Online For Class and Climate Justice Since March 2000
Week In Review March 27—Part 3 Green New Deal
by Bill Onasch
Greetings From the Land of Drought and Flood
Most of the Midwest has suffered at least near drought conditions over the past several years. This past winter did bring a number of major snow events. The early snow melt run-off has already produced the biggest Missouri River floods in decades. But an AP dispatch warns,
“Even as floodwaters receded in hard-hit places in in the Midwest, experts warned Saturday that with plenty of snow still left to melt in northern states, the relief may only be temporary.”
The most disastrous flood in Kansas City history came in July, 1951. It was an event I will never forget. Dozens of people, along with thousands of livestock perished. My family lost our modest house in Armourdale and except for a couple of suitcases of clothes, photo albums, and the canary, lost all the contents of our home.
Damage losses in that flood were estimated at a billion dollars—about 97 billion in today’s dollars. After the ’51 Flood there was a flurry of new flood control infrastructure, mainly managed by the Army Corps of Engineers. But there have always been tensions of conflicting demands for water for agriculture, power plants, recreation, barge traffic—and, of course, safe drinking water.
A New York Times article quotes predictions that 25 states are still likely to experience serious flooding. An earlier Times story–Fight to Tame a Swelling River With Dams Outmatched by Climate Change * –is also useful.
In most cases, farmers will be hit harder than workers. Trump’s xenophobia has cut off availability of migrant labor at crucial times of the seasons and his trade war has hurt American farmers much more than global competitors. But more devastating is continued denial of global warming and scrapping any projects advocated in the Green New Deal.
Sean Sweeney, director of the International Program for Labor, Climate and the Environment, gives a good description of how the current Green New Deal came to be. Introduced last month by Senator Ed Markey D-Mass, and in the lower House by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez—who thrifty publishers trying to conserve soy ink have rechristened AOC—a newly elected Democrat from the Bronx, it’s shaken up a lot of things.
It is certainly the most comprehensive statement about climate change ever offered on Capitol Hill. GND affirms the goal of the Paris climate accord to cap global warming at 1.5C above pre-industrial levels. To accomplish this It advocates a crash program to slash greenhouse gas emissions by half over the next ten years—and down to virtual zero in thirty.
More than that, the measure recognizes the need for a massive restructuring of the economy—rapid replacement of fossil fuels in electricity generation with clean renewables such as solar, wind, and hydro; electrification of most transportation; genuine energy efficiency in new and renovated housing.
Most importantly, the GND acknowledges this restructuring will eliminate millions of current jobs–including union ones with good pay and benefits. But they pledge no worker will be left behind.
The concept of Just Transition has a long history in the American labor movement. JT was a prominent part of the program of the Labor Party project (1996-2012) It was also adopted by the Green Party in 2000 at the suggestion of their presidential candidate Ralph Nader. Nader brought along his long time collaborator the late Tony Mazzocchi of the Labor Party to the Green convention to explain JT.
Basically it means that when workers lose their jobs for the good of society as a whole society has an obligation to continue their pay and benefits, and offer retraining and relocation funds, until they find suitable new jobs. The new congressional GND resolution continues Just Transition.
Today, it is no longer a matter of applying JT to a mine closing here, a chemical plant there, or a toxic dump on the edge of town. Similar to World War II, the biggest industries in the world’s biggest economy will have to be retooled—not for war but to save our biosphere.
The principle of Just Transition is further expanded in the GND to guarantee health care (Medicare for All); education; race, gender, immigrant, and LGBT equality—and labor rights.
Excellent, If Incomplete, Talking Points
I was only disappointed about the lack of direct commentary concerning Urban Sprawl—especially a crisis in the USA. We need to halt and reverse this blight on every metropolitan area by rebuilding a vertical urban core while reclaiming and restoring the forests, wetlands, and farm lands that once surrounded and nurtured our towns.
Of course, you can’t say all that needs saying about a crisis that could mean the end of humanity in a single piece—I know because I used to try. The authors of the GND have done a good job in beginning to put climate change at the top of the agenda. It drew the attention of the editorial board of the New York Times. MSNBC has a special show Friday evening with AOC commenting on GND. GND has been endorsed by the Labor Network for Sustainability. And the Green New Deal was a powerful motivator for the recent world-wide climate marches by hundreds of thousands of students.
But Whats Next?
Feeling cocky after the Trump family avoided indictments, the Senate GOP leadership decided to force the donkeys to fish or cut bait on the GND. The Dems evaded the fight.
Trump curses the dead for foiling his pledge to repeal and replace what he calls ObamaCare. He is now pinning his hopes of taking a Texas Judge ruling that the entire Affordable Care Act violates the Constitution through the Supreme Court.
This concludes the promised 3-part look at the Green New Deal. Next time I will make some suggestions of how we can move from its valuable talking points to substantive action.
That’s all for this week.
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