My friend and colleague Richard Greeman, now living in France, has recently added some provocative and forward-looking comments to the ongoing discussion of whether a “Green New Deal” — centered in publicly funded expansion of renewable energy and other “green” technologies — can provide a necessary opening toward a more ecological future. Appropriately for a left libertarian approach to invigorating the public sector of the economy, Richard’s vision is rooted in the hope for a renewed left-populist social movement, building upon last winter’s uprisings in Wisconsin and elsewhere that opposed draconian social service cuts and the curtailment of workers’ rights. Along the way, Richard raises important questions about governance and the State, de-funding the military-industrial complex, and the threat of corporate fascism. Richard’s commentary is available here.
The commentary helps remind us that another world is still possible, and brings the debate over the potential for a “Green New Deal” more fully into the US context. This debate has been very active for several years in the UK and elsewhere in Europe; “ecological modernization” is another common, less US-centric term of description. Labor historian Jeremy Brecher has also posted an important strategy paper on this theme on the labor4sustainability.org website.
A UK-based coalition called the Green New Deal Group helped jump start the discussion back in 2008 with their comprehensive report, which was a significant focus for debate in the lead-up to the Copenhagen climate conference in December 2009. Van Jones’ book, The Green Collar Economy, aimed to bring the “green jobs” issue into the US mainstream, and temporarily landed Jones an office in the White House — until Fox News got wind of his leftist background and the Obama administration dropped him like a hot potato.
Skeptics on the European left have argued that this approach mainly offers a “green” veneer to the effort to bail out capitalism, and ultimately undermines steps toward a more just economic system. One exceptionally enlightening articulation of that debate was in the form of a published dialogue between climate justice activist Tadzio Mueller and German Green representative Frieder Wolf that appeared in the UK magazine Turbulence a year or 2 ago. ISE alumnus David Schlosberg and his colleague Sara Rinfret offered a very comprehensive treatment of the European “ecological modernization” debate and its lessons for the US in an article in the April 2008 issue of the journal Environmental Politics (Vol. 17, No. 2), which David also edited. Clearly, this is an important conversation for social ecologists to become more fully engaged in.