Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Climate Change Black Death surrounds us
Has Democratic Socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez cost us decades of progress on the Green New Deal?

Have we lost decades of work on the Green New Deal?

It was really hopeful to see headlines that Congress might address a "Green New Deal" targeting the 21st Century Climate Change Black Death.

But then immediately came controversy as reported in Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s rocky rollout of the Green New Deal, explained.

And now the headline is Mitch McConnell is going to force the Senate to vote on Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's Green New Deal for a story that tells us:

    The bill, which is not expected to pass the Republican-dominated upper chamber, could force some Democrats to make a politically awkward calculation.
    ...Only 11 of the 47 senators who caucus with the Democrats have signed on to sponsor the bill
    Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, who is widely expected to enter into the 2020 race, has declined to say whether he supports the proposal.
    "I'm not going to take position on every bill that's coming out," he said Tuesday, according to Politico. "I support a Green New Deal. I think we need to aggressively support climate change [legislation]. That's my answer."

The more I see and read, the more obvious it becomes that somehow Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC), a freshman member of the House who has gained Trump-like media coverage and like Trump has never held another elected public office, suddenly is the face of a new version of the Green New Deal.

That version is partly the old evolving, climate-focused Green New Deal plan. But it is weighted down with a leftist plans for economics and cultural diversity. And it seems likely that AOC just doesn't understand that 51 U.S. Senators representing 26 states containing only 17.6% of the U.S. population that is 72% non-hispanic white, Senators put into office by less than 8% of eligible American voters, can kill any legislation passed by the House of Representatives. (More on this later.)

The worry is the possible loss of any momentum American Green New Deal advocates have established in the first two decades of the 21st Century. This writer has advocated for strong egalitarian progressive ideas. But the need to immediately address Climate Change outweighs any desire to return to a more equalized economy.
Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was 14 years old when Kenny Ausubel called for a "Green New Deal" at the 2003 Bioneers environmental conference in Marin County, California. About 3,400 attendees (plus an equal number hooked up in 12 cities internationally via satellite) paid up to $300 to hear from and share with those on the cutting edge of the environmental movement.

In his coverage of the story, San Francisco Chronicle senior political writer Joe Garofoli described the event as follows:

    Celebrating this group hug of like minds has been a hallmark of the annual conferences of biological pioneers -- the so-called Bioneers -- in Marin County, the spiritual home of the environmental movement, and a comfy cradle for many of its offshoots. The common theme is a call to join in a search: How can we use nature's own properties to "heal itself"?
    It's a crowd that gave a minute-long standing ovation Sunday to Percy Schmeiser, the Canadian farmer who's battling agribusiness giant Monsanto all the way to the Canadian Supreme Court and listened intently to the Los Angeles ex-gang member who's trying to get his neighborhood to care about asbestos- riddled buildings.
    Although it receives little mainstream publicity, the Bioneers has grown from a gathering of "a couple dozen people" 14 years ago in Santa Fe, N.M., into this year's international confab that attracts big thinkers and doers from science to social justice. This isn't a bunch of theorists and academics, said founder Kenny Ausubel, but people who are actually doing something practical. While many of the speakers command five-figure paychecks on the lecture circuit, they donate their services to Bioneers; the organizers only accept donations from "socially-conscious" corporations.
    Now, said Ausubel, the challenge is to take the energy and ideas generated at Bioneers and make it politically powerful. While he called for a "Green New Deal," and other investments in repairing the Earth, he said he realizes that most politicians won't react until they see a groundswell from below them. "Once people learn that there are practical solutions, it changes things," Ausubel said Sunday.

Fast forward 15 years. At the 2018 Bioneers Conference in Marin County, California, Ausubel told the crowd:

    What we need government to do today is a Green New Deal. The same battle over corporate state capture that’s playing out today took place in the 1930s when FDR saved capitalism from the capitalists with the New Deal.
    The parallels are striking: extreme inequality and wealth concentration — wholesale deregulation — corporatized courts — restrictive immigration policy — and the rise of white nationalism and Fascism.
    As the late Tom Hayden pointed out, “The great work then was to save us from the Depression. The great work today is to save us from climate catastrophe and the end of civilization as we know it. We need to put every person in this country and on this planet who’s out of a job or underemployed into a great green employment project. The starting point is to combine the notions of reducing emissions and achieving jobs and environmental justice.”

Here is video of his presentation:

While Ausubel has been advocating for a "Green New Deal" at least since 2003, in 2007 three-time Pulitzer Prize winning New York Times writer Thomas L. Friedman first discussed a "Green New Deal" in A Warning From the Garden published January 19, 2007. He followed that up on April 15, 2007, in the New York Times Magazine article The Power of Green. That same year - the year Ocasio-Cortez turned 18 - House Speaker Nancy Pelosi created a House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis specifically to address Climate Change.

The next year, 2008, Democrats won the Presidency and control of both the House and the Senate. In 2009 the United Nations Environmental Programme was promoting a Global Green New Deal at a U.N Summit on Climate Change in New York and at a G20 Summit in Pittsburgh.Things seem to be advancing....

In 2010 the Democrats lost the House and the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis was disbanded by the Republicans. In 2014 the Democrats lost the Senate. And in 2016 Donald Trump, a spokesperson for climate change denial, won the Presidency. Since then, much national policy that might have been included in a description of a "Green New Deal" has been rolled back.

As noted in Ausubel's 2018 presentation, the late Tom Hayden pointed out in a speech to the Bioneer's 2014 California Climate Leadership Conference, “The great work then was to save us from the Depression. The great work today is to save us from climate catastrophe and the end of civilization as we know it. We need to put every person in this country and on this planet who’s out of a job or underemployed into a great green employment project. The starting point is to combine the notions of reducing emissions and achieving jobs and environmental justice.”

Also in that speech, Hayden noted that in 33 states climate policy is controlled by the oil and coal industries. Hayden died in 2016 before Donald Trump was anointed President by the electors from those states.

Which brings us to the problem with AOC's House Resolution 109 - Recognizing the duty of the Federal Government to create a Green New Deal Introduced in House (02/07/2019) by Representative Ocasio-Cortez.
To understand the problem, you first have to understand the structure of American government. In American government policy is made by the state legislatures and the United States Congress. The United States Congress consists of two chambers, both of which must approve a policy before it becomes effective. 

One chamber is U.S. House of Representatives with 435 members elected from Congressional Districts of approximately the same population...well...sort of.

Seats in the House of Representatives are apportioned among the states by population, as determined by the census conducted every ten years. But each state is entitled to at least one Representative, however small its population. This results in a somewhat
unfair representation. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is the Representative of New York's 14th district which has a population of 691,715. Nancy Pelosi is the Representative of California's 12th district which has a population of 700,605. Liz Cheney is the Representative of Wyoming's single statewide district which has a population of 585,501. But all things considered, it's probably fair enough. The problem related to the "Green New Deal" resolution as introduced by Ocasio-Cortez, a member of the Democratic Socialists of America, is that it is now "her" bill and within it is language that reflects the makeup of her constituency as reflected in the table to the right, as does she. Instead of being a straightforward environmental policy statement with employment goals, AOC's Green New Deal now includes as a goal...

    to promote justice and equity by stopping current, preventing future, and repairing historic oppression of indigenous peoples, communities of color, migrant communities, deindustrialized communities, depopulated rural communities, the poor, low-income workers, women, the elderly, the unhoused, people with disabilities, and youth (referred to in this resolution as “frontline and vulnerable communities”).

Here in California, that goal statement would be strongly supported in our Legislature. But....

The other chamber of Congress that must approve all legislation is the U..S. Senate with 100 members, two elected from each state. The two U.S. Senators from Wyoming each represent those 585,501 people represented in the House by Liz Cheney. The two Senators from New York each represent 19,875,625 people. The two Senators from California each represent 40,017,007 people. What some young people (and old people) don't understand is that each New York and California person as represented in the Senate has about 2% of the power of each of the mostly non-hispanic white people in Wyoming.

Quite literally, legislation passed in the House can be killed or passed by a vote of 51 Senators who represent the least populous of the 26 states containing only 17.6% of the U.S. population that is 72% non-hispanic white and who were put into office by less than 8% of eligible American voters. In that situation it does not matter that the remaining 49 Senators, representing 82.4% of the U.S. population and who were put into office by more than 92% of eligible American voters, disagree.

One statistic is critically important. Those 51 Senators together represent  a population that is 72% non-hispanic white. AOC represents a District that is 18.4% non-hispanic white. Nancy Pelosi represents a District that is 44.0% non-hispanic white. Neither represent a constituency that is typical for a U.S. Senator.

Only 10 of the 100 U.S. Senators represent the five states in which non-hispanic whites are less than half the population. Of the 100 U.S. Senators, 52 represent state in which over 70% of the population is non-hispanic white. Even New York is 55% non-hispanic white. Ocasio-Cortez's District is the exception, not the rule, in her own state.

When Kenny Ausubel called for a "Green New Deal" at the 2003 Bioneers environmental conference, when Thomas Friedman in 2007 wrote about a "Green New Deal" in the New York Times, and when Tom Hayden spoke at the Bioneer's 2014 California Climate Leadership Conference, "environmental justice" was a stated objective while "social justice" was recognized as the political tripwire that could blow up the plan. All three knew that the American political system requires finesse from someone proposing policy that will be opposed by a groups as powerful as the oil and coal industry and the Koch Bros Neoliberals.

As Friedman wrote in 2007: "Once the Geo-Green interest group comes of age, especially if it is after another 9/11 or Katrina, Mandelbaum said, 'it will be the biggest interest group in history — but by then it could be too late.' "

For many in the world outside the United States in “frontline and vulnerable communities” it is already too late. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has reinstated the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis in an effort to move forward with efforts to address Climate Change. I certainly hope she can somehow prevent political amateurs from destroying any chance of Congress passing serious Climate Change legislation, legislation focused on reducing the impact of Climate Change.

It isn't, or at least wasn't, an impossible task. A article today with the headline The Senate just passed the decade’s biggest public lands package. Here’s what’s in it. tells us that the bipartisan measure would create more than 1.3 million acres of wilderness, add three national park units and expand eight others. There is no Senator who is the "face" of that bill. There was no media glut about the proposal. Having a face and a media glut may kill the Green New Deal.

Because 12 years has past since Friedman published his articles which contains some outdated data, it might be tempting to dismiss his thinking.  But here is the core of his 2007 words from the two articles reorganized into an advocacy presentation:

Don’t know about you, but when I see things in nature that I’ve never seen in my life, like daffodils blooming in January, it starts to feel creepy, like a “Twilight Zone” segment. I half expect to wake one day and find Rod Serling mowing my lawn — in shorts.

Neither the White House nor the Democratic Party seems to grasp that the public and business community are miles ahead of them on this energy/environment issue. The presidential candidate who finally figures that out, though — and comes up with a compelling energy/environment agenda — is going to have a real leg up.

What would be compelling? I used to think it would be a “Manhattan Project” on energy. I don’t any longer. I’ve learned that there is no magic bullet for reducing our dependence on oil and emissions of greenhouse gases — and politicians who call for one are usually just trying to avoid asking for sacrifice today.

An unusual situation like this calls for the ethic of stewardship. Stewardship is what parents do for their kids: think about the long term, so they can have a better future. It is much easier to get families to do that than whole societies, but that is our challenge. In many ways, our parents rose to such a challenge in World War II — when an entire generation mobilized to preserve our way of life. That is why they were called the Greatest Generation. Our kids will only call us the Greatest Generation if we rise to our challenge and become the Greenest Generation.

In the world of ideas, to name something is to own it. If you can name an issue, you can own the issue. One thing that always struck me about the term "green" was the degree to which, for so many years, it was defined by its opponents — by the people who wanted to disparage it. And they defined it as "liberal," "tree-hugging," "sissy," "girlie-man," "unpatriotic," "vaguely French."

Well, I want to rename "green." I want to rename it geostrategic, geoeconomic, capitalistic and patriotic. I want to do that because I think that living, working, designing, manufacturing and projecting America in a green way can be the basis of a new unifying political movement for the 21st century. A redefined, broader and more muscular green ideology is not meant to trump the traditional Republican and Democratic agendas but rather to bridge them when it comes to addressing the three major issues facing every American today: jobs, temperature and terrorism.

The right rallying call is for a “Green New Deal.” It takes a Green New Deal because to nurture all of these technologies to a point that they really scale would be a huge industrial project. If you have put a windmill in your yard or some solar panels on your roof, bless your heart. But we will only green the world when we change the very nature of the electricity grid.

To spark a Green New Deal today requires getting two things right: government regulations and prices. Look at California. By setting steadily higher standards for the energy efficiency of buildings and appliances — and creating incentives for utilities to work with consumers to use less power — California has held its per-capita electricity use constant for 30 years, while the rest of the nation has seen per- capita electricity use increase by nearly 50 percent, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council. That has saved California from building 24 giant power plants.

How do our kids compete in a flatter world? How do they thrive in a warmer world? How do they survive in a more dangerous world? Those are, in a nutshell, the big questions facing America at the dawn of the 21st century. But these problems are so large in scale that they can only be effectively addressed by an America with 50 green states — not an America divided between red and blue states.

But here's the bad news: While green has hit Main Street — more Americans than ever now identify themselves as greens, or what I call "Geo-Greens" to differentiate their more muscular and strategic green ideology — green has not gone very far down Main Street. It certainly has not gone anywhere near the distance required to preserve our lifestyle. The dirty little secret is that we're fooling ourselves. We in America talk like we're already "the greenest generation." But here's the really inconvenient truth: We have not even begun to be serious about the costs, the effort and the scale of change that will be required to shift our country, and eventually the world, to a largely emissions-free energy infrastructure over the next 50 years.

Green has gone Main Street because global warming has. A decade ago, it was mostly experts who worried that climate change was real, largely brought about by humans and likely to lead to species loss and environmental crises. Now Main Street is starting to worry because people are seeing things they've never seen before in their own front yards and reading things they've never read before in their papers.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California summed up the new climate around climate when he said to me recently: "If 98 doctors say my son is ill and needs medication and two say 'No, he doesn't, he is fine,' I will go with the 98. It's common sense — the same with global warming. We go with the majority, the large majority. The key thing now is that since we know this industrial age has created it, let's get our act together and do everything we can to roll it back.

The only way to stimulate the scale of sustained investment in research and development of non-CO2 emitting power at the China price is if the developed countries, who can afford to do so, force their people to pay the full climate, economic and geopolitical costs of using gasoline and dirty coal. Those countries that have signed the Kyoto Protocol are starting to do that. But America is not.

The politicians who best understand this are America's governors, some of whom have started to just ignore Washington, set their own energy standards and reap the benefits for their states. As Schwarzenegger told me, "We have seen in California so many companies that have been created that work just on things that have do with clean environment." California's state-imposed efficiency standards have resulted in per-capita energy consumption in California remaining almost flat for the last 30 years, while in the rest of the country it has gone up 50 percent. "There are a lot of industries that are exploding right now because of setting these new standards," he said.

Equally important, presidential candidates need to help Americans understand that green is not about cutting back. It's about creating a new cornucopia of abundance for the next generation by inventing a whole new industry. It's about getting our best brains out of hedge funds and into innovations that will not only give us the clean-power industrial assets to preserve our American dream but also give us the technologies that billions of others need to realize their own dreams without destroying the planet. It's about making America the global environmental leader, instead of laggard, which as Schwarzenegger argues would "create a very powerful side product." Those who dislike America because of Iraq, he explained, would at least be able to say, "Well, I don't like them for the war, but I do like them because they show such unbelievable leadership — not just with their blue jeans and hamburgers but with the environment. People will love us for that. That's not existing right now."

In sum, as John Hennessy, the president of Stanford, taught me: Confronting this climate-energy issue is the epitome of what John Gardner, the founder of Common Cause, once described as "a series of great opportunities disguised as insoluble problems."

Green has hit Main Street — it's now more than a hobby — but it's still less than a new way of life. Why? Because big transformations — women's suffrage, for instance — usually happen when a lot of aggrieved people take to the streets, the politicians react and laws get changed. But the climate-energy debate is more muted and slow-moving. Why? Because the people who will be most harmed by the climate-energy crisis haven't been born yet.

"This issue doesn't pit haves versus have-nots," notes the Johns Hopkins foreign policy expert Michael Mandelbaum, "but the present versus the future — today's generation versus its kids and unborn grandchildren." Once the Geo-Green interest group comes of age, especially if it is after another 9/11 or Katrina, Mandelbaum said, "it will be the biggest interest group in history — but by then it could be too late."

The 21st Century Climate Change Black Death is happening now.
                                                                                                          If you're new to this blog here's the link to the listing of the 30+ previous posts in the Blog regarding Climate Change and the Environment.

This post is a part of a series:  climate change black death surrounds us 

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