On Friday, October 20th, the children of the world came together for the International Youth Climate Strike. From Cape Town, South Africa to suburban America, young people left their classrooms to organize in town halls and city centers, demanding that their elected officials recognize climate change for the global crisis it is. Here in Boston, 7,000 people protested in Government Center holding hand-painted signs bearing slogans like “There is no planet B” and “I want a Hot Girl Summer, not a hot planet.” Regrettably, I was not one of those people. As I watched countless Snapchat stories of the Climate Strike from my ironically empty ecology lecture, I could not help but feel like I was neglecting my civic duty. So when I got home, I googled “how to advocate for the environment in the United States.”
Over the next week, I fell down a digital rabbit hole of obscure government initiatives and non-profit Twitter pages. I was about to give up, but then I saw that #GND was trending on Twitter. GND stands for the Green New Deal: an ambitious document that outlines a 10-year plan for tackling climate change and systemic inequality in the United States. After reading through the GND’s fourteen-page proposal, two things became clear. One: the Green New Deal itself is an incomplete plan that needs more legislative leaves on its branches to appeal to a bipartisan electorate. Two: though it may be unfinished, the Green New Deal represents a hope for the future of our planet that has been missing in our government for the last half-century. This is the same hope that all those young people were calling for during the Youth Climate Strike. And if we, as educated young people, do not take a leap of faith to support it now, while there is political momentum behind it, the GND may never reach its planet-saving potential.
So, if you care about the environment, or if you don’t know enough to care, this article is for you. This is a guide to the Green New Deal for college students by a college student, explaining all the facts with none of the political biases.
Photo Credit: AFP/Axel Heimken
So what is the Green New Deal?
H.RES.109 (aka the Green New Deal) was presented to Congress on February 7th, 2019 by New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, along with 68 other congressional representatives in support of it. The idea for something like the Green New Deal has been floating around since 2007 when it was introduced by Thomas L. Freedman in an Op-Ed column from the New York Times. But this is the first time anything has been formally proposed to the U.S. government.
On paper, the Green New Deal is not a bill, it is a resolution. A resolution is a motion made by a small group of representatives to both houses in Congress. It will never be formally ratified by the president and it is not enforceable like the law is. The GND is essentially an official demand for Congress to act on the climate crisis by electing committees and passing individual laws to support the plan that the GND has proposed. To reference the verbiage of H.RES.109, Congress is obligated to address the effects of climate change because they “threaten human life, healthy communities, and critical infrastructure.”
Photo Credit: Associated Press Images
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez publicly introducing the Green New Deal this past February in Washington D.C.
The Green New Deal’s official plan is to address and prevent the effects of climate change by:
- Creating millions of high-paying, sustainable jobs
- Supporting local labor unions for these jobs
- Completely divesting from fossil fuels in favor of clean energy sources
- Investing in sustainable infrastructure
- Developing economically accessible and sustainable public transportation
- Developing sustainable methods of manufacturing goods to stop production from moving overseas
- Lowering the agricultural industry’s carbon footprint
- Physically restoring damaged ecosystems
Like FDR’s original New Deal in 1933, the Green New Deal will accomplish its lofty goals by investing billions of government dollars into programs on all levels that bolster “Green New Deal Mobilization.” These programs could range from paying engineers to designing a nationwide network of light rail trains to subsidizing artists who illustrate the effects of climate change.
However, unlike the original New Deal, the GND also vows to include “vulnerable communities” (indigenous peoples, communities of color, depopulated rural communities, low-income workers, the homeless, the disabled, etc.) in on its vision for the future. The GND is not just America’s plan for the planet, but also it wants to use environmental sustainability to better the lives of the American people.
Photo Credit: The Sierra Club
Diagram by the Sierra Club Illustrating the Green New Deal
A lot of big ideas, but what are the major goals of the Green New Deal?
As you can now see, the Green New Deal has ambitiously promised to solve both the burgeoning climate crisis and a 200-year-old culture of discrimination all in one neat, concise package. But the plan is just the bright green wrapping paper that is used to deliver the goals of the Green New Deal. You see, as the Green New Deal moves forward in Congress, the steps it will take to reach its goals will change to practically appeal to politicians on either side of the political aisle. It’s kind of like how you can re-wrap the same gift to appeal to different people, however, what will never change is the gift inside. This gift is the set of goals that the Green New Deal promises to reach.
Moreover, as the GND becomes mired down in political rhetoric, internet memes, and television news commentary, it is important not to lose sight of what the GND is all about. This is especially true for college students who are always being lectured by parents and professors on what to think.
So, after all this, the official goals of the Green New Deal are:
- Stop Global Temperatures from going up more than 1.5 Degrees Celsius
- Reach a Net Zero for global emissions by 2050
- Improve the average American’s quality of life by providing individual economic security, affordable healthcare, safe and affordable housing, high-quality education, and access to clean water, clear air, healthy food, and nature
- Stop the transfer of Jobs and pollution overseas by growing an economy rooted in clean domestic manufacturing in the United States
- Invest taxpayer dollars in infrastructure to sustainably meet the challenges of a growing population in the 21st century
- Develop all Green New Deal related laws and programs through transparent and inclusive consultation with the American Public.
Photo Credit: Hyperallergic
Why is the Green New Deal important to college students?
The GND itself is just a fourteen-page document that was presented to Congress in the hopes that it inspires our elected officials to do something about the climate crisis. At the end of the day, it’s just a collection of words printed on 8.5” x 11” sheets of paper. Alone, the GND has no voice. That’s where you, the average college student, come in. As a college student, you have the resources to educate yourself on the issues related to the global climate crisis and you have the power to vote and do something about it. Your vote is the voice that the GND doesn’t have. Voting is your civic duty and it’s the most direct way to make a widespread impact on the global climate crisis. Moreover, as young people, college students like you will bear a disproportionate amount of the effects of climate change. So, your vote will decide what your future will look like. Additionally, if you really care about the future of the environment, this article should only be the beginning. Take the time to read through the full Green New Deal proposal, read National Geographic to learn more about the science behind climate change, and even open up a dialogue with people who oppose the GND to understand the arguments of the other side. An educated vote will always be better than an uninformed one.
The GND represents a belief in America’s sustainable future. With some support from the same students who led the Youth Climate Strike, the Green New Deal can and will reach its full potential.