Green New Deal 101: A Primer on Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Bold Platform of Change

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In November 2018, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez rallied with 150 young climate activists outside of Nancy Pelosi’s office to represent the Green New Deal in a high profile gathering. The young activists, members of Justice Democrats and Sunrise Movement, had gathered to demand urgent action on environmental policies that are currently fueling the disastrous effects of climate change as well as inequities in society; their generation, they explained, would be the one shouldering the burden of reckless environmental policies of today. The group was eventually arrested after staging a sit-in in Pelosi’s office.

The Green New Deal embraces three main points:

  • Radical Changes to Environmental Policy – The plan proposes a shift to completely renewable energy over the next decade, requiring major investments in updating the country’s outdated energy grid and updating residential and industrial sites with state-of-the-art efficiencies. Ultimately, this is an attempt to reduce the catastrophic effects of global warming and will also protect the health of communities that are a being harmed by pollution.
  • Economic Security – The plan guarantees jobs that pay a living wage to all Americans; major shifts in green energy will require major inputs of manpower and an expansion in job training opportunities. Green technologies will also be marketed and exported globally, which will be a critical point of investment.
  • Climate Justice – Marginalized communities, especially those who are on the frontlines of climate change and environmental pollution, will be given a voice; members of these communities will be tapped to lead the initiative at the local level. Studies have consistently found that Latino, Black, and low-income communities are the most at risk for long-term health consequences due to pollution in their neighborhoods.

Over 80 percent of all registered voters support the Green New Deal, including nearly 60 percent of conservative Republicans, according to a survey conducted by Yale University and George Mason University last month.

What Washington Thinks

In Washington, the Green New Deal has been gaining support since November when less than 20 House Representatives endorsed the it; as of now, 45 congress people support the Green New Deal. However, leading Democrats spurned AOC’s proposal to form a Select Committee for a Green New Deal, with centrist critics feeling that it will be impossible to win bipartisan support and is so radical that it will forestall any positive legislative change. “The Green New Deal says you can [build a green economy] in ten years. I don’t know if that’s technologically feasible,” said New Jersey Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. in an interview with the Washington Post. “Beyond that, it’s probably not politically feasible.”

As concession to the progressive push for climate action, Majority House Leader Nancy Pelosi formed the Select Committee for Climate Crisis, which will be helmed by Florida Rep. Kathy Castor. Unlike AOC’s proposed committee, members of the Select Committee for Climate Crisis are not barred from accepting donations from fossil fuel companies — though Castor, herself, has vowed to decline all funds that come from dirty energy.

How You Can Support the Green New Deal

Sunrise Movement is currently focusing on winning support from seven progressive house leaders and is asking that supporters of the movement contact their local representatives to ask them to consider endorsing the Green New Deal. You can advocate for climate justice through Latino-led organizations; check out Huffington Post’s 2017 feature Latinos Leading on Climate Change, which surveyed activist leaders like Brooklyn’s UPROSE and youth-led Earth Guardians. To participate in environmental action at the local level, look to long-time activist Bill McKibben’s 350.org and connect with a chapter near you to make your voice heard in your community.