The world we know is in a tailspin. The immediate challenge, a pandemic, caused by a moderately severe pathogen, has driven our economy to near collapse, and put literally billions of people at risk the world over.
Normal life in every corner of our Earth has been put on hold. Without question, humanity is navigating in uncharted territory. In all of history, until now, there has never been an emergency that threatened every person on the planet.
The COVID-19 pandemic will eventually go away. When that happens, where do we go from there? Do we return to ‘business as usual’?
Let’s take a moment to examine the sobering reality of life on Earth in the year 2020.
The discussion has to start with the sheer mass in human numbers. The people population on planet Earth is approaching 8 billion. That is much more than double what it was just 50 years go. We continue to add about 75 million more humans to the population every passing year. Each of those new individuals requires a share of the available food, water, and shelter to survive. In a just world, each also requires access to education, healthcare, and personal security. On a planet with finite resources, delivering on that need is an increasingly tall order.
Consider the impact humanity is already having on our common home; the only planet we have; the one place in the universe we all depend on for survival.
We see evidence of human overreach everywhere we look. We are stripping the life from our oceans and replacing it with hundreds of millions of tons of our plastic waste. We are cutting down our forests, exhausting our fresh water aquifers, and losing our precious top soils. Our pollution is driving climate change that causes heat waves, droughts, and wild fires that are shredding the fabric of life on every continent. We’ve got toxic industrial chemicals awash in our environment. We’ve got a billion plus humans struggling with thirst and starvation. The scope and breath of the existential threats to life on Earth are mind-boggling and getting worse every passing day.
This is our common reality. At this moment, the entire world’s attention is focused like never before. Can we afford to squander that opportunity to assess our increasingly perilous condition? Can we afford to look for answers from the same rapacious politics that got us into this mess?
In fact, that polarized, unproductive brand of politics is what we will return to after our brief time hunkered down to avoid the scourge of the COVID-19 virus.
Unless…Unless, we choose to use this moment for a course correction. Unless, we choose to confront the bankers, billionaires, and corporate profiteers that are steering us down the road to ruin.
In the US, our opportunity to launch a political transformation and renewal comes in November, 2020.
“We don’t have to engage in grand, heroic actions to participate in change. Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world. ” – Howard Zinn, Author, The People’s History of the United States
If we care about our future, and that of the generations yet to come, we must seize this moment. We must view it as a reckoning point like none ever seen before. We must elect politicians, who will steer humanity away from the abyss; politicians, who will put nature, people, and planet first.
A Green New Deal Can Drive a Much-Needed Cultural Transformation
More than anything, voters need a rallying point motivated by a tangible vision that can restore our biosphere and give us the best chance to bridge the terrible inertia we ourselves have initiated.
The Green New Deal fits that need. It is a not a catalogue of detailed policy to be codified as law. It functions more as an American manifesto, a guideline designed to encourage change on a planetary scale.
Here are the primary elements in the Green New Deal…[i]
- Delivering 100% of the power demands of the United States with clean, renewable energy resources within ten years.
- Guaranteeing a job with a family-sustaining wage, adequate family and medical leave, paid vacations, and retirement security for all people of the United States.
- Providing all people of the United States with high quality healthcare, adequate affordable housing, economic security, access to clean water, clean air, and healthy and affordable food.
- Providing resources, training, and high-quality education, including higher education to all the people of the United States.
- Repairing and Upgrading the infrastructure in the United States, eliminating pollution and greenhouse gases as much as technically feasible.
To be sure, the Green New Deal is massively ambitious. It will take a cultural commitment at least on the scale of the mobilization for World War Two to realize its full potential.
Republicans claim a cost figure of $93 trillion[ii] over ten years as part of their drive to discredit the Green New Deal ambition. In fact, the cost cannot be calculated without legislation that reveals how public policy would be shaped to achieve the Green New Deal promise. The final price-tag, whatever it turns out to be, cannot be a sticking point when the cost of inaction might be human extinction.
“Even now, when the crisis is nothing short of the very survival of life on Earth, the naysayers are apt to argue that we can’t afford it, as if the issue of potential extinction is merely a line item to dispose of among the many other weighty government priorities…”
Jeremy Rifkin, Foundation on Economic Trends[iii]
Politically, the Green New Deal has considerable support among Democrats in the US Senate and in the House of Representatives. There are no Republicans that support a Green New Deal. A vote for a Republican is a vote for ‘business as usual’.
We Need a President, Who Embraces Transformative Politics
It appears the 2020 election is going to come down to a choice at the top between Donald Trump and Joe Biden. Neither qualifies as a transformative leader. Even so, only one deserves the vote of a citizen, who cares about the future.
Biden will lead, where voters tell him they want to go. ‘ Biden’s climate plan adopts the rhetoric — and at times, many of the actual policy proposals — of the Green New Deal resolution put forward by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), which calls on the nation to eliminate its carbon footprint by 2030.’ [iv]
Trump is a climate denier. He has used his executive power to pull the US out of the Paris Climate Accord, which has been ratified by 189 of 197 members of the United Nations. Even North Korea has ratified the Climate Accord.
Trump’s destructive ways have not been limited to climate. In his first term, he has leveraged his executive authority to decimate decades of environmental regulation put in place by previous administrations.
A Transformative Vice President?
Joe Biden’s roots are in traditional Democratic Politics. He will be the only good choice for POTUS, but he is not a transformative leader; at least not at this point. However, the former Vice President has indicated he will select a prominent female Democrat as his running mate.
There are two women in the Democratic fold that could carry the banner for transformative politics. The most obvious is Elizabeth Warren. The Senator from Massachusetts has the progressive pedigree that genuine transformation requires.
There is another, widely respected, female leader in Democratic politics that must be part of the discussion. For several years, she has topped the list of most admired women in the world. That woman is Michelle Obama. I can think of no leader in this country that could inspire and facilitate transformative change as effectively, with the exception possibly of her husband.
When Michelle Obama’s name comes up, the conventional wisdom is that she would not be open to asserting herself as a political candidate. She has said as much in the past.
Without question, we’ve reached a turning point in human history that requires a transformative brand of leadership. If it were up to me, I would implore Michelle Obama to accept the nomination for President of the United States.
As it is, she remains a very appealing option to be Joe Biden’s running-mate. I hope he is wise enough to explore that possibility. I believe with Michelle Obama on the ticket, there would be no question about the outcome in November. The voter turn-out would be massive, eliminating any possibility that the Russian dictator, Putin could successfully manipulate our election.
Would Michelle Obama accept Biden’s call? Maybe… If it was presented to her as a call to civic duty, or if it was suggested to her that the future of life on Earth depended on her leadership, just maybe, she would embrace the challenge.
I believe a Biden/Obama ticket could be transformative.
The time for transformation is now.
“You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.” – Jane Goodall, Naturalist
[i] Rizzo, Salvador (February 11, 2019). “Fact Checker: What’s actually in the ‘Green New Deal’ from Democrats?”. Washington Post.
[iii] Jeremy Rifkin, The Green New Deal, Page 140, St. Martin’s Press, New York, 2019