Saying “No” to the Green New Deal

Many of my friends and connections like the Green New Deal. Here’s why I’m saying “No thank you!”.

While it would be wonderful to see a broad coalition toward a new future, the Green New Deal can’t be that. It’s a wish list put forward by a coalition of the radical left without consultation with the rest of society.  Small “c” conservatives dislike it intensely. The GND is almost certain to lead quickly to increased polarization and animosity between the left and the right. In fact it’s doing that already.

There are currently two alternative views on the way forward and if we only take one and try and push it through we create more polarization. Personally I don’t think the way forward is either of the options that the left and right currently conceive of. It’s something else we could only imagine together.

A better and more doable immediate strategy is to build bridges between the left and right, to have a New Conversation. An initiative beloved by one side and bitterly opposed by the other won’t make us happy in the ways that count. Many people (Jordan Peterson and Ken Wilber among them) have pointed out that it was partly the failure of the left to address the concerns of the right that led to the rise of Trump and the new conservatism. I agree and the same can be said for the rise of nationalism in many parts of the world.

My point isn’t primarily to criticize the GND, though I am critical of it. It’s to say the way forward needs wide consultation and discussion. It’s not helped by forceful implementation of one pre-authorized view.

Many parts of the GND could easily lead to social unrest. As a single example, the call is for the Deal to be led and implemented by people who have been marginalized by the system, that is, by people who are mostly outside of it. Almost by definition these are people will not have the experience and skills to do the job. Good will toward marginalized people won’t remedy that fundamental flaw. (It’s also extremely difficult – I would say impossible – to identify exactly who is marginalized by the system.)

It’s true that there’s plenty of corruption in things are they are. But replacing the power structure with people who have no managerial or policy expertise doesn’t touch that. It’s the system that needs radical renewal. Could putting unskilled people at the forefront of the existing imbalanced and outdated system make things better? Could substituting identity politics for skill and merit help us all? Personally, I can’t imagine it.

But more important than that, our common future isn’t a partisan issue. Our future, if we’re to have one is a deeper democracy. There are wonderful consultative practices for having local people voice their views, to hear each other and to build coalitions on matters of common interest. The World Cafe for example. Or, in the longer run and on a national level, what Extinction Rebellion is “demanding:” a Citizen’s Assembly chosen (like juries are) by lot to oversee the transition to a lower carbon future and to require government to tell the truth about our climate situation. Such an Assembly would be made up of ordinary people from across society with the resources and time they need to make decisions for the good of all, decisions that aren’t subject to being bought or lobbied. Crazyily huge as a plan like that is – it would be resisted by government until it wasn’t – it could have broad social appeal and move in the direction of health and sanity in our political process. The Green New Deal though goes in the other direction.

I don’t usually write about politics but this is what happened today. Comments are welcome.

Posted in Uncategorized.

6 Comments

  1. Thank you for your comment. It is appreciated.
    I am involved in both Extinction Rebellion and have participated in in a town hall for the Green New Deal.
    They are different groups with different views, though both are responses to the Climate Crisis. But you are quite mistaken about them, and at the same time you are contradicting yourself.
    The Green New Deal in Canada is open to all people, and you were quite welcome to participate and provide feedback. The meeting I attended asked only for opinions and suggestions from its participants. If you were interested in its direction, you could have participated, but you didn’t. it seems. It also had several participants that clearly requested that it not be co-opted by any political party, and this request was duly noted with other comments.
    Extinction rebellion has taken a very different modus operandi. For XR, the discussions are over and it will use civil disobedience to demand action now to have those in power declare a climate emergency, and choose people from the public to ensure the declaration is not empty. This has been effective already. It too makes no demand of political allegience – it demands action now, because the time is short.
    In any emergency, there may be many voices, and all voices are welcome in both groups. Together they are both moving the issue into the public eye and doing so at the speed required considering the urgency.
    It is true that those further on the left are those that seem more willing to give their time to act on the problem at hand. Maybe its necessary when those less on the left are unwiling to act.
    If the mainstream gets more involved and active, they will be welcomed, and their ideas will have more weight. We want action, no matter your political leaning. Until then, the left will fix the problem themselves.

  2. I don’t think it neds to be one or the other: starting a different conversation OR the GND. I think it can be both. You come across as creating the kind of simplistic polarization that the spirit of dialogue is against. … I do like your website though, and the initiatives you are starting, supporting. I’m a Hungarian teacher and teacher trainer and have been drawn to Bohm’s dialogue for the past twenty-five years – when I ‘accidentally’ picked up one of his books in a bookshop. In my own practice, all I ever managed to help create is a very limited type of dialogue.

  3. Hi Margit,
    Text and a small blog post leaves out a lot. I appreciate that you want to be inclusive. My judgment is that GND will be impossibly polarizing so I don’t support it. Tn my opinion, the GND here in Canada is caught up with divisive identity politics so they become the priority (and not survival, for example).
    Subscribe if you want to be informed of an upcoming Bohmian Dialogue!

  4. Hi Andrew,
    Thanks for responding and for acknowledging my comment. Yes, I would like to be informed about an upcoming Bohmian Dialogue and have already subscribed.

  5. I am European and sympathize with what you are saying, although I am not sure I would be so fiercely against the GND. Also: careful not to throw the baby with the hot water (in our circles a raise against Identity Politics has been generated but always from white males: climate change seem to have not much to do with identity, so I find it odd to come up with that sort of argument).
    My attitude is the following: everyone is not taking a step that could possibly be taken, but everyone is possibly doing something right about climate change. Failure to act and good action steps (best practices) could be put together in a empathy circle format. We can learn from others in our lights and shadows.

  6. Hi “Meg!” Here in Canada, identity politics, imho, profoundly distract people from activism and climate work. The conversation becomes about has a right to speak and what they can say. This is where the real life energy goes it seems to me. Climate action is like a humble servant who has little voice.
    When I wrote the above I was thinking, as I still do, that “conservatives” would be totally against the GND. I didn’t think that infighting among the proponents of GND would be intense too. This is my sense of it . . . it’s hard to know for sure because voices are afraid to speak . . . so it seems from my narrow window inside part of Extinction Rebellion.

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