The Green New Deal is such a radical change that it is difficult to concisely explain to people. The fictional account below, “With a Green New Deal, Here’s What the World Could Look Like for the Next Generation“ by Kate Aronoff in The Intercept, Dec. 8, 2018, is the best overview I’ve found so far.
As you read the story, I suspect most older people will be highly skeptical that anything like this could ever happen. Being an older person myself, it took me a while to get used to always reading about “young people” in the documentation about the Green New Deal. My generation has become so cynical about the possibilities of real (positive, anyway) political and/or social change, because there hasn’t been any during most of our lives, at least since the anti-war and civil rights movements we came of age during. Other than increasing political polarization, anyway.
In a similar way, the Sunrise Movement (working for a Green New Deal) also doesn’t ever mention Republicans. There just isn’t time and energy to try to persuade people who aren’t open to change. A hashtag for the Green New Deal is #noexcuses.
Fortunately I’ve found if you engage with the Sunrise Movement, you are welcome, as long as you (literally) support the Movement’s principals. If you want to learn more about the Sunrise Movement, reading those principles is a good way to start. And visiting https://www.sunrisemovement.org/
The reason for this generational gap is that young people are very aware of the evolving environment disaster, and realize water and food insecurity, violent storms, fierce wildfires, flooding and drought will only increase in frequency and intensity unless greenhouse gas emissions end almost immediately. One of the key parts of the Green New Deal is the just transition to 100% renewable energy in 10 years. #noexcuses.
People supporting the Green New Deal understand there will be tremendous costs to implement it. But they also know there will be significantly greater costs if it is not implemented, not only financially, but also with people’s very lives.
It’s the spring of 2043, and Gina is graduating college with the rest of her class. She had a relatively stable childhood. Her parents availed themselves of some of the year of paid family leave they were entitled to, and after that she was dropped off at a free child care program.
Pre-K and K-12 were also free, of course, but so was her time at college, which she began after a year of public service, during which she spent six months restoring wetlands and another six volunteering at a day care much like the one she had gone to.
Now that she’s graduated, it’s time to think about what to do with her life. Without student debt, the options are broad. She also won’t have to worry about health insurance costs, since everyone is now eligible for Medicare. Like most people, she isn’t extraordinarily wealthy, so she can live in public, rent-controlled housing — not in the underfunded, neglected units we’re accustomed to seeing in the United States, but in one of any number of buildings that the country’s top architects have competed for the privilege to design, featuring lush green spaces, child care centers, and even bars and restaurants. Utilities won’t be an issue, either. Broadband and clean water are both free and publicly provisioned, and the solar array that is spread atop the roofs of her housing complex generates all the power it needs and more.
For work, she trained to become a high-level engineer at a solar panel manufacturer, though some of her friends are going into nursing and teaching. All are well-paid, unionized positions, and are considered an essential part of the transition away from fossil fuels, updates about which are broadcast over the nightly news. In any case, she won’t have to spend long looking for a job. At any number of American Job Centers (AJCs) around the country, she can walk in and work with a counselor to find a well-paid position on projects that help make her city better able to deal with rising tides and more severe storms, or oral history projects, or switch careers altogether and receive training toward a union job in the booming clean energy sector.
The AJCs are a small part of the Green New Deal Act of 2021, a compromise plan that was only strengthened in the years that followed. For a brief moment, it looked as if the Supreme Court might strike down large elements of it, but as a plan to expand the size of the court gained popularity with the public, the justices backed down.
Gina might also open her own business. Without having to worry about the cost of day care or health insurance, she can invest everything into making her dream a reality. And the cost of labor for business owners, who no longer have to pick up the health care tab, is reasonable enough that she can afford to pay good wages for the staff that she needs to meet demand.
Whichever she chooses, she’ll work no more than 40 hours a week, and likely far less, leaving ample time to travel via high speed, zero-carbon rail to visit friends elsewhere and go hiking or to the beach; enjoy long, leisurely meals of locally sourced food and drink; and attend concerts in the park, featuring musicians whose careers have been supported by generous public arts grants. As she gets older, paying for health care won’t be a concern, with everything from routine doctor’s visits and screenings, to prescription drugs, to home health aides covered under the public system, as social security continues to furnish her rent, expenses, and entertainment through the end of her life.