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A Greener New Deal

Energy conservation is essential for the existence of humans and other species.  The Green New Deal attracts tremendous attention by calling for Medicare-for-All, Housing-for-All, and Student-Loan-Forgiveness-for-All.  It can become greener by including a Shorter-Work-Week-for-All.  Recognizing that every type of energy has negative effects, a Greener New Deal proposes to improve the quality of life as we work fewer hours, manufacture fewer detrimental goods, and use much less energy. 

The Greener New Deal aims to convert the old economy that is based on world domination, wars, exploitation and extraction into a new, sustainable economy that is environmentally and ecologically sound, economically viable and socially responsible.

Problem 1: Fossil fuel (FF) dangers include the destruction of Life via global heating.  Nuclear power creates the unique problem of radiating humanity for eternity.  Industrial solar and wind power require destruction of wildlife habitat and mined rare earth minerals from other countries. They would need land area which rivals the magnitude of that currently used for all agriculture and human settlement.  Solar power also involves poisoning of workers and communities.  Wind power creates nerve-wracking vibrations and problems with disposing 160-foot non-recyclable blades.  Hydro-power (dams) hurts terrestrial and aquatic life, undermines native cultures, destroys farms and worsen international conflicts.

Several problems run through multiple energy systems:

  • Every type of alternative energy requires large amounts of FFs during its life cycle;
  • All types of energy are intertwined with attacks on civil liberties, land grabs from indigenous communities, and/or murders of Earth defenders;
  • Transmission lines require additional land grabs, squashing of citizen and community rights, and increased species extinctions; and,
  • Since the most available resources are used first, (such as deposits of metal ores critical for solar, wind, and nuclear energy, as well as sunny land, mountain tops for wind turbines, rivers for dams) each level of expansion requires a greater level of resource use than the previous one, which means the harvesting of energy is increasingly harmful as time goes by.

Proposal 1: Nuclear energy must be halted as quickly and as safely as possible; FF extraction should be dramatically reduced immediately (perhaps by 70-90% of 2020 levels); and, rather than being increased, extraction for other forms of energy should be reduced, with all changes guaranteeing employment.

Problem 2: Common “greenwashing” language is exemplified by the nuclear industry’s term “spent fuel rods” which implies that used fuel rods are not radioactive, when, in fact, they are so deadly that they must be secured for eternity.  An accurate term would be “irradiated fuel rods.”

Many discussions use the terms “clean” and “renewable” to describe energy which is neither.  Alternative energy is not “clean” due to the many GHG emissions throughout the life cycle of all types of energy in addition to assaults on ecosystems and human health.  Though the sun, wind and rivers may be eternal, required mined minerals are exhaustible, meaning that no form of energy is “renewable.” 

Proposal 2: The Greener New Deal eliminates greenwashing terms “clean” and “renewable” to describe energy.  It does not use “solar farm” or “wind farm,” both of which are coined by capitalists to conjure a rustic image while describing energy undermining family farms.  Nor does it suggest the use of fossil fuels can be eliminated by a given date as it is not possible to do so.  Every type of energy requires FFs.

Problem 3: Humanity’s needs are not currently being met because of an economy which …

  • ... is destructive, including war materials, militarized police forces and production which destroys farmland and habitat (all of which should be reduced immediately);
  • ... is wasteful, which includes both (a) playthings of the richest 1%, and (b) things which many of us are forced to buy for survival and getting to work, the most notable being cars;
  • ... requires unnecessary processing and transportation, the most notable example being food which is processed to lose nutritional value, packaged to absurd levels, and shipped over 1000 miles; and,
  • … involves planned obsolescence, which is omnipresent and includes design to fall apart or go out of style, the most obvious example being electronic devices. 

Reducing the quantity of production would not hurt the quality of life – eliminating toxins is just one way it would improve our lives.  Replacing production for profit with production for need will be the core focus of an economy which manufactures goods that are useful, reliable and durable. 

Proposal 3: The Greener New Deal advocates a Shorter-Work-Week-for-All as key to using much less energy.  However, a shorter work week will not accomplish environmental goals if it is accompanied by an “intensification of labor” (workers at Amazon handling more packages per hour or increasing class size for teachers).  This requires a livable wage and strong unions which have a central role in determining production as well as working conditions.

The entire workforce should democratically decide how to shrink the economy by shifting from negative to positive employment.  As the work week is reduced, every workgroup should evaluate how labor is organized, and how jobs should be redefined to preserve full employment. 

New guidelines for manufacture would focus on the ability to repair products as well as designing them to endure for decades rather than a few months or years.

Problem 4: The most destructive portion of US production is devoted to a military machine to continue the subjugation of peoples of Africa, Latin America and Asia who have been victims of Western imperialism for over 500 years.  Current plans to massively expand electric vehicles (EVs) undermine the vastly more sustainable approach of urban redesign for walkable/cyclable communities.  Plans would result in manufacturing EVs for the rich world while poor and working class communities would suffer from the extraction of lithium, cobalt and dozens of other materials required for these cars. 

Africa may be the most mineral-rich continent.  In addition to cobalt from the Democratic Republic of the Congo for EVs, Mali is the source of 75% of the uranium for French nukes, Zambia is mined for copper for solar/wind power and hundreds of other minerals are taken from dozens of African countries.

Proposal 4: A Greener New Deal would not only make wars for oil obsolete but also make coups for lithium and child labor for cobalt obsolete.  A socially just Greener New Deal requires the rich world to pay reparations for past horrors, domination and exploitation, as well as necessitates the discontinuation of ongoing atrocities connected to resource extraction, which means:

  • Acknowledging that every community has the unalienable right to self-determination;
  • Reparations sufficient to eliminate poverty must be paid unconditionally prior to entering into any extraction negotiation; and, 
  • Every community must have the right to terminate an extraction agreement at any time.

Problem 5: When people hear “deep green,” they often think of how industrial activity deeply affects ecosystems.  “Deep” can also refer to having a deep respect for poor communities whose lives are most affected by extraction.  Respect is not deep if it is unwilling to accept an answer of “No” to a request for exorbitant, profit-gouging extraction.

Proposal 5: Essential for building a New Green World is the creation of a New Green Culture which asks all of the billions of people on the planet to share their ideas for obtaining the necessities of life while using less energy.  Such a culture would aim for one idea to spark many ideas, all of which strive more toward creating and maintaining viable communities than on inventing energy-guzzling gadgets.

In order to build a New Green Culture which puts the sharing of wealth above personal greed, every country should establish a maximum income which is a multiple of the minimum income, with that multiple being voted on (no less than every five years) by all living in the country.

Conclusion: It is not necessary to increase production to address energy, employment and social and environmental justice.  Instead of a WW II-type mobilization, the Greener New Deal proposes the largest economic demobilization in history.  The survival of Humanity depends on the building of a society that prizes sharing above all else.