Goodbye, Green New Deal?

I found the March 27, 2020 article by Kevin Williamson in the National Review, Goodbye, Green New Deal fascinating. He writes about the many sacrifices we are being forced to make because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

I had to convince myself the article wasn’t satire. I agree with his analysis of our current crises. They are the changes I’ve been writing about, too. But my conclusions are diametrically opposed to his.

The current crisis in the U.S. economy is, in miniature but concentrated form, precisely what the Left has in mind in response to climate change: shutting down large sectors of the domestic and global economies through official writ, social pressure, and indirect means, in response to a crisis with potentially devastating and wide-ranging consequences for human life and human flourishing.

What is under way right now in response to the epidemic is in substance much like the Green New Deal and lesser versions of the same climate-change agenda: massive new government spending, political control of critical industries, emergency protocols modeled on wartime practice, etc.

Goodbye Green New Deal by Kevin Williamson, National Review, March 27,2020

As a fervent supporter of the Green New Deal, I believe the changes he is so alarmed about are precisely the changes we will have to make if we are to have any chance of slowing down our evolving environmental catastrophe.

Set aside, for the moment, any reservations you might have about the coronavirus-emergency regime, and set aside your views on climate change, too, whatever they may be. Instead, ask yourself this: If Americans are this resistant to paying a large economic price to enable measures meant to prevent a public-health catastrophe in the here and now — one that threatens the lives of people they know and love — then how much less likely are they to bear not weeks or months but decades of disruption and economic dislocation and a permanently diminished standard of living in order to prevent possibly severe consequences to people in Bangladesh or Indonesia 80 or 100 years from now?

Goodbye Green New Deal by Kevin Williamson, National Review, March 27,2020

He says people will not make changes in their own lives to prevent “possibly severe consequences” of climate change. The fact is, we’ve been seeing increasingly frequent and severe consequences of climate change for years already, not “80 or 100 years from now.” And despite the ethical considerations of not caring about the consequences of climate change to the people of Bangladesh or Indonesia, climate chaos cannot, of course, be confined to particular geographic locations, but will instead have global impact. And it is the industrial economies that are producing the greenhouse gases and polluting the air in Bangladesh, Indonesia, everywhere. And the changes needed will have to result in a “permanently diminished standard of living“.

Not mentioned are many examples of improved water and air quality that are now occurring as a result of this decreased economic activity worldwide. This is a key part of the Green New Deal, to transition away from extractive, fossil fuel mining and usage.

“After a couple of weeks of great economic sacrifice, it’s already proving hard for Americans to take. No one will sign up for a lifetime of it.” Kevin Williamson

One suspects that the people who are missing their paychecks right now, and the ones who worry that they may be missing them soon, are going to need some convincing. The adverse effects of climate change are likely to be significant and may prove severe — as noted, many of our progressive friends insist that they already are. But we have a new point of comparison, and those challenges feel relatively manageable if the alternative is an extended version of the coronavirus shutdown — and no amount of marketing will change the fact that that is precisely what is being advocated.

A couple of months of this is going to be very hard to take. Nobody is signing up for a lifetime of it.

Goodbye Green New Deal by Kevin Williamson, National Review, March 27,2020

I agree with his assessment of the public’s refusal to upset the status quo. For my entire adult life I have been trying to get people to give up their cars, as I had done. I’m not aware of a single person who did so. I came to the conclusion that people don’t give up their conveniences voluntarily. Michael James calls this the complicity of the privileged.

The arm-chair theorizers and spiritually exhausted tell us that ‘politics is dead’, or that praxis is a fools game. Meanwhile, the very same people continue to make excuses for continuing to live in ways extensively captured by pathological consumption patterns, and believing it nobler to suffer the slings and arrows of capitalist degradation than to risk their WiFi access by participating in an illegal occupation or some civil disobedience campaign.

UNNERVING REALITIES OF THE WET’SUWET’EN by michael james, Synthetic Zero, January 7, 2020

I had an experience related to change that nearly crushed me. I thought the apocalyptic scenes of the ferocious wildfires in California last year would, at a minimum, get people to acknowledge them as a consequence of climate change. Finally get them to get behind making changes to protect Mother Earth. Instead, what someone told me was, “yes those fires are a result of greenhouse gas emissions, but people have to drive cars to get to work”.

The fundamental problem with Kevin Williamson’s article is the assumption we have the choice of returning to business as usual when the pandemic falls to a manageable scope, if it ever does. There will be some success in reopening businesses and hiring people. Politics might return somewhat to where it was before the pandemic, assuming people aren’t too outraged by how the government mismanaged the crises and contributed to so much death.

The problem is, prior to the pandemic we were already experiencing increasingly frequent and severe climate chaos, which had begun to overwhelm our political and economic systems. And now the pandemic is intensifying that, and breaking down our healthcare and educational systems as well. Food and water insecurity is accelerating. Millions of additional climate refugees are being created.

It is discouraging to see the government putting tremendous amounts of money toward attempts to prop up these failing institutions and policies. To support corporations instead of people. That money and those resources could have instead been used to implement the policies of a Green New Deal. Ramping up renewable energy sources and expanding social safety nets. Supporting green industries and jobs to build for the future.

This time of fear and confusion is an opportunity to decide to build for the future. For our children’s future. People were not moved to be inconvenienced, and decrease their carbon footprint prior to the pandemic. The consequences of the coronavirus have forced the changes that we were not able to make voluntarily. We need to build on those changes, and resist returning to a corporate, fossil fuel based economy and society.


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