The Green New Deal catapulted into public awareness in February of this year, when newly elected US Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez introduced a resolution in Congress calling for a massive national program to address both climate change and deep economic and political inequities. Sen. Ed Markey introduced a similar resolution in the Senate.
These actions unleashed a wave of enthusiasm among progressives and a wave of attacks by conservatives. The Green New Deal (GND) proposal offers Mass. Peace Action an important opportunity to add our analysis and advocacy to the local and national conversation, and to raise the profile of the peace perspective within this social movement. Leaders articulating the GND vision encourage our participation in its development and translation into action.
What is the Green New Deal?
The Green New Deal is, among other things, a concept, an organizing vehicle, and a set of proposals brought to the US Congress. It is a vision of collaborative, holistic actions that can solve major 21 st -century problems including the existential ecological crisis, failing democracy, economic injustice, and the threat of armed conflict. It provides an opportunity for people to rethink the meaning of security and take actions that help us, and our descendants, to thrive together.
The GND builds upon New Deal programs led by US President Franklin Roosevelt in the 1930s. Contributors to the GND’s conceptual development include the Green New Deal Group, which has convened strategists in the UK since 2007. (https://www.greennewdealgroup.org/) When Rep. Ocasio- Cortez introduced her resolution, H.Res.109: Recognizing the duty of the Federal Government to create a Green New Deal (https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-resolution/109) in the House and Sen. Markey introduced the equivalent, S.Res.59, in the Senate, the concept took a major step forward. The resolutions are non-binding. If adopted, they could help to guide legislation and other actions that transform the economy and society of the United States. They challenge the US to become a leader on climate stabilization by rapidly decarbonizing its economy. They further challenge the nation to do this in ways that create shared prosperity, rectify injustices, empower citizen engagement, and ensure that our republic can thrive through the 21 st century and beyond.
While posing these challenges, the GND movement seeks to restore ideas from US history that have been suppressed in recent decades. One idea, central to Roosevelt’s New Deal and embodied in the motto E pluribus unum (Out of many, one), is that the federal government can be an agent of progress. Another idea is that collaborative, holistic actions guided by a clearly-articulated, progressive strategy can be more effective – i.e., faster, cheaper, and with better outcomes – than piecemeal actions driven by the selfish interests of powerful elites.
Many initiatives related to the GND are emerging around the world, at levels from local to global. Consider a Massachusetts example. In January 2019, State Reps. Marjorie Decker and Sean Garballey introduced MA House bill H.2836: An Act re-powering Massachusetts with 100 percent renewable energy. (https://malegislature.gov/Bills/191/H2836) MA Senator James Eldridge introduced an equivalent MA Senate bill, S.1958. These bills, if enacted, would set a goal for Massachusetts to decarbonize its electricity supply by 2035 and its entire economy by 2045. They would require that this goal be pursued in ways that create shared prosperity and rectify injustices.
An example at the global level is the publication by The Guardian, in April 2019, of an essay by Yanis Varoufakis and David Adler, members of the Democracy in Europe Movement 2025. The essay’s theme is clear from its title: “It’s time for nations to unite around an International Green New Deal”.
Mass. Peace Action Endorses the Green New Deal
In April 2019, MAPA issued a statement endorsing GND resolutions H.Res.109 and S.Res.59.(http://masspeaceaction.org/statement-in-support-of-the-green-new-deal/) MAPA’s statement is gaining wide support, including from the Boston group of the Sunrise Movement, which promotes the GND nationwide. The statement sets forth three reasons for MAPA’s endorsement:
1. The GND addresses real human security, which includes climate and the environment, together with social justice and peace-building – all of which must be addressed at the local, national and international levels.
2. In the 21st century, we badly need new approaches – such as those in the GND – for addressing contemporary challenges.
3. MAPA focuses not only on ending wars and building peace, but also on conditions that lead to conflicts and wars such as climate change and social injustice.
MAPA’s statement acknowledges that the GND implies rethinking the meaning of security. It identifies peace-related objectives that are fully consistent with the GND, although not specifically mentioned in the GND resolutions. These objectives include major shifts of federal funding, away from the military and toward GND projects that would strengthen peace. MAPA recognizes that such shifts, while moving our national budget and consciousness away from the current militaristic focus, would promote peaceful collaboration that significantly enhances human, national, and international security.
The Green New Deal as a Unifying Concept
The broad scope of the GND concept, and its emphasis on holistic actions, make the GND an excellent unifying concept for collaborative action, coalition-building, and linked campaigning by progressive groups. Linkages can be built across geographic levels from local to worldwide, and across a spectrum of issues.
It does not follow that every political initiative should address every issue. Political practicalities demand that each legislative initiative has a well-defined scope. For example, bills H.2836 and S.1958 offer a well- defined pathway for decarbonizing the Massachusetts economy. These bills deserve support from diverse progressive groups because, if enacted, they would yield diverse benefits. The bills would be unwieldy if explicitly written to pursue every possible benefit.
MAPA is well positioned to build coalitions and linkages using the GND as a unifying concept. We have rich experience in working with local, state, and national politicians, and with international actors. MAPA has a proven ability to build coalitions across a range of peace, justice, environment, and related organizations.
To address climate change and other 21st -century challenges, we need collaborative actions at massive scale. These actions should emerge from respectful dialogue, citizen empowerment, grassroots engagement, and holistic thinking. Through such actions we can transform our society in ways that merge peace, justice, prosperity, and respect for all life.
—Paula Gutlove and Gordon Thompson work at the Institute for Resource and Security Studies, and are members of Mass. Peace Action’s Climate and Peace Working Group.