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Why I support a Green New Deal, though it's just the start of what's needed

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Photo: Senate Democrats/Flickr

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 a series of essays in six voices, from longtime 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. It was intended as a constructive contribution to the wonderful storm of discussion that the Green New Deal has opened up. Read the full series here.

Donald Trump likes to use threats. He told Texans the Green New Deal means "they're coming for your money, and they're coming for your freedom." Fox News, too, warns the Green New Deal will "move the United States closer than ever to socialism," a system Trump equates with "corruption, exploitation and decay." Trump wants people afraid, just like teachers who use threats to motivate student compliance.

Green New Deal critics threaten because they are worried. Americans, especially those under 30, aren't afraid of the word "socialism" any longer. Too many in the U.S. have suffered, thanks to 21st-century capitalism. Green New Deal critics fear it because it can bring down CO2 emissions, convert fossil fuel use to renewable energy strategies, and focus on people of colour and low-income folks hit hardest by the economic disasters of 2008. The Green New Deal links improved socio-economic conditions for Americans with reduction of CO2 levels currently threatening us with an extra crispy future.

Trump hopes fear will keep people clinging to capitalist myths. The Green New Deal offers strategies that trade fear for actions that unite us and return to us a sense that what we do matters. But there's a hitch: the Green New Deal must remain robust and pass quickly. Jacobin Magazine writes, "Actual legislation taking the kinds of action outlined in this resolution [Green New Deal] isn't going to pass anytime soon. But that's okay -- it's not meant to, … it sets the bar high." But if the Green New Deal takes decades to implement, U.S. Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's vision will not get the job done for this or any other generation. Climate scientists give us ten to a dozen years to drastically reduce CO2 emissions. Without profound change to societies around the planet, temperatures will soar, and extreme developments we cannot foresee will rip human systems apart.

What Jacobin does get right, as do many on the left, is the Green New Deal's ability to inspire people to demand radical change. The indefatigable girl from Sweden, Greta Thunberg, realized this a year ago: "Some people, some companies, some decision-makers in particular, have known exactly what priceless values they have been sacrificing to continue making unimaginable amounts of money." This year Greta will be joined by striking students in 150 cities who understand that business as usual must stop. Workers are starting to demand the same.

No upticks on a computer ledger are worth more than a viable planet. Business leaders who deny climate change are out of step with a growing number of analysts in the U.S. who understand the threat of climate change and hope to protect their profits with capitalist solutions.

Ecosocialists have an important role to play with regard to the Green New Deal. Ocasio-Cortez is forcing the national conversation to look hard at climate change, current socio-economic problems, and the way that capitalism has created this mess. Her Green New Deal is waking people up. Ecosocialists can provide specifics about current problems and how an ecosocialist approach to solutions will play out. Ocasio-Cortez needs our support. We must help her go further than even she has imagined.

Sandra Lindberg is a writer/activist in Decatur IL. Her ecosocialist views grew from conversations with her Swedish father about socialism, and the troubling environmental stories people told her when she travelled the U.S. as a theatre performer and teacher. While Associate Professor of Theatre at Illinois Wesleyan University, she founded No New Nukes to block plans for a second nuclear reactor in Central Illinois -- an effort that succeeded. A local socialist reading group helped deepen her understanding of communism, socialism, and ecosocialism. These friends also introduced her to SCNCC, where she has been a contributor for several years. Her writing can be found at System Change Not Climate Change and Solidarity’s Against the Current.

This article was first published on Resilience.org.

Photo: Senate Democrats/Flickr

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