reparations and propose a comprehensive redistribution of wealth and land.” Federal programs to buy back land are, while limited, not entirely without precedent. The Land Buy-Back Program for Tribal Nations allocated $2 billion in 2009 to repurchase indigenous lands that had been “fractionated” into small, individually owned parcels, and returned to reservations and communal tribal ownership under the Cobell v. Salazar settlement. And in an interview, the historian Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz noted that, despite its manifold problems and shortcomings, the 1934 Indian Reorganization Act — part of the original New Deal — did include funding to buy back similar lands and restore them to tribes.
These steps would not reverse the historical processes that deprived black, brown, and indigenous communities of resources, power, and dignity for generations — the same ongoing processes that drive corporate resource extraction and created the climate crisis. But they would be steps toward rectifying historical wrongs. And climate chaos, spreading heat waves, deep freezes, droughts, floods, and fires throughout the continent will only further threaten land access for people long divested of it.
John McDonnell, “A Green New Deal for the UK” Jacobin 5/30/19
The Labour Party's John McDonnell on how a “Green Industrial Revolution” can advance a radical program against climate change, bring energy workers and the rest of the working class to our side, and win socialism in our time.
Aaron Vansintjan, “Degrowth vs. the Green New Deal” Briarpatch 4/29/19
Some are wary of proposals like the Green New Deal – they say that it only “greens” the capitalist imperative of perpetual economic growth, which is the true cause of environmental destruction. These critics – degrowthers – believe that to reduce our environmental impacts, we need to scale down energy and material use throughout the economy. This will likely lead to a downturn in gross domestic product (GDP) growth, so we need to restructure the economy so it doesn’t rely on economic growth as an indicator for well-being.
Unlike the Green New Deal, however, degrowth isn’t a policy platform – it’s more of a movement, or what participants call an “umbrella concept,” bringing together a wide diversity of ideas and social and environmental justice struggles. There are other differences between the two, but each brings something unique to the just transition table. What would a conversation between degrowth and the Green New Deal look like?
By Myles Lennon Jacobin 4/22/19
I’m proposing that we move from silver-bullet solutions to the Black radical tradition. As Gaye Theresa Johnson and Alex Lubin explain, this tradition “is about questing for freedom” — “the necessity of recognizing the importance of struggle regardless of outcomes.” The Black radical tradition reminds us to anticipate shortcomings, to avoid utopianism, and to embrace the process of organizing, even as we continue to uphold the vision of the future we’re organizing for. In doing so, we don’t lose momentum or become disillusioned when a single strategy or policy fails — we instead shift gears and navigate the roadblocks that we always face in fighting for justice. As Black freedom struggles teach us, we cannot have faith that even the most radical piece of legislation will solve our intersecting crises — and we cannot put all of our personal energy and focus into a sole utopian remedy.
And as we organize for a GND, we can learn [that] the struggle for large-scale transformation doesn’t end when the ink dries on the legislation. We must build something bigger and more flexible than a congressional strategy. While many of us fret that the science suggests we have only a decade to overhaul our entire social, political, and economic system, the Black experience in this country reminds us of the unthinkable depths of human resilience. We don’t have the luxury of deferring action until tomorrow, but our capacity to fight will endure when we face the dire circumstances that will unfold if we don’t achieve our most utopian targets. Ultimately, the struggle is all we have.
By Nathan Thankl OpenDemocracy.net 4/12/19
The morality at the core of the Green New Deal – that the poor should not be forced to shoulder the burden of responsibility for cleaning up a mess caused mainly by the rich – is one of its central strengths after years of apolitical arguments for climate action.
Similarly, the argument used by the School Strikes – that future generations should not have to suffer because of the gluttonous overconsumption of previous generations – resonates thanks to its moral clarity.
But to advance climate justice, the moral argument at the heart of the newfound resurgent climate movement in the North must be extended into the international arena….
The transformations we need to make cannot be brought about without the countries of the Global South. And those countries cannot play their part if there is no finance, technology, and capacity to do so.
But if the North’s responsibilities are shirked again, if the American way of life is not up for negotiation, if the sound morality of the Green New Deal means eco-socialism for America and barbarism for the rest of the world, then the US completing its fair share is out of the question. And so is the possibility of a habitable earth….
To truly step up to the plate and play their part in a resurgent, ecologically-minded global justice movement, groups in the North will have to put meat on the bones of the system change slogan by articulating clear alternatives.
They will simultaneously have to reconnect with their legacies of international solidarity and build the power of the collective rather than the cult of celebrity in order to leverage the power of the state to limit corporate power. They have to be more ambitious than they’ve ever been – and this means being more committed to justice, for everyone, than ever before.
By Raj Patel and Jim Goodman Jacobin 4/4/19
Just as during the New Deal, we live in a time of incipient fascism, racism, and class divide. The Green New Deal can learn from its antecedent’s successes and failures, which provided a dramatic economic shift in rural America — not as dramatic as we might have wished for, nor as long-lasting as we would have liked, nor as egalitarian as it should have been. Yet the New Deal did make the case that environmental protection and paying people fairly for their work might go a long way towards limiting the power of corporations and creating a fair society for everyone.
Hindsight should inform the Green New Deal. This time, sustainable farmers need not be forced to choose between responsibility to the land and the communities of which they are part. Better living through farming can’t happen without canny political alliance-building, stitching together a bloc that addresses hunger, poverty, malnutrition, and inequities in wealth and wages, both in the countryside and city. The logic of building a counter-hegemonic bloc demands a militant rural presence. Not everyone will buy in, but there are farmers and farm workers who are ready to fight to make a net-zero-carbon world a new kind of common sense.
By Candice Bernd Truthout 4/6/19
By Sean McElwee New York Times 3/27/19
My think tank, Data for Progress, commissioned a series of polls on the Green New Deal…. To get accurate results, we deploy several techniques. First, in our latest polling with Civis Analytics, a data science firm founded by alumni of the Obama campaign, we informed respondents that the Green New Deal is a Democratic proposal. Voters were told that the Green New Deal would “phase out the use of fossil fuels, with the government providing clean energy jobs for people who can’t find employment in the private sector. All jobs would pay at least $15 an hour, include health care benefits and collective bargaining rights.” Many commentators have argued that the Green New Deal would become unpopular when voters were informed of the cost, so we added that the plan would “be paid for by raising taxes on incomes over $200,000 dollars a year by 15 percentage points.”
In addition, we provided arguments for and against the policy: “Democrats say this would improve the economy by giving people jobs, fight climate change and reduce pollution in the air and water. Republicans say this would cost many jobs in the energy sector, hurt the economy by raising taxes, and wouldn’t make much of a difference because of carbon emissions from China.”
What we found suggests very little reason for Democrats to worry about backlash: Forty-six percent of likely voters supported the policy and 34 percent opposed it. (The rest were unsure.) Obama-Trump voters narrowly favored the policy (45 percent in support and 39 percent opposed), and moderates supported it 44 percent to 27 percent.
By Christian Parenti Jacobin 3/13/19
An often-overlooked source of funding for the Green New Deal is the private sector. Government does not need to foot the whole bill. It merely needs to spend enough, and legislate enough, to trigger a transformation of private investment. Even many liberal and left economists are stuck thinking that government has to pay for the whole Green New Deal, as if it were a welfare program. In reality, government merely needs to do enough to channel ongoing public and private investment in new directions.
The Intercept 2/13/19
Either Trump is right and the Green New Deal is a losing political issue, one he can smear out of existence. Or he is wrong and a candidate who makes the Green New Deal the centerpiece of their platform will take the Democratic primary and then kick Trump’s ass…
Which outcome we end up with depends on the actions taken by social movements in the next two years. Because these are not questions that will be settled through elections alone. At their core, they are about building political power — enough to change the calculus of what is possible….
That was the lesson of the original New Deal, one we would be wise to remember right now. It's critical to remember that none of it would have happened without massive pressure from social movements. FDR rolled out the New Deal in the midst of a historic wave of labor unrest: There was the Teamsters’ rebellion and Minneapolis general strike in 1934, the 83-day shutdown of the West Coast by longshore workers that same year, and the Flint sit-down autoworkers strikes in 1936 and 1937. During this same period, mass movements, responding to the suffering of the Great Depression, demanded sweeping social programs, such as Social Security and unemployment insurance, while socialists argued that abandoned factories should be handed over to their workers and turned into cooperatives….
The Green New Deal will need to be subject to constant vigilance and pressure from experts who understand exactly what it will take to lower our emissions as rapidly as science demands, and from social movements that have decades of experience bearing the brunt of false climate solutions, whether nuclear power, the chimera of carbon capture and storage, or carbon offsets.
But in remaining vigilant, we also have to be careful not to bury the overarching message: that this is a potential lifeline that we all have a sacred and moral responsibly to reach for.
By Derek Seidman The Public Accountability Initiative 2/28/19
This report serves as a preliminary guide to the emerging anti-Green New Deal coalition. With the fossil fuel industry at its core, its supporting members include the Republican Party, a range of Democratic Party centrists, establishment economists, corporate-aligned environmental organizations, billionaire influencers, and building trades officials. Most members are tied in some way to oil and gas money, influence, and advocacy. From media airwaves to congressional committees, and through a range of arguments and tactics, members of this anti-Green New Deal coalition are seeking to dilute, co-opt, stall, or crush a far-reaching Green New Deal.
By Matthew Miles Goodrich Dissent 2/15/19
The chasm between our present addiction to fossil fuels and the decarbonized economy the world needs is so daunting that it has proven easier to chant “we have the solutions” than it has been to build the political power to win in government….
For much of its history, the climate movement has failed to offer a viable way beyond this impasse. Its organizers and institutions have consistently refused to confront the crisis as a crisis, preferring to view it either as capitalism’s natural conclusion or as a policy problem to be solved by the right wonks. This refusal constitutes, among other things, a refusal of politics—a refusal to articulate grievance through strategic interventions for power that pit a public protagonist against a public villain. Politics that does not contest for power is merely a performance; politics that does so without strategy is a bad performance. It is no exaggeration to say that the climate movement of the past decade has been an apolitical movement for refusing to engage with the basic mechanisms of power….
The Green New Deal makes fighting climate change a political project at a moment when the Democratic Party’s left-flank is resurgent for the first time in a generation. Perhaps paradoxically, a political approach to fighting climate change has, in a moment of political crisis, become a source of hope.
New Politics 5/26/19
The GND is an important starting point for conceiving how to take effective action now to halt and reverse the impact of climate change. But it is only a starting point, since it has its limitations. The problems begin with its name. The Green New Deal obviously harkens back to the New Deal of the 1930s and 1940s, the comprehension program born in response to the Great Depression that produced the modern welfare state. While many praise its beneficial social impact, the New Deal actually did not lift the U.S. out of the Depression. World War II did. … The aim of the New Deal was to save capitalism from collapse—not to transition to a new social order. Here is where the comparison with our situation today ends, since we cannot effectively deal with climate change without transitioning to a new social order. This is because capitalism has been hooked on fossil fuel for over two centuries. It is endemic to the very structure of the capitalist economy. Capitalism is a system defined by the drive to increase monetary wealth, especially in the form of profit, as an end in itself. Every business exists to make a profit; if profit rates for a particular enterprise decline relative to others, it is only a matter of time before it will be driven out of business. Fossil fuels are highly conducive for economies driven by the profit-motive since it packs an enormous amount of energy into a relatively small volume that is easily transportable from one location to another. Capital’s abstractive logic of domination, which seeks to liberate social life from natural spatial determinations for the sake of augmenting value as an end in itself, is almost inexorably drawn to fossil fuels that can be transported anywhere….
Most critics as well as supporters of the GND take the phrase literally, by thinking the same principles and policies that drove Roosevelt’s New Deal can save us from the grave threat of climate change today…. But relying on the state to curb carbon emissions won’t work with the kind of political system we have today; it will instead require a radical transformation of the entire structure of American governance. It will require nothing less than a political revolution in which the U.S. and other countries become genuine social democracies (in the original sense of that term) that serve the needs of its citizens instead of the corporate elites that preside over them. In a word, the goals of the GND require transitioning from the partial and flawed democracy we have today to a genuine or true democracy….
My argument boils down to this: In order to save and preserve what we have in common, the earth, we must transition to a form of society that respects the commons. It is not about passively waiting for such a society to miraculously arise: the commons is already here, although hidden from view by the ideologies and structures of existing society. By fighting to reclaim the commons—which includes not only the land but also the social powers at our disposal to collectively organize our lives without recourse to hierarchical forms of domination—we can transition to a new society, at the same as saving the earth itself. It seems to me that working for this would be worth the effort.
To meet the demands of the Green New Deal, which proposes to convert the US economy to zero emissions, renewable power by 2030, there will be a lot more mines gouged into the crust of the earth. That’s because nearly every renewable energy source depends upon non-renewable and frequently hard-to-access minerals: solar panels use indium, turbines use neodymium, batteries use lithium, and all require kilotons of steel, tin, silver, and copper. The renewable-energy supply chain is a complicated hopscotch around the periodic table and around the world. To make a high-capacity solar panel, one might need copper (atomic number 29) from Chile, indium (49) from Australia, gallium (31) from China, and selenium (34) from Germany. Many of the most efficient, direct-drive wind turbines require a couple pounds of the rare-earth metal neodymium, and there’s 140 pounds of lithium in each Tesla….
Given current technology, there is no possibility to continue using more energy per person, more land per person, more more per person. This need not mean a gray world of grim austerity, though that’s what’s coming if inequality and dispossession continue. An emancipated society, in which no one can force another into work for reasons of property, could offer joy, meaning, freedom, satisfaction, and even a sort of abundance. We can easily have enough of what matters—conserving energy and other resources for food, shelter, and medicine. As is obvious to anyone who spends a good thirty seconds really looking, half of what surrounds us in capitalism is needless waste. Beyond our foundational needs, the most important abundance is an abundance of time, and time is, thankfully, carbon-zero, and even perhaps carbon-negative….
For now, a revolution is not on the horizon. We’re stuck between the devil and the green new deal and I can hardly blame anyone for committing themselves to the hope at hand rather than ambient despair. Perhaps work on legislative reforms will mean the difference between the unthinkable and the merely unbearable. But let’s not lie to each other. More excerpts...
It is patently, fatally obvious that we (though I am prepared to fight you about who “we” is; it certainly does not mean to imply “US workers” or “US citizens” as it all too often does) need a massive transformation of how we do things if we are to save the potential for human flourishing rather than obliterating it and precious much else. Anyone who does not feel this keenly is on the side of death. Many of the goals envisioned in the nonbinding Green New Deal resolution introduced by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ed Markey are profoundly desirable, and speak at least in part to onrushing disaster. The resolution even gestures toward the ongoing entanglement of climate collapse, human die-off, and political catastrophe that finds its form in the fate of climate refugees set in motion on an overheating planet that is organized according to national husbandry of resources via border controls.
So far so good. And then you get to the part about how we are going to address this and suddenly it’s Keynesianism reduced to its crudest, most nostalgic, 8-bit basics: “Whereas the House of Representatives recognizes that a new national, social, industrial, and economic mobilization on a scale not seen since World War II and the New Deal is a historic opportunity . . .” Opportunity for what? you are saying. For three things: “(1) to create millions of good, high-wage jobs in the United States; (2) to provide unprecedented levels of prosperity and economic security for all people of the United States; and (3) to counteract systemic injustices.” The third is surely a matter of passionate agreement. But it seems to depend on the first two, and they seem to depend on the idea that the Green New Deal will work like the original New Deal purportedly did, spurring massive growth. I phrase it that way not because that is necessarily an accurate description of the New Deal but because the document uses this phrase, page 7, lines 23–24, “spurring massive growth in clean manufacturing in the United States.” You hear “clean manufacturing” and nod, though you are not entirely sure such a thing exists….
To achieve a transformation adequate to the scale of planetary catastrophe, we will need to stop having firms that are ruled by profit. People will say this is impossible, but this inverts the matter exactly: it is impossible to reverse the course of climate collapse within a framework that requires profitability, creation of wage labor, spurring massive growth. The underlying urgency around the Green New Deal is real, and it derives from the knowledge that it will take something extraordinary, unprecedented, if we are to save ourselves and the foxes and the phlox and the oxygen.
Here’s the thing. People talk about the Anthropocene as if we lived in an era where anthros, humans, did climate change. But they, I mean we, did not. Capitalist enterprise did climate change. And if we are doing away with it as we must, which is to say, if we are on the side of life—because those are the two sides, capital and life—then we will no longer need a Green New Deal. Because we will have just had a green something else. I am not worried about the name.
First, let me start with where I agree with Jasper, beginning with the politically parochial and ascending to the systemic and global scales. First, “legislation,” narrowly conceived, is, on its own, insufficient as a response to the climate crisis. So is a “transition” that replaces hydrocarbons with low to zero carbon energy, without touching how much energy is used, what it is used for, and who controls the energy system. Second, the root causes of climate crisis can't also be the solution to climate crisis. As I've written elsewhere, these causes are “profit-seeking, competition, endless growth, exploitation of humans and nature, and imperial expansion.” Third, and relatedly, the already occurring energy transition, unfolding under the logics of green capitalism and the enormous “clean tech” industry, reproduces and expands the extractive frontiers of capitalism. Carbon accounting that begins and ends at the electricity grid, or at the point of final consumption, is an ideological mode of profound mystification, a fetish akin to that of the commodity form. For precisely this reason, I've spent the past three months in Chile researching lithium.
It is from these broadly shared points of departure that our analyses of the political terrain–its contours, stakes, opportunities and limits–diverge quite sharply. Continue reading...
There are some significant differences between the plans in the US and in Britain. In both cases, there is a call for major public infrastructure investments to convert the energy grid and generate 'green jobs'. In both cases, there is an emphasis on expanding public transport networks, and on using financial incentives and safety nets to promote 'greening'. However, the major difference is that the British group has called for a range of economic controls, above all capital controls, restrictions on financial mechanisms, the break-up of large banks, and the diminution of the City's role, while the H. Res.0109 doesn't mention any abbreviations of Wall Street's power or any hint of capital controls.
This is a significant difference. What you make of that difference depends on whether you buy the 'win win' ideology implicit in some Green New Deal literature: that is, the idea that we can have capitalist growth, higher wages, lots of union jobs, and a sparkly new upgraded green economy, all without anyone losing out. If you think that, in fact, restrictive carbon policies would be costly to capital, then your prudent assumption would have to be that capital would resist….
At any rate, all advocates of the Green New Deal, however radical or liberal, converge on the idea of using the state to promote green investment funded by taxes on wealth and capital, build up a new energy system, create jobs, and drive up wages. Ecological modernisation, and social justice. This is where I come to my questions. Obviously, they have to be questions, because I am not an earth scientist: so anyone who can answer them is welcome to do so. These questions are: Does the Green New Deal, despite its laudable ambition, depend on magical thinking about technology and capitalism? Are the legislative tools it looks to adequate? Is it internationalist, or can it be? Does it risk further commodifying the natural world?
In his provocatively titled “Is it Possible to Achieve a Good Life For All Within Planetary Boundaries?”, Jason Hickel offers a tentative yes. He begins by defining a number of critical boundaries that are essential for the survival of life on earth: climate change, biodiversity loss, ocean acidification, land-system change, nitrogen loading, phosphorous loading, freshwater use, atmospheric aerosol loading, chemical pollution and stratospheric ozone depletion. Experts have concluded that five of these boundaries have been exceeded: climate change, biodiversity loss, nitrogen loading, phosphorous loading and land-system change. For ocean acidification and freshwater use, the process of degradation is two-thirds there. It is only ozone depletion that is under control because of a successful campaign in the 1980s.
For life to continue on the basis of a modest lifestyle that does not stretch ecological limits to the breaking point, Hickel describes a delicate balancing act:
“Adopting a higher poverty line makes it more difficult to end poverty while remaining within planetary boundaries. At the US$7.40 line, Belarus is the most promising, with minimal social shortfall (a score of 0.98) excluding qualitative indicators, but its average biophysical score is 1.64. Of the nations that achieve all non-qualitative social thresholds, the most biophysically efficient is Oman, which has an average biophysical score of 2.66. In other words, given the existing best-case relationship between resource use and income, achieving a good life for all with an income threshold of US$7.40 per day would require that poor nations overshoot planetary boundaries by at least 64% to 166%.” (emphasis added)
With capitalism driving the masses throughout the Third World to emulate the lifestyle of a comfortable G8 country like Sweden, as recommended by Robert Pollin and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, something has to give.
Peter St. Clair, “Facing the Heat” Brooklyn Rail April 2019
On the left, those critical of capital's hand in causing and furthering the climate crisis, are content to put the onus on unregulated capitalism. They deceive themselves into thinking that the problem stems solely from the greed and lack of morality of the wealthy corporate owners and managers. They insist that the system of profit derived from continuous growth can be reformed sufficiently to be able to contain further climate change while allowing for the continuation of our comfortable modern lives.
The measures called for in the Green New Deal are proposed as a model for the kind of changes needed to halt the slide to an uninhabitable planet and to institute equitable policies to redress the injustices served out to the innocent victims of the fossil fuel economy, including those affected by a transition to renewable energy. As radical as these reforms may seem to some, they pale before the transformations that will be required to avert the catastrophe….
If the transformation we need to save ourselves, our species, and our fellow members of the biosphere is not possible within the current political economic system, then that system must be changed and that change may very well lie beyond the boundaries of capitalism. Capital must expand to create profit and make money. That is its function. As long as oil, gas, and coal continue to produce exorbitant profits that is where capital will flow. As long as the owners of capital continue to wield unparalleled power and influence over the governments of the world then any policies that conflict with their material interests will be stifled. When the welfare of all the world's people is assumed to be totally dependent upon the continuing growth of the economy, the expansion of capital, and the accumulation of profit, any measure harmful to growth and profit will be deemed unacceptable, even, apparently, when that measure—the achieving of zero emissions—is indispensable to human survival.
A movement to halt global warming must force these boundaries, wrest control of governance from the hands of fossil capital, and establish a road to a sustainable future free from further greenhouse gas emissions and runaway climate change. It will take a widespread, militant, dedicated, and sustained social movement to demand the immediate conversion away from fossil fuels. It will require forcing an end to unsustainable capitalist practices and replacing them with a sustainable socialism that unites the people of the planet in the cause of mutual survival and assures an equitable and viable future for all. The crisis can only begin to be alleviated when the minds and the common effort of this entire generation are put to the service of the stewardship of the Earth and the benefit of humankind as a whole and no longer to that of capital and private gain. What needs to be done is clear. How to break through the impediments to achieving it is the difficult task at hand.
By Kamran Nayeri Our Place in the World 3/25/19
My criticism of the GND Resolution is foundational. That is, in my view the GND Resolution cannot be rectified with amendments, which is what (eco)socialists and others have offered so far. To stop the existential crisis, we must reverse the Anthropocene, and that requires us to stop capital accumulation on the world scale. Yet, the GND Resolution is:
The problem with the GND Resolution is the bourgeois theoretical framework that views the working people as voters and consumers not as direct producers who constitute the key the social agency for radical social change. It is impossible to resolve the existential ecosocial crisis rooted in the alienation from nature and social alienation without the self-organization and self-mobilization of the working people ourselves. It is the billions of working people in the United State and worldwide who must transform ourselves from the exploited objects to appropriate wealth from nature largely for the handful of the super-rich to the active social agency to transcend the anthropocentric industrial capitalist civilization in the direction of an ecocentric socialist society. The fight against climate change is a precondition for this process and this process is the precondition for a successful fight against the climate crisis (and the two other existential threats we face). To the anthropocentric industrial capitalist civilization, all alienated social institutions, including the capitalist market and the capitalist state, and all power relations, not only in the economic sphere but also in the political, social, and cultural spheres, and not only in human relations but also in relationship between us and the rest of life on the planet must wither away….
The fact is that effective action against the climate crisis has been delayed for over quarter of a century not only because of the fossil fuel lobby and the anti-regulation climate deniers but largely because of the misleaders of the movement itself who to this day refuse to accept any role for capitalism in the crisis. Thus, they have channeled the energy and enthusiasm of hundreds of thousands of working people and youth who have been moved to action into supporting “climate-friendly” capitalist politicians, in particular in the Democratic Party instead of charting a course entirely independent of the capitalist system beginning by telling the truth about the existential crisis we face.
By Paul Street Counterpunch 2/25/19
Something you’ll never hear from the GND’s right-wing and liberal detractors: it is, if anything, insufficiently radical, not excessively radical. It’s progressive- Democrat sponsors have yet to join serious eco-socialists in calling for the green transformation they rightly desire to be funded, as it will have to be, with resources garnered from massive reductions in the U.S. military budget, which eats up more than half of U.S. federal discretionary spending and sustains a global military empire that is itself the world’s single largest institutional carbon emitter.
At the same time, the GND’s sponsors have yet to call – as they will have to if they are serious about environmental reconversion – for their program to be funded and protected from capital flight by the popular nationalization of the United States’ leading financial institutions.
Sanders and AOC have yet – don’t hold your breath – to call (as do serious socialists) for workers’ control of production and of the workplace (where working-age Americans spend most of their waking hours) more broadly. They aren’t demanding the overdue public takeover of the aforementioned financial institutions. They aren’t calling for a general strike or a Gilets Jaunes-style rebellion of the proletariat and a call for a new national governing charter that replaces undemocratic bourgeois “representative” fake-democracy with majority rule and popular sovereignty. Those things, too, will ultimately be required if we are serious about ending the eco-cidal rule of the Lords of Capital, for whom the endless commodification of everything and everyone is the permanent goal no matter how dreadful the consequences for living things.
One, Two, … Many Green New Deals System Change Not Climate Change 2/26/19
There are a number of ecosocialist responses to the Green New Deal, converging for the most part around the recognition that though it is not the Green New Deal most of us would prefer, it is the opportunity to move the paralysis of the climate change movement very far in the right – left – direction that our times so desperately need.
This is an essay in six voices, from long-time activists who participate in the North American ecosocialist network System Change Not Climate Change. Each was challenged to make their point in 500 words or less. We intend this as a constructive contribution to the wonderful storm of discussion that the Green New Deal has opened up, and we welcome your comments on the essays.
while we are grateful to see this support by the Representative and Senator, we remain concerned that unless some changes are made to the resolution, the Green New Deal will leave incentives by industries and governments to continue causing harm to Indigenous communities. Furthermore, as our communities who live on the frontline of the climate crisis have been saying for generations, the most impactful and direct way to address the problem is to keep fossil fuels in the ground. We can no longer leave any options for the fossil fuel industry to determine the economic and energy future of this country. And until the Green New Deal can be explicit in this demand as well as closing the loop on harmful incentives, we cannot fully endorsee the resolution. We remain supportive of Representative Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Markey’s aspirations and hope to be constructive partners in actualizing the goal of generating radical change in the fight to protect the sacredness of Mother Earth.
In this interview, Foster discusses why a Green New Deal is just an entry point to an ecological revolution, and why any economic-social system that hopes to address the climate crisis must transcend capitalism.
Michael Roberts' Blog 2/8/19
it is not just Trump and Wall Street who have thrown up their hands in horror at the GND proposals. Some orthodox Keynesians have wrung their hands. Noah Smith, the Keynesian economics blogger and Bloomberg columnist … considers the ‘nonsense’ of MMT [Modern Monetary Theory] will completely undermine the objectives of the GND. He wants the Democrat lefts to decide between work-based policies and redistributive policies.
It does seem that AOC and other promoters of the GND program think that MMT can justify and explain where the money is going to come from to pay for all the aspirations and necessary public investment. For example, leading MMTer, Stephanie Kelton was asked: “ Can we afford a #GreenNewDeal? She replied: Yes. The federal government can afford to buy whatever is for sale in its own currency.”…
MMT argues that we can just start with the state printing money and then all will flow from that – more investment, more production, more incomes, more employment – as though the social relations of capitalism were irrelevant. MMT will deliver full employment at decent wages, healthcare, education and other public services without interfering with the big banks, the multi-nationals, big pharma and Wall Street. You see, because the state controls the money (the dollar), then it is all powerful over the likes of Goldman Sachs, Bank America, Boeing, Caterpillar, Amazon, WalMart etc.
Therein lies the danger of MMT as the theoretical and policy support for government spending and running deficits. Actually, it is not necessary to adopt MMT to deliver the GND programme. There are many ways to meet the bill. First, there is the redistribution of existing federal and state spending in the US. Military and defense spending in the US is nearly $700bn a year, or around 3.5% of current US GDP. If this was diverted into civil investment projects for climate change and the environment, and those working in the armaments sector used their skills for such projects, then it would go a long way to meeting GND aspirations. Of course, such a switch would incur the wrath of the military, financial and industrial complex and could not be implemented without curbing their political power….
Let me be clear, Left Democrats and the supporters of MMT are rightly pushing for measures that really would help ‘the many’ in America. But, in my view, it will be an illusion to think the GND can be implemented, even in just economic terms, simply by following MMT and printing the dollars required. Yes, the state can print as much as it wants, but the value of each dollar in delivering productive assets is not in the control of the state where the capitalist mode of production dominates. What happens when profits drop and a capitalist sector investment slump ensues? Growth and inflation still depends on the decisions of capital, not the state. If the former don’t invest (and they will require that it be profitable), then state spending will be insufficient….
By Kali Akuno/Cooperation Jackson In These Times 12/12/18
The Green New Deal proposal “has generated presents an opportunity for the Left to strengthen our forces, gather new forces and expand the base of the movement. Her putting this forward is a profound opportunity for the Left.
I think the Left needs to seize it. We can do that by talking about it: the things we support, why we support them, the things we want to see strengthened, improved and changed. We should communicate that as far and wide as we can. We have to shift the conversation and put the Right on the defensive. Right now, they’re on the offensive.
We need to critically analyze some of the shortfalls of the capitalist logic embedded in this plan. We have to push back and improve upon the Green New Deal.”
“There are some concrete suggestions many of us have been putting forward for years. Healing the soil, reintroducing small-scale agriculture, restoring the commons, making more space available for wildlife reintroduction. This has been coming from the It Takes Roots Alliance, which consists of the Indigenous Environmental Network, Climate Justice Alliance, the Grassroots Global Justice Alliance and the Right to the City Alliance. On the ground, organizations from oppressed communities have been putting forward a just transition for a while.”
“We need to be putting out and elevating the counter-proposals many of us have been putting forward. There is the “just transition” framework coming out of some social movements and organized labor.”
“We have to include the peoples of the world at the frontlines of the transition in the discussion to resolve it - Indigenous peoples, the peoples of Oceania, Southeast Asia, the Caribbean, and the African continent. It’s not just a national problem. The way this is framed is really as if we’re going to stop certain problems within U.S. borders. But carbon emissions don’t observe national boundaries—they never have and never will. Nation-state policy limits us in certain ways. That’s another aspect of this that we have to push back on and challenge. This has to include front-line communities in the United States and from all throughout the world.”
“The concept of reparations needs to be introduced into several different levels of the conversation. You can think of reparations in terms of financial compensation, and you can think of it in terms of decolonization—returning lands back to indigenous and colonized people subjected to the United States and Western Europe much of the past 500 years.”
“We have to adopt a program of “keep it in the ground.” There is no way to get around that. That’s a demand coming from Indigenous communities.”
“future. I don’t think we should hide from that or step away from that. We’re going to have to take direct action on a massive scale to shut that industry down on an international level.”
“There is no question that we need to adopt a “keep it in the ground” policy—like, yesterday. That has to be one of our central demands.We have to scale up our campaigns against the oil companies, and we have to win. This is a necessary political struggle.”
“We are going to have to ultimately do a major overhaul in how things are produced, distributed, consumed and recycled back into the natural resource systems that we depend on. If we don’t think about just transition in a long-term, holistic way, we are missing the point. To think we can make some tweaks to capitalism or expansive “carbon neutral” production—that is also missing the point.”
“Whether or not Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez reaches out, we have an obligation to tap her on her shoulder and say some of these ideas are terrible, here’s why, here are alternatives, here are examples of what the alternative looks like in practice—you can elevate them and use them as a model.”
“She’s going to have to go to battle, she’s going to have to fight for the Green New Deal, and she’s probably going to listen to those forces that have the greatest leverage in terms of resources, or the greatest number of voices in sheer numbers. Those are things we have to deliver—we need to deliver that to make sure she’s accountable to our demands. We need to be real about how this game is going to play out. And be clear about what we bring to the table to make sure we get the outcomes we need.”
By Alex Baca Slate 2/7/19
The Green New Deal has a big blind spot: It doesn’t address the places Americans live. And our physical geography—where we sleep, work, shop, worship, and send our kids to play, and how we move between those places—is more foundational to a green, fair future than just about anything else. The proposal encapsulates the liberal delusion on climate change: that technology and spending can spare us the hard work of reform.
America is a nation of sprawl. More Americans live in suburbs than in cities, and the suburbs that we build are not the gridded, neighborly Mayberrys of our imagination. Rather, the places in which we live are generally dispersed, inefficient, and impossible to navigate without a car. Dead-ending cul-de-sacs and the divided highways that connect them are such deeply engrained parts of the American landscape that it’s easy to forget they were, themselves, the fruits of a massive federal investment program….
A Green New Deal must insist on a new, and better, land use regime, countering decades of federal sprawl subsidy. The plan already recognizes the need to retrofit and upgrade buildings. Why not address their locations while we’re at it? Suggestions of specific policies that would enable a Green New Deal to address land use have already emerged: We could, simply, measure greenhouse gases from our transportation system or build more housing closer to jobs centers. Reallocating what we spend on building new roads to paying for public transit instead would go a long way toward limiting sprawl.