OPINION: Seattle Needs a Green New Deal

by James Williams

At Got Green, we feel the energy and national conversation sparked by the Green New Deal as proposed by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a good thing. In this moment, it is possible to make societal change on a massive scale. Climate Change — and the fact we must restructure our lives to survive impending environmental disasters — has captured the imagination across generations. All of this is a really good thing.

To realize that vision, we need to clarify the key points in the Green New Deal and tighten the language around its goals. Furthermore, we feel strongly feel that any policy that grows from the current resolution should prioritize ongoing efforts by frontline communities to both build resiliency (capacity to bounce back after a climate disaster) and also to replace dirty energy infrastructure (through the just transition to a regenerative economy). Such policy is needed on a national and local level.

Historical context

The Green New Deal is not new. In 2006, we saw “Green New Deal” popping up on the national platform of the Green Party (first in Europe, then the United States). In 2008, something very similar was introduced at the United Nations called the “Global Green Deal.” In 2017, The University of Massachusetts Amherst published a more localized version of the concept in a paper called “A Green New Deal for Washington State.”

Even before that, Common Ground Collective in New Orleans led organizing for a Regenerative Economy and had projects around Energy Democracy in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. In 2006, Van Jones wrote a book calling for massive national investments to grow the green economy, an equity lens to concentrate opportunity in historically oppressed communities, and a plan to transition the country to clean energy. In 1993, an organization called Community Coalition for Environmental Justice was born in Seattle. This was one of the first formations in the country of black and brown folk coming together on a grassroots level to organize, mobilize, and educate our communities around issues of environmental justice.  The language of Environmental Justice and ideas proposed in the Green New Deal are not new to Communities of Color. On the contrary, much of it comes from us. In truth, front line communities are already fighting for many of the concepts.

Now, we must put in work to keep the movement from being co-opted.

What All It Means to Seattle

Locally, Got Green is leading a coalition to pass a Seattle version of the Green New Deal. For guidance, we are educating our communities, then asking what folks really need. More than ever, we are knocking on doors and sharing hard truths about what climate change means and how low-income black and brown communities are always hit first and worst. So far, we are fighting to include community control of development; affordable housing; rooted communities; living-wage jobs; public transportation; healthy food; renewable energy; clean air, water, and land; and corporate accountability in the bundle we are calling Seattle Green New Deal.

Our position is that local policy needs to recommend substantial investment from the federal, state, and local level to kick start, support, and scale up frontline community-led work on:

  • Living-wage jobs that benefit or conserve the environment and preserve or expand environmental health for workers and the surrounding community
  • Living-wage and unionized jobs in the renewable energy and building trades sectors
  • Renewable, local energy infrastructure, including solar, wind, battery-storage, and other community-owned and community-driven energy solutions
  • Rapid, convenient, affordable, and electrified public transportation
  • Energy-efficient, affordable housing and capacity to weatherize existing housing stock
  • Support for workers and businesses transitioning out of the fossil fuel industry and into renewable energy or other industries, including job training and pension security
  • Support with energy bills, weatherization, and transportation costs for low-income people

Ways You Can Plug In

  • Got Green Community Canvas: What: Got Green will be at South End light rail stations giving out lemonade and talking to our neighbors at Seattle’s Green New Deal. Several volunteers will also be doing regular door knocking. Meet at the Got Green office to prep and get materials. We will be prioritizing participation of folks of color, working-class folks, and folks based in the South End. If you want to fight for Seattle’s Green New Deal and don’t necessarily reflect who Got Green prioritizes in our organizing, we encourage you to reach out 350 Seattle (jess@350seattle.org) about their GND outreach and canvass opportunities.
    • When: July 30th from 6pm to 8:30pm
    • Where: 2514 S. Graham S
  • Speak Truth to Power:What: Send this tweet to Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkin: It has been 34 days (counting from the Mayor’s press conference on June 18) since @350_Seattle and @gotgreenseattle delivered our letter and still no response from @MayorJenny. #SeattleGND #ClimateJusticeNow @SeattleGND
    • Where: Send tweets to @MayorJenny
    • When: This action is ongoing (I send at least 1 every day with an updated count of days since we delivered the letter on June 10)

Feature Image: Got Green’s Green New Deal Town Hall (Photo courtesy Got Green).