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Green New Deal Me In

| June 8, 2019

climate change losing battle

Losing battle. (c FlaglerLive)

In the early 80s the New Yorker ran a three-part series called “The Fate of the Earth” by Jonathan Schell. At the time there was a great deal of fear that the world would end in a nuclear holocaust. Ronald Reagan was president. He’d not yet had his epiphany about the horrors of nuclear war. The Soviet Union’s expiration date was still a few years away. It was pointing SS-20s at Europe, those multi-warheaded missiles each capable of delivering 150 kilotons of destruction, Reagan was responding with Pershing missiles’ 400 kilotons.

pierre tristam column flaglerlive.com flaglerlive The fear was real. We were demonstrating in the streets, writing testaments, hanging UNICEF posters in our rooms that asked “What would you like to be when you grow up?” The answer, of course was alive.

“The Fate of the Earth” was a call to arms, or rather to disarm, an attempt to describe the global Hiroshimas we were hurtling toward if we didn’t become wiser. Its most arresting pages describe what it would look like if a 20-megaton nuclear bomb exploded on the Empire State Building. I was in high school at the time. I remember reading the article while visiting my brother at Columbia University, and looking out his window at the Manhattan skyline Schell’s descriptions were demolishing–the six-mile-wide fireball, the millions of New Yorkers, myself among them, reduced to radioactive dust, the death of 20 million people and the reduction of the country to what he called a “republic of insects and grass.” Obviously, we’re still here, and books like Schell’s played a significant role in what turned into an era of significant arms control and disarmament.


The problem, or perhaps the opportunity, is that the same sort of language Schell used in 1983 can apply today to the slow-building catastrophe of climate change. “Since we cannot afford under any circumstances to let a holocaust occur,” Schell wrote back then, “we are forced in this one case to become the historians of the future–to chronicle and commit to memory an event that we have never experienced and must never experience.”

The difference is that the holocaust this time is slow, giving us the illusion of adaptability. Much of it is out of view, allowing us to ignore it. We’ve sensed temperatures getting warmer in Florida, we already see the effects of rising seas on Miami, whose voters just levied a higher property tax on themselves to combat the rise. Hell, we’re seeing it in Flagler, where we just finished wasting $20 million on repairing dunes and are about to waste another $50 million or more on an ultimately futile beach renourishment effort in Flagler Beach, not including the millions the transportation department is spending on road repair and sea wall construction. But it’s still nothing compared to the much higher and faster temperature rises the Arctic has been experiencing, with reports of 84 degrees near the Arctic Ocean last month.

Even if we’re not seeing it or experiencing it, we’re learning about it. Every few weeks the United Nations, various governments, including our own, or research agencies issue reports detailing the extent of the catastrophe. A few weeks ago the UN released the most extensive study to date on the effects of global warming on biodiversity. It concludes that current activity will lead to the extinction of a million plant and animal species. In a world of just 8 million species, that’s cataclysmic.

There’s not much speculation to this. Actual species are going extinct as we speak. A Hawaiian tree snail did so on new Year’s Day, as if to kick off another year of necrology. Bees, frogs, butterflies are all disappearing in genocidal numbers, as are coral reefs and forests. Two numbers are increasing: the volume of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and the number of human beings on earth.

It should all be a call to arms no less urgent than that of the “Fate of the Earth.” Instead, we see inaction and immediate ridicule, at least in America’s current and toxic political climate, of any suggestion of government intervention. Our own president is still mocking and denying the science. But government intervention is the only way to at least slow down a catastrophe of this magnitude. You can’t recover from a hurricane without government intervention. Climate change is a slow-burning hurricane swirling over the entire planet. Yet its deniers still claim it’s just a matter of adaptation, or else make the even more ridiculous claim that technology and private industry alone can take care of it, if at all. Technology and private industry are certainly a necessary part of the solution. But they’re not its leaders. They can’t be.

We see this every time government is presented as part of the solution. It’s a given. Any attempt at a serious policy proposal provokes an automatic reaction disproportionately alien to the policy’s aims. It goes like this: universal health care? “Death panels.” Tax the rich? “Socialism.” Minor gun-safety regulations? “Taking your guns away.” It’s absurd. It makes rational discussion impossible. But that’s the point. The disproportion aborts any chance of further discussion, reasoned debate itself being the greatest threat. Because the moment you pry someone from the seduction of slogans and break the heathen proposal down to its component parts, opposition is less sure of itself. It recognizes the possible, which may soon be essential.

That’s the path the income tax, Social Security and Medicare all took over decades, and more recently, same-sex marriage. Each was thought to spell the end of American civilization. Each became untouchable. (Gay marriage isn’t sacrosanct yet, but it’ll get there.)

So it will be with the Green New Deal. The name may be hoaky. The substance isn’t. It’s as simple as this: either we adopt it in the main or we kiss goodbye life as we’ve known it, in coastal Florida especially. These coasts we’re so fond of are being redrawn as we speak. No beach renourishment or seawall will stand in the way.

The Green New Deal isn’t a massive proposal. It’s a set of principles a few hundred words long. But it immediately turned its kennel of critics into Pavlovian yappers, admirably summed up in a tweet by the Supreme Leader himself: “I really don’t like their policy of taking away your cars, taking away your airplane flights, of ‘let’s hop a train to California,’ or ‘you’re not allowed to owe cows anymore.’”

The Green new Deal proposes none of those things. Its opponents haven’t read it. They should. It even reads like a set of tweets. Pry it away from the inquisitors, and it’s something most of us would find reasonable: Here are some examples: “Invest in the infrastructure and industry of the United States to sustainably meet the challenges of the 21st century.” “Create millions of good, high-wage jobs and ensure prosperity and economic security for all people of the United States.” “Dramatically expanding and upgrading renewable power sources” and “smart power grids.” Secure “clean air,” “healthy food,” “access to nature” and “a sustainable environment” for “all people of the United States for generation to come.”

Any objections so far?

Of course it gets idealistic in parts, sounding more like FDR’s New Deal and his Four Freedoms than anything more recent, but FDR was once lionized for those ideals, including “a family-sustaining wage,” “retirement security,” “affordable, safe and adequate housing,” (which we’re hearing about every day from our Republican establishment in Flagler), and so on.

Not a word about cows. Not a word about taking planes away or shoving trains down your commuting habits. If the document goes far afield here and there, it’s a working set of principles, not an edict, not an executive order. And it’s a starting point to a direction the country cannot afford not to take–not to cripple its freedoms, but to safeguard and foster them. Its opponents want to incinerate its authors, particularly Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who makes reactionaries as delirious as Trump does liberals. But what has been the reactionary alternative? As with health care, as with immigration, as with inequality, perhaps a prayer, a wall and a tax break. In other words, nothing but a paralytic invitation to self-destruction: this way to the greenhouse gas chambers, ladies and gentlemen.

The Green New Deal doesn’t pretend to be perfection. It’s not dogma. It’s not final. It’s barely a beginning, an attempt to push back against a republic of insects and grass, but least it is one. It invites debate, and it proposes action. Deal me in.

Pierre Tristam is FlaglerLive’s editor. Reach him by email here or follow him @PierreTristam.

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24 Responses for “Green New Deal Me In”

  1. snapperhead says:

    If people so concerned about saving the environment were so adamant about it I would expect to see more riding their bikes to work, shopping or just going out and about.Or more electric/hybrid vehicles on the road. Or more shopping with environmentally friendly shopping bags, using push mowers to mow their lawn etc etc etc. I don’t see it, Just a lot of lip service for the most part.

  2. Robbie says:

    What the green new deal fails to address is how it would handle the world’s biggest population and pollution producers ,mainly China and India. Both known for their rogue approach to pollution and exploding populations. Taxing the U.S. population with pie in the sky proposals like being on all clean energy,rebuilding every structure in the US to be compliant, living wages for those not able or WILLING to work. It’s more Democrat , government intervention and taxation to support their true motive. Welfare for their voting base . For someone of French descent you should know better. Laissez-faire.

  3. Agkistrodon says:

    The US is already one of the Lowest polluters. What does your “green New deal” do about the likes of China, India, Pakistan, Bangledesh, Viet Nam. All Mass producers and ALL MASS polluters. I’ll tell you, it does SQUAT.

  4. Concerned Citizen says:

    Thank you Pierre for once again (and so many times!) being the voice of reason in our county.

  5. tulip says:

    Country Emissions Per Capita
    1 Qatar 39.7
    2 Kuwait 24.4
    3 United Arab Emirates 21.8
    4 Australia 18.6
    5 Turkmenistan 17.5
    6 Oman 17.5
    7 United States 16.1
    8 Saudi Arabia 16.0
    9 Canada 15.5
    10 Kazakhstan 15.2
    This page was last updated on January 9, 2019.
    By Ferdina

  6. gmath55 says:

    The Truth About the Green New Deal https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JI8cfIKznGY

    It’s not just about buying expensive electric cars; it’s about the government forcing you to buy them. Even the left has called the plan aggressive and ambitious. The truth is, it’s actually pretty far-fetched. If we could figure out how to pay the trillions of dollars it would cost, it would virtually have no impact on global warming. It is a power grab.

  7. Stephen Smith says:

    One thing we can do is stop buying products from countries that do not use the same environmental rules that we do. They will comply if only to keep selling us goods. We also need to get Big Business to realize that there is a ton of money to be made implementing an environmentally sound economy. Then Capitalism will drive the whole process.

  8. Agkistrodon says:

    Tulip, I see China is not on your list. That is because it is WELL known that they falsify everything and there is no reliable way to keep track. UNLESS you look at Satellite photos of their Rivers. All over China, using different Spectrums of light, one can see the TRUE amount they are pumping into the rivers. You can trace these “plumes” directly to the Source. But the Chinese Government dos Nothing, except lie about it. Then, there is Russia, dumping chemical everywhere…….You want to “save” the planet, Stop Using Plastics.

  9. Outside Looking Out says:

    Well once again I’ve read an asinine article by Pierre, and as always I compare it to a terrible car wreck you must drive by and you tell yourself “Don’t look” but you do and as always you are sickened by what you see and in this case what you read.
    Of course, the first thing I think of is Al Gore and his fantastic predictions from many years ago that have yet to occur. Same old “song and dance” show. The plain simple truth is the earth has been heating up after the last ice age.
    OK, you may say, there are scientist who predict this doom. Quite frankly, there are just as many scientists who do not predict this doom. I really don’t put much faith in either for they are just saying whatever the folks that pay them want them to say. It’s all about the money.
    Then you bring up FDR and the New Deal, retirement security, affordable housing,immigration, healthcare, inequality, etc. which has nothing to do with the subject and of course you make a hit on our president, which is normal for you. You also defend AOC, a junior house member that continues to show her ignorance.
    With that said, my question to you is, if what you and your fellow liberals are saying is true, just exactly what could we do? Do you honestly think that we (the U.S.) can do anything? Do you think we (the U.S.) will and can abandon fossil fuel? (How did you get to work today… bicycle?), and even if we (the U.S.) did, what about the rest of the world? Do you think our small little country will be the deciding factor against the horrible destruction of the world? The answer is no.
    There’s no doubt that your article was written with passion, including the cow farts and big words, and I, disagreeing, am equally passionate. I’m fairly certain I can’t change your mind and you can’t change mine. What we can do is be diligent and open minded and capable of seeing the truth.

    • Pierre Tristam says:

      OLO, I refer you to your last line, which effectively answers the rest of your comment for both of us.

  10. Anonymous says:

    If you Pierre with all the other environmental tree huggers are all about clean air and water, then why are all you people still flying in airplanes, driving fossil fueled cars instead of electric, not walking or riding your bikes?

  11. Ellen Fraser says:

    Thank you Pierre, we must start to clean up our act. So much needs to be done, I am disappointed that so many are complacent.

  12. John R Brady says:

    This is a letter to the editor that was recently published in The Daytona News Journal and illustrates that old saw, “My mind is made up do not confuse me with the facts”
    Labels have crept into our political dialog and are having a very negative effect. It is so easy to label and fit our beliefs into that label. These labels are hindering meaningful political dialog
    In America, we are guaranteed the right to free speech. This includes the right to criticize the words or actions of government officials. Unfortunately, this is now being labelled as un-American and unpatriotic. Just because a person is critical does not make that person an enemy. Indeed that critical person may just have a different opinion on how something can be accomplished or what is a better road to take to maintain the American way.
    Also just because a person is critical of the actions of the State of Israel or people in that government, that does not make that critical person anti- Semite. It is so easy to dismiss people who are critical as anti-Semitic and reject the valid concerns of these people.
    The label of fake news is used liberally and this reminds me of the old saw, “Should I believe what you tell me or my lying eyes”. I see a video of our president saying he has grabbed females in private areas but that was with my lying eyes. Now it is labelled as fake news.
    In order to have a meaningful dialog, we need to agree on the objective truth and not the label. In other words believe our “lying eyes” ears and uncluttered mind.

  13. Sherry says:

    Not to totally confuse the completely obstinate with actual “FACTS”. While China is likely the worst polluter by almost any measure, the US is right behind them:

    https://ourworldindata.org/co2-and-other-greenhouse-gas-emissions

    Childish, ignorant statements (FOX talking points) saying that we have NO responsibility to decrease the amount of pollution we pour into the global environment because. . . let’s see. . . “China should go first”. . . ” we can’t all just ride bikes to work”. . . “it would cost too much”. . . . are nothing short of asinine!

    Pierre has written yet another excellent article. Why not “try” prying open those FOX/GOP/trump brainwashed minds and consider that each hard road to higher/healthier evolution begins with one small step and then another and another. The Green New Deal is just that first tiny “imperfect” step.

    This is a “critical” path we must all take or the human race on planet earth will parish. It will be much easier if we STOP the petty bickering and finger pointing, AND we join forces to work together to save life as we know it.

  14. mark101 says:

    All I See here to accomplish this, IS HIGHER TAXES

  15. Stranger in a strange land says:

    God save the future generations of Americans from our generation. We pass a tax bill during a time of economic prosperity that will balloon the deficit. This was done during the Bush II Administration, “returning” the surplus to tax payers. When the economic crisis came in 2008 there was no surplus to cushion the blow.
    Now Trump’s tax cut has done it again. Passed during a time with low unemployment and good economic growth, it is exponentialy expanding our debt. We are enjoying rising asset values but we are stealing it from the future by borrowing money to juice the economy. There will be no savings, no surplus to see us through the next economic downturn. I was taught that you save when things are good so you are prepared should things turn south.

    We are burning the earths candle at both ends. We say we shouldn’t do anything that cuts emission because everyone else is burning as much or more than us. I guess we’re going to jump off the George Washington Bridge because everyone else is. The future generations will have to deal with the results of our selfishness. We don’t want to switch from septic to sewers because it will cost money. Isn’t drinkable water worth the investment? Interest rates are low. Issue municipal bonds to lend funds to finance the conversions for home owners. Drinkable water will be worth it. Shame on us. We are a thoughtless, selfish generation.God save our children and grandchildren from our actions and inaction.

  16. atilla says:

    I use to recycle everything until I phone the city to express my concern about our recycle ing pick ups, I was told “that’s the way it is. Recycling is voluntary so if you don’t like it don’t recycle”. That’s a quote from our city.

  17. tulip says:

    To Agkistron–I was very surprised to see that China was not on the list. I copied and pasted that info from an article I read online. I agree with what you say.

  18. deb says:

    Well just a decade ago: President Barack Obama signed a prototype Green New Deal into law in February 2009, pouring an unprecedented $90 billion into clean electricity, renewable fuels, advanced batteries, energy efficiency, a smarter grid and a slew of other green initiatives. If you haven’t heard of Obama’s Green New Deal, that’s because it was wrapped into an even larger and more controversial piece of legislation: The $800 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, better known as the stimulus.

    How to pay for it: Ocasio-Cortez has suggested raising marginal tax rates for the rich to 70 percent

  19. tulip says:

    Don’t forget that we all use various chemicals such as aerosols like hair spray, spray paint, cleaning supplies etc that pollute the air, as well as using lawn care products, gasoline fumes and others.What about all the radio waves or whatever you call them, that emit from cell phones, electric meters, microwaves and dozens of other devices? How many of us are actually willing to give up all the conveniences? Not too many I bet.

    Even if the USA did a “perfect job” of cutting back pollution it wouldn’t do any good unless the other countries joined in. Even if the project started tomorrow it would be many decades to get the earth back to a better quality environment.

    I almost think that no matter how we try, it won’t matter that much because the gov’t would have to force the people to make many many sacrifices and that would cause another uproar.JMO

  20. Richard says:

    There are rare occasions when I agree with Pierre and this is one of them. YES, I agree, global warming is real, YES, I agree, it is a result of humans on this planet, YES, I agree, we are seeing it and experiencing it all over this planet including Flagler Beach. HOWEVER, you failed to give credit to the people of United States of America for being one of the leaders in reducing the human impact on this earth for years. Plus you failed to emphasize specifically what ALL of the other countries on this earth have done to minimize the effects of humans and industry? SO,why don’t’ you spend more time writing facts about the effects on the earth caused by those other countries versus constantly blaming TRUMP for everything including Global Warming? You are so anit-Trump that you can’t see the forest for the trees! By the way, deal me in too if in FACT any of this “Green New Deal” will actually help this planet versus just more bullshit and rhetoric from the Democratic party hoping to gain “control” of this country once again so they can continue to destroy it.

  21. tulip says:

    To Stephen smith–If consumers, or the USA retail stopped buying products from companies that don’t comply with our standards, we would be going without so many many things. That’s what happens when American companies go oversees to China or elsewhere. There is very little product made here in the USA so we are stuck with buying imports mostly, and products made in the U.S. cost way more than those from China, etc., so a lot of people here couldn’t afford them. Even some of our food and fish come from overseas.

  22. Shell says:

    In re: your “reply” to OLO above, Pierre – we all, indeed, should seek truth and be open-minded, but truth is truth no matter how one feeeels about it, and one should not be so open-minded that his brains fall out.

  23. Agkistrodon says:

    Recycle, In palm Coast recycyling is putting the stuff in the recycling bin so the garbage company can throw it in with THE REST of the garbage and take it to the landfill. Unless they have changed in the last Month THIS IS FACT.

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