Turning over a new leaf: why the U.S. should embrace the Green New Deal

With other countries being in the forefront of the movement against climate change, the U.S. needs to pick up its pace.

Josie Santiago, DN Illustration
Josie Santiago, DN Illustration

Elaine Ulsh is a first-year computer science and physics major and writes “The Occasional Observer” for the Daily News. Her views do not necessarily reflect those of the newspaper.

I have been a huge fan of the environment since I was a little girl. My obsession with Smokey the Bear is evidence of that.

Something about it makes me feel at peace. Most people are pushed to listen and engage in politics when they’re around middle school age. When this happened to me, one of the earliest things I cared passionately about within politics was environmental preservation. 

That’s why I was so interested when I first heard about the Green New Deal. It first made an impact on me due to its obvious namesake, the New Deal proposed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt

In my opinion, this revival of the New Deal feels like a mash-up between FDR and his fifth cousin, my personal favorite president, Theodore Roosevelt — FDR with his creation of new jobs and the economic stability of his New Deal with Teddy’s naturalism.

The Green New Deal’s main purpose according to the original resolution which was introduced in the 116th Congress was to reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions from human sources. When this was drafted nearly five years ago, it had the ambition to want a 40-60 percent reduction by 2030 and net-zero, which means as many emissions released as can be absorbed, by 2050.

I believe this is an amazing goal to have. Without such reductions in emissions climate change is only going to get worse. 

According to the Environmental Investigation Agency, the rise in global temperatures needs to be projected to around 34.7 degrees Fahrenheit. However, it is currently projected to be about 37 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century.

This issue could be  damaging to our world. I enjoy being able to enjoy nature. I enjoy being able to live in our world freely without subsequent risk. I know that I am not alone in that enjoyment.

The original New Deal was FDR’s plan to escape the massive hole that was the Great Depression. It included creating millions of high-wage jobs, providing prosperity, economic security and counteracting systemic injustice.

I was confused about the Green New Deal’s relation to its namesake. As I mentioned before, it was what really captured my interest. According to the resolution aforementioned, the Green New Deal aimed to create the same high-wage jobs and prosperity that the original New Deal did but with an environmental focus.

Recently, I came into contact with someone who doesn’t care about climate change. He believes that it’s another generation’s issue. It doesn’t even bother him that his own family will be left with this world. It doesn’t influence a single portion of his life.

Up until I heard that, I didn’t realize that people such as that exist. I have always been environmentally conscious to the best of my ability and within my means. I have donated and raised money for environmental causes, recycled since I was little, avoided plastic as much as I could, the works.

But not all of that is possible for the everyday person. In the socioeconomic climate of our world, the cheaper things tend to be those that are bad for the environment—wet wipes, disposable chopsticks, plastic tea bags. 

When I heard about this new plan, I was thrilled and dedicated myself to learning more. Not only is it intent on helping to save our planet and not relying on the everyday person to make a drastic change, but it’s changing the infrastructure itself.

I believe that we need to give our planet the fighting chance to survive our reign of terror; we need to give our planet grace. 

One of the biggest hiccups that the Green New Deal faced was the media’s interpretation of it. 

The idea itself is believed to have been formed during Green Party candidate Jill Stein’s 2012 presidential campaign.

However, it only made its way to Congress after Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) joined a sit-in protest outside former-Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s office led by activist group the Sunrise Movement. Since then, it has created traction with both Democrats and in the Green Party.

However, according to the New York Times, when introducing the idea to the public, Ocasio-Cortez’s team released an incorrect resolution causing them to later redact it.

Many Republican Congressmen used this opportunity to tear the idea apart and invalidate it. One senator, Tom Cotton (R-AK), is quoted in an interview comparing the rescinding of the incorrect resolution to George Orwell’s “1984” and even Joseph Stalin’s reign over the Soviet Union. 

In the same interview, Cotton states that Democrats “believe that Americans driving around in trucks on farms or commuting from the suburbs […] are a fundamental threat to the world.” 

This is just one example of how a significant number of Republicans are invalidating the Green New Deal. 

It is due to these naysayers, who have an incorrect view on what this project is truly trying to do, that it did not pass its first proposed version of the bill. They believe that its goal is to confiscate all cars and stop animal production indefinitely.

However, this is not true. The project merely proposes that the appropriate funds be available to advance the technology being used. Such technological advancements would then cut down on how many greenhouse gas emissions are being produced by some trades.

The Green New Deal was introduced in 2019, and it didn’t pass. Do we not owe the planet that we are destroying every day a chance to survive?

The way to do that is to advance technology to a point where emissions are limited and to provide an infrastructure that sets us up for success. These are all things that were proposed in the original resolution and are also things that are not out of the realm of possibility.

In fact, many countries around the world are already using similar tactics. This includes places like Morocco, which has lifted all the subsidies on diesel and gas, or India, which is currently investing more into renewables than in fossil fuels.

This is mostly due to the Paris Agreement, a legally binding international treaty on climate change.

When our planet is dying due to our past and current actions, I believe that we have a duty to ensure that it doesn’t continue to the point of no return. I envision a world where the sky is blue, the grass is green and our planet is thriving, not dying. 

The economy is currently heavily reliant on oil and gas. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, 80 percent of the energy in the United States is produced by coal, natural gas and oil. Oil and gas production alone are responsible for over 12.3 million jobs. It also creates energy that is cheap.

Therefore, to try to get rid of it threatens the economy that the U.S. is currently living on. There is no denying the economic benefits that non-renewable resources have on the U.S. economy. 

I’m not oblivious to how switching to cleaner energy could affect my life. I am a broke college student. I know how difficult this would be for many Americans. For some, paying more for energy is not possible in the slightest.

We all have known that person who couldn’t afford the luxuries in life like washing their clothes consistently, having a dishwasher or keeping the lights on during the day. Some of us have been that person. 

That is why investing in the proper infrastructure is so important to give Americans a fighting chance. 

The original resolution mentions the creation of jobs with this new infrastructure. This would be to counteract the effects of shutting down many non-renewable energy plants and the jobs that would be lost in doing so.

In 2021, the Green New Deal was reintroduced to Congress, this time with a more dire approach. However, as it was the first time, the Green New Deal was shut down in committee.

I’m going to be honest. This project is not likely to pass anytime soon. However, it is imperative that it does. The planet is dying and its blood is on our hands. We need to turn a new leaf in this world, a green leaf.

Right now we are at a point in our world where irreparable damage has not been widespread. But, if we continue, our planet will become beyond repair.

Contact Elaine Ulsh with comments at elaine.ulsh@bsu.edu.