By Craig Grindrod, Operations Intern
It feels as if 2020 is the last chance for the world to set in motion plans to avert the coming climate crisis. It feels like the last gasp of our political and social movements for renewable energy and ending fossil fuel use is taking place as we speak. With 2030 as a deadline to transition to 100% renewable energy, this might seem like a stretch, but in order to effectively make such a bold transition the work has to begin now. In the summer of 2019 experts said the world had 12 to 18 months to put in place the policies that would transform our energy infrastructure and avert the coming catastrophic disaster of the climate crisis. If action isn’t taken in that time period, then they said all we could hope to do is mitigate the worst of the consequences. Without any action taken by the beginning of 2021, the crisis would become unavoidable and our futures would be bleak.
With this in mind, the 2020 presidential election, and the Democratic primaries in particular, come into sharp focus in my mind. To ensure a future for myself and everyone I love, a new president has to take office in January of 2021. But just getting President Trump out of office isn’t enough. Who the next president is matters, and far more than anyone seems to want to admit. Being a Democrat isn’t enough, because the boldness of their climate policy, the lengths they are willing to go to fight the fossil fuel industry, to rapidly transition to renewable energy and to fight for justice for everyone in America, are all crucial to the success of their plans. Any old climate policy won’t do, because we are in the endgame now and we need to acknowledge that this is a national emergency, that we are in the fight of our lives. There’s no time for half steps or compromises. There’s no time for incremental approaches or distractions. The future of this planet—of all the people and animals and plants on it—depends on bold action now. And the events unfolding in the Democratic primary have filled me with nothing but despair, as climate change remains an issue on the back burner, given much too little attention. It’s overwhelming and it feels like so many people go about their lives blissfully unaware that a catastrophe is on the horizon. 2030 is distressingly close at hand. And the grief I feel is something that weighs heavy on many young people’s hearts, who feel their government has failed to protect their future.
At the beginning of the Democratic primaries I had hope, and an abundance of it, as a matter of fact. Throughout the town halls and rallies, the debates and policy forums, numerous candidates broadcast their commitment to the Green New Deal, to environmental, racial, and economic justice for everyone in America. Building on the Green New Deal resolution drafted by Senator Ed Markey and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in 2018, multiple candidates’ climate policies proposed massive changes to our energy, labor, agriculture sectors, as well as our nation’s infrastructure. Their plans featured a litany of key provisions to ensure a strong planet, booming infrastructure, investments in parks, sustainable agriculture practices, and millions of jobs paying a living wage to make it all happen. The Green New Deal is undoubtedly expensive, but the cost of inaction will devastate not just the economy, but all life on the planet. The economic woes of the Great Depression in the 1930s sparked unprecedented government action to protect everyday Americans in the form of the New Deal. Now, with the climate crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic disrupting public health, the economy and so much more, bold action of the same magnitude of the New Deal is urgently needed. This is why we need the Green New Deal.
A strong, effective plan won’t be put in place by the next president using their force of personality or the bully pulpit to get the fossil fuel industry to stand down and Congress to act. No, they must use their influence to mobilize people. To get them in the streets, fighting for their future, for their lives. This is why I was hopeful that change is possible: because there were candidates whose plans relied on us, they placed their trust in us, the people. That’s how the boldest legislative package in generations will come to fruition. That’s how we ensure a future for all Americans. Even with just one candidate left in the Democratic primary, and the flurry of competitive, bold ideas dying down, we must keep pushing for a Green New Deal to combat this turning point in US and global history. The climate crisis is far too urgent for any one of us to stop fighting. Researchers have found that for social movements to translate into government action, the threshold for participation is 3.5% of the country’s population. We can do this! That is what it takes to give the American people and the world a fighting chance at survival. Because that is what’s at stake: the survival of this planet.