The late Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky, before his rivals murdered him, strung together a few immortal words, “You might not be interested in war, but war is interested in you.”
The same goes for climate change, a war between humanity and its oldest, most merciless foe – the natural world itself.
We can only win against the weather by working together, and a new proposal and mindset in American politics is emerging over the environment, especially among young people. It doesn’t focus only on the already worthwhile goals of toxic waste cleanup or animal conservation. Rather, it’s a question of the end of every life on Earth.
As one of the world’s largest sources of carbon pollution driving climate change and imperiling civilisation, the United States has a big role to play in this war for humanity’s survival.
Even though the country’s president, Donald Trump, calls climate change a hoax, there was some reason last week to hope Americans might start playing ball again, with the introduction of the “Green New Deal,” a sweeping set of proposals that aim to eliminate carbon output in the United States by 2030.
The “GND” will also implement a wide range of social programs designed to combat inequality. It’s not expected to pass now, especially under Trump and a divided Congress, but the introduction of the idea will have important consequences for the 2020 election, and how political leaders talk about climate change in the future.
Following the play-by-play of American politics can be mind numbing.
Who cares who’s lying anymore? Who can decipher these outrages? American politics might as well be baseball, that peculiar Yankee pastime that’s like cricket but also not. Or American football, which is like regular football but with throwing instead of kicking. Nevertheless, once in a while the inscrutable theatre of Capitol Hill has big consequences for the rest of the world. Indeed, if you are reading this article while breathing air on the planet Earth, this aspect of American politics matters to you.
The “Green New Deal” legislation was sponsored by firebrand freshman Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez – a Democrat representing millions of people in parts of The Bronx and Queens boroughs of New York City – and Senator Ed Markey, a far less firebrand Democrat from Massachusetts.
Even in cynical Washington-speak, the number of prominent sponsors means those lawmakers think confronting climate change with big public spending is a winning idea with voters.
Some Democratic party presidential hopefuls signed on to the idea, too. She also had support from other members of the Justice Democratic caucus, the faction of the Democratic party that moved towards Bernie Sanders’ ideas of getting money out of politics, somehow, and tackling income inequality.
“Every billionaire is a policy failure,” Ocasio-Cortez’s top press officer quipped on Twitter.
The term “Green New Deal” comes from the original New Deal, the raft of social security programs enacted by President Franklin Roosevelt in response to the Great Depression, the economic crisis that impoverished millions of Americans in the 1930s.
Indeed, similar to the original New Deal, the Green New Deal tries to stop the United States from crashing in on itself. Business leaders who deny climate change should remember that their customers will choose not dying of thirst over whatever your product is.
All this sounds like a matter of domestic policy, some kind of sudden left turn in American politics inspired by millennial social media 'youthquake' and whatever else the Americans are up to now. But this isn’t something trivial like who won the Super Bowl this year. This is important to you if you don’t want to see the planet strangled and boiled alive. Because that’s what climate change is already doing, and America is making it worse.
When it comes to tackling climate change, every country’s own action or inaction amounts to charting its own foreign policy, one that will require the world trusting the US again to help manage multilateral, international institutions that Trump and his Republican party disdain and scorn. It’s not really clear how the progressive left can do this on a global scale, but figuring out how is part of their momentous task ahead.
The past 18 years of world history have not shown the US using sound judgment in its foreign policy, launching impossible-to-win wars against invisible enemies while allowing itself and select allies to commit war crimes with virtual impunity. Trump has added a new dimension to this horror.
If Bush and Obama were responsible for performing unnecessary, unsanitary surgeries on other countries against the countries’ consent, Trump has decided to walk away from the patients, still cracked open and bleeding in the Oval Office operating room. He doesn’t care if they live or die. He might as well be golfing, a pastime of presidents and wealthy surgeons alike.
The Green New Deal gives Americans a chance to write their own story about what American foreign policy should look like, one where measures of physical reality – rainfall totals, temperatures, and ice cover – matter more than Trump and Fox News ranting about the menacing mirage of an immigrant “invasion.” This is a physical reality that human beings, living on a melting Earth, can maybe agree on.
Science-fiction stories have mused about the idea of humans uniting as a species to fight an alien foe, or some trans-dimensional monstrosity that appears without warning. The problem is so enormous and immediate, linked between the electrical charge simmering in your smartphone battery to what you ate for breakfast, and how it got to your mouth.
Some of the solutions to climate change’s future problems will require technology we can’t imagine yet. The planet might look quite different than it does today in a few centuries, a future of undiscovered countries. If we hope to survive there, we’ll all need to learn how to live on Earth all over again.
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