The term “neoliberalism” isn’t new. It was coined in 1938 at a meeting in which social democracy was framed as analogous to a collectivism like Nazism and communism. But neoliberalism today is a conundrum: its slimy tendrils claw into everyday Western life, yet it is so anonymous that we seldom even recognize it as a pervasive ideology. Neoliberalism pushes deregulation on economies around the world, forces open national markets to trade and capital, and demands that governments shrink themselves via austerity or privatization.
Neoliberalism’s anonymity is its essential symptom and cause of its power, and the Sunrise movement is seeking to make the consequences of neoliberalism transparent in society. You know Sunrise, even if you can’t immediately grasp why. They’re the cohort of primarily college-aged activists who are promoting the Green New Deal. You saw pictures of their sit-in in front of Nancy Pelosi’s congressional office in the news and on 60 Minutes when Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) joined them in support of objectives to virtually eliminate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in a decade.
The earth is on track for 3-4 C degrees of warming, which would cause sea level rise of several feet and make extreme weather more frequent and dangerous, among other consequences. The next 4 to 12 years are critical if the world wants to limit that warming. Waiting to reduce greenhouse gases will make the challenge harder.
The Sunrise Movement is working to build a cohort of young people to make climate change an urgent priority across the US, end the corrupting influence of fossil fuel executives on politics, and elect leaders who stand up for the health and wellbeing of all people. MORE
How twelve young activists forced a bold idea into the mainstream of the Democratic Party
Illustration by Alex Nabaum
On November 13, 2018, just days after Democrats reclaimed the House of Representatives, dozens of young activists filed silently into Representative Nancy Pelosi’s office on Capitol Hill. Some sat down along the walls of the office, unfurling banners and forming a circle. Others stood in the center and told their stories.
A teenage woman from Northern California began, “There were fires at my school. There was ash falling from the sky for a week.” She and her companions in the Cannon Office Building that day carried manila envelopes containing pictures of the people and places in their lives that climate change would destroy—or already had.
On one side of the envelopes were the words “Dear Democrats”; on the other, “What Is Your Plan?” After some time, they began to sing—the protest songs of another generation, like “Which Side Are You On?,” and new ones they’d written themselves, about waters rising up and people rising, too. Their voices echoed down the marble halls.
“The whirlwind” evokes something visceral about what it feels like to be involved in a wave of political upheaval. It disorients, defies gravity, upends things and leaves them in a new place.
Within weeks, their ambitious demand for a “Green New Deal” to decarbonize the U.S. economy by 2030 and provide a green job to anyone who wants one was on the lips of every congressional staffer, cable news reporter, and progressive candidate for president in the country. MORE
The original image by Dominik Dancs/Unsplash
It may be a bigger public investment programme than the Marshall Plan or the moon-shot, but thanks to US congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the young people who back her, it may just get through. As an answer to climate change, the Green New Deal is the best humanity has right now. Which means that South Africa could reap the benefits too.
“If everyone is guilty, then no one is to blame,” said Swedish schoolgirl Greta Thunberg at Davos two weeks ago. “And someone is to blame.”
Was this a veiled reference to Nathaniel Rich’s novella-length article “Losing Earth,” in which The New York Times Magazine took the unprecedented step of devoting an entire issue to climate change, ultimately blaming our collective failure to avert its worst effects on “human nature”?
Perhaps. Since rising to prominence in August 2018, the same month that Rich’s piece was published, Thunberg had drawn the attention of climate celebrities who appeared to despise the blamelessness hypothesis as much as she did. Chief among these was the journalist and filmmaker Naomi Klein, who’d laid into Rich for employing the “royal we” in place of the easily identifiable individuals that had been behind the massive increase in carbon emissions since the late 1980s — the fossil fuel executives and their plutocrat enablers, to be specific.
Back in November 2018, Naomi Klein wrote in The Interceptthat the Green New Deal “is not a piecemeal approach that trains a water gun on a blazing fire, but a comprehensive and holistic plan to actually put the fire out”.
She then added: “If the world’s largest economy looked poised to show that kind of visionary leadership, other major emitters — like the European Union, China, and India — would almost certainly find themselves under intense pressure from their own populations to follow suit.” MORE
It was a good idea that didn’t catch on in 2007. Now we’re running out of time.
A technician monitoring turbines at a wind farm in Glenrock, Wy.CreditCreditDamon Winter/The New York Times
There is no agreed-upon policy road map for a Green New Deal. But as one of the leading climate bloggers, Joe Romm, recently pointed out, “Since the midterms, dozens of U.S. representatives and at least four Democratic senators have pledged support to create a Select Committee to create legislation for a Green New Deal.
The goal is a ‘detailed national, industrial, economic mobilization plan’ to rapidly transition the country away from fossil fuels and toward clean energy, such as a solar, wind, and electric cars.”
The Green New Deal that Ocasio-Cortez has laid out aspires to power the U.S. economy with 100 percent renewable energy within 12 years and calls for “a job guarantee program to assure a living wage job to every person who wants one,” “basic income programs” and “universal health care,” financed, at least in part, by higher taxes on the wealthy. MORE
Rep. Ocasio-Cortez, Sunrise Movement and other outspoken supporters want to avoid what they see as a fatal misstep of past climate efforts: setting the bar too low.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who was being sworn in on Jan. 3 with the new Congress, has led the push for a Green New Deal along with the Sunrise Movement, a youth-led climate activist movement that formed shortly after Donald Trump’s election. Credit: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call via Getty Images
The idea that climate action must be bound up in the drive for economic justice is at least as old as the pledges nations made at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio. But young U.S. activists have supercharged that concept in the campaign for a Green New Deal, hoping to blow past political barriers that have thwarted more timid proposals of the past.
“This is going to be the Great Society, the moon shot, the Civil Rights Movement of our generation,” said Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), the 29-year-old freshman lawmaker who has helped force the Green New Deal into the political spotlight. MORE
Sunrise, founded a year and a half ago by a dozen or so twentysomethings, has established itself as the dominant influence on the environmental policy of the Democrat’s young, progressive wing.
n a Sunday in mid-December, some eight hundred young people filled the pews and the aisles of Luther Place Memorial Church in Washington, D.C. They had trickled in from all over the country, in vans and buses, carrying backpacks and sleeping bags, some of them college students and others still in high school.
They belonged to an environmental movement called Sunrise, and they had come to the capital to pressure their congressional representatives on the issue of climate change. The next day would be one of visits and protests, where the young people planned to lobby the incoming Democratic majority to begin work on a Green New Deal.
The plan they hope to see adopted—to make the United States economy carbon neutral—would be nothing less than a total overhaul of our national infrastructure. MORE
Photograph by Michael Brochstein / SOPA / Getty
Instead, Democrats are sticking to their original plan, and channeled Exxon Mobil in an announcement refusing to bar members who take fossil fuel money.
Democratic leaders on Thursday tapped Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Fla.) to head a revived U.S. House panel on climate change, all but ending a dramatic monthlong effort to establish a select committee on a Green New Deal.
Castor’s appointment came as a surprise to proponents of a Green New Deal. The move also kicked off a controversy as the six-term congresswoman dismissed calls to bar members who accept money from fossil fuel companies from serving on the committee, arguing it would violate free speech rights. MORE