Last year we posted about prospects for a political "New Green Deal" for the USA. It was called "New Deal II: The Next Dam Thing?" A commenter on that post pointed out a vulnerability. He said...
Careful what you ask for. You're more likely to get a massive nuclear program than anything else. That's what is likely to look like a plan-at-scale to a bureaucrat.What was the New Deal? Example: if you've ever wondered who built those fine, old hiking trails in US National Parks and National Forests; or, who built erosion controls and planted giant white pine stands on formerly barren soils, it was most likely FDR's "Tree Planting Army", created by the post-Depression New Deal, a Federal program which enabled out-of-work men to do constructive public works. The original 'tree huggers'.Risk of a lobbyist-created detour is insufficient to dismiss, out of hand, proposing a contemporary New Deal-style approach to climate action. Bill McKibben picks up this notion in a recent article he published in The Nation. It's a terrific piece, and worth your time.
We usually talk about New Deal programs in terms of their effect on the mood of Americans--they restored hope, they gave people back their dignity and so on. Sometimes we talk about how they helped get the economy afloat again. But there was another result: the hundreds of thousands of actual projects that were built in those years. Hiking trails, city halls, bridges, park gazebos, public plazas, dams, and on and on. For my money, that's the kind of work that needs doing now, as we face a crisis even greater than the Depression: the quick unraveling of the planet's climate system in the face of our endless emissions of carbon dioxide.
We note, in closing, that a powerful US political faction once disdained the New Deal; and that inheritors of that viewpoint continue to try to dismantle even its most widely appreciated programs, referring to them as "entitlements".
We don't see planting a billion trees, for example, as having been an entitlement. It was back breaking, muddy, mosquito plagued, hard work. Subsequent generations are the principal beneficiaries.
Thinking ahead to the battles that will be joined if the US Congress considers a new green deal, supporters and opponents will not deserve being tarred with outworn Cold War-era labels. (Everything you know about tree planting changes, once you accept that climate change is attacking the very foundation of our nation.)
Thinking in retrospect:- taking the viewpoint of those who continue to disdain all New Deal-created programs, it is easy to imagine why, strategically, it was important to sow as much uncertainty as possible about climate science. Intuitively, they must have known that widespread acceptance of the risk of climate change could one day lead to a resurrection of New Deal-like proposals.
And here we are, looking at a hurricane-like forecast for political storms to come.