The Green New Deal proposal has transformed the political landscape of climate change in the United States seemingly overnight. Its deceptively simple framing undergirds a much larger objective: leverage the spending power of the federal government to face climate change with the scale of investment and resources commensurate to the extraordinary size of the problem. Roosevelt’s New Deal was a powerful and effective response to the generational tragedy of the Great Depression, putting people back to work while rebuilding the country. A Green New Deal proposes to echo this endeavor by dramatically and rapidly altering our carbon footprint while building a thriving, restorative, equitable economy.
The idea has been discussed for many years although the term is thought to have been coined in 2007. Since the inception of the Bioneers Conference 30 years ago, brilliant speakers have addressed this concept from multiple angles.
We have compiled this media collection from our 30-year history to feature some of the most innovative thought leaders working on these topics. The videos, podcasts and articles below are presented within a loose framework based on the Green New Deal’s larger goals. This is by no means a comprehensive list, but more of a starting place to remind us that we have the expertise on hand to do what must be done. The question has always been how do we get these solutions to scale in time?—The Green New Deal may well be a large part of the answer.
And now that the Green New Deal discussion has finally reached the mainstream, we are struck by two fundamental realities…
First, as the saying goes, there’s nothing quite so powerful as a good idea whose time has come (or, in this case, is well overdue). Interest in a Green New Deal has been growing like wildfire, hot on the heels of the 2018 midterms and the release of two major climate reports: the globally focused IPCC 1.5 C report and the U.S.-based Fourth National Climate Assessment.
In 1988, legendary scientist James Hansen testified to Congress about the dire threat the human caused climate change posed to the planet. Three decades later, we’re still dragging our feed. The longer we wait to take meaningful action, the more comprehensive and rapid the transition will need to be in order to respond to the urgent situation; hence the scope and scale of a Green New Deal.
Second, while the general concept is rapidly gaining steam, the salient details remain to be developed. Even the draft House legislation (H.R. 109) (read a great explainer overview here) has been described by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as a scoping document and a call for proposals—just the beginning of a process. Numerous organizations and policymakers are now working hard to churn out specific proposals to meet these ambitious goals—and many of the leading thinkers on these issues have been part of Bioneers over the years.
The Big Picture
Transforming our society into one that is carbon positive, equitable and thriving will be a big lift. But this effort doesn’t have to start from scratch. Brilliant innovators have been outlining frameworks and approaches for years. We can look to the past to understand how the original New Deal was conceived and implemented. We can also look to smaller models that exist today, such as California, where one of the top 10 economies in the world has remained robust and thriving while steadily reducing overall carbon emissions and working to establish equitable policies across the board.
The Dreaming New Mexico Project: A State Level Model
Using collaborative and systemic approaches, this detailed analysis leverages whole-systems thinking to create a prosperous restoration economy that embraces the rights of people and nature, grounded in social and economic justice.
The New Economy
“To create millions of good, high-wage jobs and ensure prosperity and economic security for all people of the United States.” – H.R. 109
We live in a connected system. In the long run, there is no “economy” disconnected from the ecological systems that support it. Taking care of people means taking care of nature — and taking care of nature means taking care of people. Achieving an environmentally healthy and more equitable society requires a radical re-thinking of our guiding economic ideas. The real ecological and social costs of technologies and goods and services must be weighed and perverse incentives to pollute must be removed. As our economy transitions from one based on fossil fuels to one run on clean energy, it is essential that we take the opportunity to bring those who were left behind in the corporate carbon economy into full partnership in the creation of new systems, along with supporting and transitioning those currently employed by the fossil fuel economy.
Leading with Justice and Equity
“To promote justice and equity by stopping current, preventing future, and repairing historic oppression of indigenous peoples, communities of color, migrant communities, de-industrialized communities communities, the poor, low-income workers, women, the elderly, the unhoused, people with disabilities, and youth (referred to in this resolution as ‘‘frontline and vulnerable communities’’) – H.R. 109
The inequitable distribution of economic, social and environmental impacts resulting from climate change has historically been overlooked within the larger movement. This is changing with increasing awareness of the serious impacts of historical and current oppression, and there are conscious efforts to heal these wounds and find paths to move forward. A clean energy future with environmental justice and equity at the center is a non-negotiable goal — and in many cases, the systemic solutions we so desperately need are already coming from frontline and vulnerable communities, flipping the script in innovative and much needed ways.
Youth Climate Leadership
The presence of the Green New Deal in the national conversation is due, in no small part, to the brilliance, audacity and poise of youth climate leaders from groups like the Sunrise Movement and many others. Facing a world in peril, these youth leaders are holding politicians and older generations accountable. Bioneers has had the honor to host a vibrant array of talented and visionary individuals who are not just inspiring change but, quite literally, creating the world they’d like to live in.
Net Zero Emissions Through a Just Transition
“To achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions through a fair and just transition for all communities and workers.” – H.R. 109
Transitioning from a carbon-intensive economy to one that is built on clean energy—and returning carbon to soils and the biosphere where it belongs— isn’t easy. It requires transforming our energy sources as well as untangling and improving the many interconnected systems that rely on and support our current energy system. This is not just a technical challenge, it’s a human challenge, requiring close attention be paid to environmental justice, labor and human rights concerns along the way. Luckily, this is not news to those who have been working hard to establish models, frameworks and pathways to follow, combining ingenuity, innovation and compassion to power a new system.
Transforming Investments, Infrastructure, and Industry
“To invest in the infrastructure and industry of the United States to sustainably meet the challenges of the 21st century” – H.R. 109
Sophisticated techniques for designing buildings, vehicles, technologies, cities and industries can allow all aspects of the human enterprise to intelligently interact with living systems rather than seek to dominate the natural world. These approaches are less harmful and toxic and ultimately far more efficient and cost-effective than current design norms.
Restoring Natural Systems and Human Communities
“To secure for all people of the United States for generations to come: clean air and water; climate and community resiliency; healthy food; access to nature; a sustainable environment”
Climate change is showing us over and over again that nature bats last. Our societal task is to build “resilience,” defined as the capacity of both human and natural systems to absorb disturbance while retaining their basic function and structure, or the capacity to transform to meet the new regime. We need to mitigate and adapt rapidly, leveraging win-win solutions to restore natural systems, transform our agricultural models and build resilience into all our communities.