As a series of intergovernmental panels and the March 15 global wave of student strikes remind us, the environmental crisis is no longer a thing of the future. It is our here and now, exacting a toll on the world’s citizens of shocking proportions. Against a backdrop of catastrophic droughts, forest fires, and abnormally intense hurricanes and heat waves, the arguments of climate change deniers seem ever more absurd, as does the view that human activity is not the major contributor to a warming earth. Today, sixty-nine percent of Americans are “somewhat worried” or “very worried” about climate change, according to late-2018 surveys conducted independently by Yale and George Mason Universities. This percentage represents the highest level recorded since these surveys were first fielded back in 2008.
Gratifyingly, with grassroots activism serving as a key factor in the election of numerous left-of-center Democrats and even democratic socialists to Congress in the 2018 midterms, policy prescriptions for addressing the crisis are at last garnering serious attention in Washington. Multiple approaches have been put forward, but perhaps the most progressive framework and that receiving the most attention is the one embodied in the Green New Deal resolution recently introduced by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY and a democratic socialist) and Senator Edward Markey (D-MA). Importantly, this effort is non-binding, ideally representing only the opening skirmish in an ongoing two-year effort to translate resolution goals into specific legislative items. Passing such legislation will, of course, also require continued grassroots organizing and public education at the local level, thereby increasing the odds that a more amenable Congress will be elected in 2020 and that those elected will not buckle to counterpressure from the fossil fuel industry and its allies, as well as from right-wing “anti-big government” factions. Continue reading