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Editorial & Opinion

The Green New Deal vs. Capitalism



The Green New Deal is a work in progress: some see it as a game changer; others view it as yet another God about to fail.

Either way, it’s a great tool to keep on making noise, or better yet, to follow Bayard Rustin’s advice:

Our power is in our ability to make things unworkable.  The only weapon we have is our bodies, and we need to tuck them in places so wheels don’t turn.

What to think of the Green New Deal? Indeed, as Ann Pettifor of the New Economics Foundation writes in an opinion piece The Green New Deal offers radical environmental and economic change:

The Green New Deal demands major structural (governmental and inter-governmental) changes (not just behavioural change) in our approach to the ecosystem. In addition, and as in the 1930s, such change is to be driven by radical structural transformation of the finance sector, and the economy. It was developed on the understanding that finance, the economy and the ecosystem are all tightly bound together.

Justice and equity are explicit parts of the deal, but the Indigenous Environmental Network qualifies its support by:

The primary goal of the AOC-Markey Green New Deal (GND) Resolution is to “achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions.” We reject net-zero emissions language (as well as carbon neutral and zero-carbon) because it implies the use of carbon accounting that includes various types of carbon pricing systems, offsets and/or Payments for Ecological Services (PES).

This issue was formulated by Indigenous Peoples who describe carbon trading and ongoing privatization by extractive industries and governments as an attempt to put a price on everything and to

try to include and expropriate the entire surface of the Earth, including most of the forests, soils, fields, grasslands, deserts, wetlands, mangroves, marine algae and oceans, to use them as sponges for industrialized countries’ pollution.

Impressions of Resistance by Stacy Smith—oil derricks, cooling towers and J. Robert Oppenheimer notes on nuclear physics

As Grist’s Nathanael Johnson, writes:

The Green New Deal doesn’t mention ‘nukes,’ but it doesn’t use the words solar or wind either. The non-binding resolution, unveiled by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez from New York, and Senator Ed Markey from Massachusetts, calls for “clean, renewable, and zero-emission energy sources.” In wonk-speak, zero-emission is code for nuclear power or fossil fuels with carbon capture.

Missing in this context is that the nuclear war machine, a major part of the Rhode Island economy, needs civilian nuclear reactors. This is clear just from the title of this report by the Energy Futures Initiative, the U.S. Nuclear Energy Enterprise: A Key National Security Enabler.

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Who are behind this initiative? One of them is former Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz, predecessor of ExxonMobil’s Rex Tillerson, who supported the same agenda. Moniz was instrumental in blessing and taking credit for the fracked gas bridge to nowhere, a new technology that took off well before the Obama administration.

Blundering into nuclear annihilation is an existential threat up there with climate catastrophe. This risk is recognized by none less than William J. Perry, Secretary of War during President Clinton’s first term; in fact, it gives poor Perry nightmares.

Nuclear annihilation has one feature that sets it apart from climate change: it may strike as a bolt from the blue. After all, we’ve been doing just fine for about 70 years—haven’t we?—since in the 1950s we developed the hydrogen bomb, aka the super. Of course, that did not work out all that well  for some of us. But the Marshall Islands? Where’s that?

There also is poverty, which is responsible for more preventable deaths than any other form of inequality. Poverty, globally and in the U.S., is not generally recognized as related to our excessive war spending, which exceeds $3,000 per U.S. person per year. Recognized or not, the facts are known: each year, 9 million children on the globe die from preventable diseases. The Poor People’s Campaign has compiled facts about the poverty in Rhode Island.

Just transition is also a part of the Green New Deal, but another serious hurdle facing it is described by Lauren Burke. She writes in her Green New Deal? Bring It! But Don’t Forget Your Union Card:

Without strong worker protections, including the right to organize, a Green New Deal will both exacerbate income inequality and alienate a vital constituency. If this crucial piece is omitted from Ocasio-Cortez’s bold platform, the left will be left wondering why the working class isn’t happy about their new low-wage green jobs.

Let’s think of all of the above (pun intended) when we hear Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, from his always shifting position on the fence, justify his decision not to sign on to the Green New Deal, citing as one of his concern Democratic Party unity.

About the Author

Peter Nightingale is a theoretical physicist and teaches at the University of Rhode Island. He strives to leave behind a more just, peaceful, and sustainable post-capitalist world for future generations, and for his children and grandchildren in particular.