Since the introduction Feb. 7 of the Green New Deal the resolution has become the most politicized idea since Obamacare. On the left it’s become a litmus test for potential presidential candidates. On the right it’s become the toxic center of conservative campaigns to label Democrats as socialists. As a result we’ve been left with little wiggle room for bipartisan cooperation, which is the opposite of the resolution’s original purpose.
The bottom line is we need to stop viewing the Green New Deal as a concrete proposal. That’s just not what it is. Politicians and pundits will try to say the resolution will cost trillions of dollars, bankrupt America or transform the nation. But if the resolution was passed today, the bill would spend zero dollars and do absolutely nothing. Instead we need to view the Green New Deal as an invitation to work together to solve the greatest threat facing America today.
Across the country climate disruption will lead to billions of dollars in economic loss, refugee crises from affected regions both at home and abroad, increased wildfires and billions of dollars in risk to infrastructure. In Wisconsin alone changing climate patterns will create increased flooding, threaten the Great Lakes and other clean-water sources, limit winter recreation, decrease crop and livestock yields, damage wildlife ecosystems, and increase air pollution and health risks. Our state and our country are on the verge of something extremely dangerous and limiting. We can’t allow for this issue to continue to be polarized to the point of inaction.
At the moment our practices as a state and as a country are not going to solve the issue. We still contribute to increased global levels of carbon-dioxide production through inflated fossil-fuel production. We still haven’t correctly addressed clean water. We still have dangerous and under-regulated mining practices. We still have outdated and inefficient infrastructure. As a country we still lag behind other nations in clean-energy job creation. And as a state we not only lag behind the country, but our previous administration actually took steps to discourage clean-energy job growth. We are falling behind as a society at a time at which we simply cannot afford to.
We need America to come together to bring forth solutions in order to prevent environmental and economic catastrophe. That’s why we have the Green New Deal. The resolution asks all of us, “Here is the problem; now what are we going to do about it?”
Admittedly the resolution isn’t perfect. Health-care and job guarantees are not going to pass in a Republican-led Senate or with a Republican president. But Congress has amendment procedures for a reason. Instead of voting against the resolution without proper debate, politicians from both parties should be offering changes to create a foundation for bipartisan solutions. By committing to help solve the issue instead dismissing the entire conversation, we can create a platform for Republicans and Democrats to introduce real and positive policy proposals — proposals that will not only help protect our environment, but will also help our economy adapt to a changing world.
With the Green New Deal we can set our sights on clean-energy jobs, especially in rural and post-coal communities. We can work toward an infrastructure bill that has been on the wish list of both parties for years. We can help provide improved transportation to limit traffic and improve economic mobility. We can invest in struggling family farms to increase agricultural sustainability. We can advocate for clean wells, pipes and water. We can transition our economy for future generations. And we can save our environment for future generations.
Together we can use the foundation of the Green New Deal resolution to inspire change. It will be ambitious. It will be difficult. It will be controversial. But it will be necessary. We can’t afford to do nothing. We can’t afford to reject this resolution without meaningful conversation. And we can’t afford to use this as a tool for polarization as opposed to an opportunity to find bipartisan solutions. If we only see the Green New Deal as a chance to score a cheap political win, then we will all lose.