Big ideas are the only ones that can realistically tackle the climate crisis.
Representative-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez joins activists with the Sunrise Movement, who occupied Representative Nancy Pelosi’s office on November 13, 2018, to demand that congressional Democrats act on climate change. (Rachael Warriner)
Jon Wiener: How would you describe the Green New Deal resolution introduced by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ed Markey?
Naomi Klein: It’s a sweeping plan to radically transform how we get energy, move ourselves around, live in cities, and grow our food; and it puts justice at the center—justice broadly defined, from racial and gender justice to making sure no worker is left behind, battling inequality at every level. It’s really about multitasking. It’s about understanding that we are in a time of multiple overlapping crises, and that we are on an incredibly tight deadline when it comes to lowering greenhouse-gas emissions in time to prevent truly catastrophic warming. In order to bring people along with these necessary changes, there have to be benefits in the here-and-now in terms of the kinds of jobs that are provided and the justice that comes through.
JW: The Green New Deal, you’ve said, is not a question that will be settled through elections alone. What do you mean?
NK: In terms of winning the power to introduce a package as ambitious as the resolution, the only real historical precedent is the original New Deal. And the political dynamics that produced the original New Deal were not a benevolent politician handing reforms down from on high, from the goodness of his heart. Of course it mattered to have FDR in power instead of Herbert Hoover, but it mattered even more to have an organized population which was flexing its muscles in every conceivable way in the 1930s—from sit-down strikes in auto plants, to shutting down the ports on the West Coast, to shutting down entire cities with general strikes. And it mattered also to have more radical voices who were calling for more radical policies than the New Deal was offering, like a truly cooperative economy. All of that created the context in which FDR was able to sell the New Deal to elites. They were grudging about it, but the alternative seemed to be political revolution.
So the only way that something like this happens is if it is accompanied by a huge grassroots mobilization, where every workplace, every sector, every movement is asking, “What would a Green New Deal mean for us? What would it mean in our workplace? What would it mean for the groups that we represent?” If we are going to succeed, they need to make it their own. So it’s going to take a hell of a lot of grassroots organizing, mobilizing all of these sectors to really believe that the Green New Deal is going to make their lives better, coupled with politicians running at every level of government, including for president, with a promise to enact this on day one. MORE