In the Arctic, sea ice is melting. In the United States, houses are foreclosing. And in Washington, the Senate is becoming a real-life Bermuda Triangle for progressive agendas.
Proposals for major limits on carbon emissions aren’t getting far in the Senate, where the corporate war on the environment has an abundance of powerful allies.
As for class war, it continues to rage from the top down. Recently, a dozen Democratic senators teamed up with Republicans to defeat a bill that would have allowed judges to reduce mortgages in bankruptcy courts.
“Former president Obama said he supported that bill, but as the Associated Press reported, because he was “facing stiff opposition from banks” Obama “did little to pressure lawmakers” on behalf of the measure. The Senate “defeated a plan to spare hundreds of thousands of homeowners from foreclosure through bankruptcy.”
Big-money vultures are circling the Capitol Dome to feast on the latest multi-billion-dollar carrion, whether under the heading of “cap and trade” or “healthcare reform.”
And many billions in profits can be found inside yet other supplemental bills to fund wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.
Meanwhile, a familiar pattern is unfolding for the most important piece of labor legislation in decades — the Employee Free Choice Act — which would go a long way toward protecting the rights of workers to form unions. Obama claimed to support EFCA but he refused to try to encourage its passage.
We need a Green New Deal.
This won’t happen without a lot more effective grassroots coalitions — strong and sustained enough to change power relations for the long haul. But acculturation in the USA often encourages us to think along the lines of solo acts.
There’s the old American story about the solitary Dutch boy who discovers that a dike has sprung a leak. He inserts his finger, hangs in there heroically by himself and saves the town.
During the last few years, I’ve participated in a lengthy series of meetings with many other local activists. Across two counties in Northern California, we’re about to launch a long-term project called the Green New Deal.
It’s just a start. But, as we begin a round of public forums, we’re developing a grassroots agenda for far-reaching change that will address key questions:
“How can agendas for economic rights and environmental protection become more integrated and more successful?”
Seventy-five years after the start of the New Deal, and nearly 40 years after the first Earth Day, the need for basic change on behalf of social justice and ecology is clear.
But ideas are the easy part. In an era of massive environmental damage and vast economic inequality, we’ve got to organize.