A Lean, Mean, and Green New Deal

Meredith Lou ‘20

It seems like yesterday when U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez won her first election as the youngest woman in Congress ever and was sworn into office; however, she has wasted no time in making ambitious and dramatic proposals. Her recently-introduced Green New Deal, the name paying homage to Franklin D. Roosevelt’s post-Great Depression programs, brings forth several bold propositions to tackle social issues like climate change and inequity.


The Green New Deal calls for a ten-year mobilization effort to achieve five enumerated endgoals: net-zero greenhouse gas emissions, the creation of millions of fair-paying jobs, an increased investment in sustainable infrastructure and industry, universal access to basic and clean necessities for all Americans, and an end to the oppression of “frontline and vulnerable communities” (marginalized groups) [1]. While the plan outlines numerous future goals to achieve, it does not include specific policies or laws to help reach these goals.


Most scientists agree that the ever-growing threat of global warming demands aggressive action, and some claim that the Green New Deal sets aggressive goals; however, many speculate that these goals might just be too ambitious.  Rohan Kapur ‘20 contends that “Washington is in desperate need of fresh talent such as Ms. Cortez; however, in a time when our economy is facing staggering deficits, while the Green New Deal can potentially bring profound benefits to our nation, the funding for this program is virtually nonexistent.” Most views on the impracticality of the plan stem from its big price-tag and calls for huge societal changes that might not be conceivable. The fossil fuel industry is deeply ingrained into American economy, so to shift away from this entire sector and transform into a carbon-neutral economy would undoubtedly take longer than ten years and require trillions of dollars. Experts delineate that past efforts to combat climate change usually focus on one contributor to the problem (such as just the coal industry); therefore, Cortez’s approach of targeting all contributors while simultaneously pursuing other social issues might pose as a hindrance.


Even when disregarding the difficulties in making the transition into sustainability, the chances of the Deal passing are low. It is highly unlikely that the Republican-majority Senate would enact anything as progressive as this plan. While many Democrats have expressed their profound support for Cortez’s proposal, several have been noticeably reticent in expressing their true thoughts, especially those in swing districts in fear of losing more moderate voters. The most prominent example of a Democrat with reservations is Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, who disappointed proponents of the plan when she told Politico that the Green New Deal will simply “be one of several or maybe many suggestions that [the House receives]” instead of explicitly advocating for the plan like many had hoped for [1].


Because it is Cortez, a self-proclaimed Democratic socialist, who proposed the Green New Deal, “it will always seem unreasonable or unrealistic to some,” postulates Camille Shen ‘20. “Even though it’s vague right now, it’s still attention-grabbing, which is what we need in order to take a step forward in the right direction in addressing environmental insecurity, especially given the Trump administration’s response to climate change and the Paris Accords.” Other members of the general public seem to share Camille’s ideas. Despite the infancy of the 2020 presidential elections, support for the Green New Deal has proven to be a topic of interest among voters when deciding among candidates. Even without passing through Congress, the deal paves the way for further legislation to address climate change.


Although there are aspects that seem unattainable, the Green New Deal ultimately opens our eyes up to the inevitable truth: our planet is dying; humanity is as vulnerable as ever, and we must do something dramatic fast.


[1] https://www.npr.org/2019/02/07/691997301/rep-alexandria-ocasio-cortez-releases-green-new-deal-outline