Understanding the Green New Deal


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The Green New Deal seems to be on every politician’s mind – especially Democrats. Up until last week, it’s been a pretty nebulous concept; one that everyone could hold up as an ideal without really committing too much.

All of that changed last week when Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortex introduced a resolution outlining the specifics of the Green New Deal. Finally, politicians have something more concrete to point to.

It’s not really a piece of legislation – not yet

The Green New Deal (GND) is surprisingly short – a mere 14 pages. When you consider that most legislation passed by Congress these days can be hundreds of pages, that’s downright brief. That’s because as a resolution, it’s not actually legislation – at least not yet. It’s more a way for Congress to say, “yes, we want to achieve these goals.” The actual legislation comes later.

It’s very broad

Right now, the GND has to be broad enough to be able to please a variety of activist and lobbyist groups. It also has to be specific enough to stand up to scrutiny from both the people who want to support it and the ones who will stand against it.

In order to walk this tightrope, the GND outlines five goals, 15 requirements, and 12 projects following a preamble that establishes climate change and the current economic state of the country as crises that must be dealt with. The GND proposes to address both, much in the same way that President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal revitalized a number of industries while also providing a desperately needed economic stimulus to the people.

The Goals

The five goals outlined by the GND are (as quoted from the resolution text):

  1. To achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions through a fair and just transition for all communities and workers;
  2. To create millions of good, high-wage jobs and ensure prosperity and economic security for all people of the United States;
  3. To invest in the infrastructure and industry of the United States to sustainably meet the challenges of the 21st century;
  4. To secure clean air and water, climate and community resiliency, healthy food, access to nature, and a sustainable environment for all people of the United States for generations to come;
  5. to promote justice and equity by stopping current, preventing future, and repairing historic oppression of indigenous peoples, communities of color, migrant communities, deindustrialized communities, depopulated rural communities, the poor, low-income workers, women, the elderly, the unhoused, people with disabilities, and youth.

The resolution also states that these goals should be accomplished over the course of 10-years. Of course, many of the GND’s opponents say that those goals are far too lofty and the time period is far too short. However, the timing is based on the many reports stating that there are now only 11 years left to take definitive action to reverse the effects of climate change.

What Does it Mean?

Really, the GND is about two things: environmental justice and public investment.

The GND hope to address the problems of climate change and the issues of environmental racism and injustice at the same time. It’s a well-known fact that the effect of climate change will hit the country’s most vulnerable communities harder and faster than it will anyone else. It’s also a fact that many of those communities will find transitioning away from fossil fuels more difficult for a number of reasons.

That’s why three of the GND’s 14 projects are focused on community resiliency. In addition, many of the requirements put forth in the resolution are focused on directing public, private, and government investment down to the local, state, and worker levels.

About Public Investment…

Public investment is something that has been overlooked in favor of free-market capitalism in the last several decades. The GND reverses this. In fact, fostering job creation in key industries with the help of public investment is the central pillar of the resolution.

In addition to creating jobs updating and repairing the country’s infrastructure, the GND also concentrates on things like job training, education, and research and development. The idea is to encourage public ownership of and investment in the outlined solutions.

It’s Far from Perfect

There are, of course, a lot of problems in the resolution. Many feel that 10 years is an unrealistic time frame. Others fear that this will expand government power far beyond what it should be. And, of course, there’s the issue of who will pay for all of this.

As with many pieces of legislation, the idea here is “start strong, bargain down.” By starting in a lofty, idealistic position with strong, clear goals and solutions, progressives in Congress can then “bargain down” as necessary to achieve real change down the line. Many of the resolutions hoped-for solutions (a change to universal health care, a jobs guarantee, etc) will likely be traded away in future legislative sessions.

Still, it’s hard not to admire how far the progressive movement has come. To move from a nebulous concept to having a (somewhat) clear path to follow in such a short time is certainly something we can be proud of.


Jenn Bentley is a writer and editor originally from Cadiz, Kentucky. Her writing has been featured in publications such as The Examiner, The High Tech Society, FansShare, Yahoo News, and others. When she’s not writing or editing, Jenn spends her time raising money for Extra Life and advocating for autism awareness.

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