Letter from the Editors
By the Volume 23-2 Editorial Collective
Halting the ongoing climate crisis requires knowledge, political power, and imagination. Much has been written in support of the Green New Deal since its re-emergence in 2019 through the strategic advocacy of young climate activists. The most prominent demands are top-down policy prescriptions, which historically have failed to address the roots of the climate crisis in racism, colonialism, and capitalism or the environmental injustice inflicted on Black, Brown, Indigenous and other frontline communities. It is in this context that the Climate Change Working Group of Science for the People has put together this issue, “A People’s Green New Deal,” to showcase knowledge from the frontlines that centers democratic input and bottom-up organizing.
The articles in this issue combine knowledge that is scientific, political, and based on lived experiences to advance an emancipatory vision of climate justice. While scientific and technical ideas have been central to past climate advocacy, we begin from the premise that politically informed and engaged knowledge of all kinds should be central to climate politics in order to create just and effective policies. This issue charts a course for organizers, activists, and scientists to leverage scientific knowledge in advancing climate justice in a way that centers marginalized communities and leadership.
We touch on topics that will be central to a comprehensive program on climate change but have received little attention so far, including agriculture, workers’ perspectives, and grassroots internationalism. The issue highlights calls for decolonization to play a central role in climate justice and some just transition work that is already happening. We draw lessons from past and present activism, affirming the need to pursue not only the development of visionary policies, but also the implementation of participatory knowledge production.
For the Green New Deal to be truly emancipatory in a post-pandemic world where there is no returning to “normal,” we must ensure that any Green New Deal is a People’s Green New Deal.
The publication of this issue coincides with the fifteenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, the aftermath of which blatantly showed us the inextricable links between social injustice and climate disasters. Therefore, a fight for a People’s Green New Deal is a fight to ensure that there is never another tragedy like the one that befell the residents of New Orleans. That means preventing future climate change so that extreme weather does not continue to become more severe. But it also means fighting every layer of injustice that led to the tragedy in New Orleans from racist segregation and infrastructure development to unequal access to government recovery funds. Racism and colonialism exacerbate the impacts of climate change and vice versa. If we fail to address these systems of oppression, climate disasters will continue to exact a disproportionately large toll on Black, Indigenous, and other communities of color. Fifty years after the original Earth Day, we are still fighting to establish a harmonious relationship with our environment because we have not addressed the systems at the heart of this crisis: capitalism, colonialism, and racism. For these reasons, the core of effective climate politics must be explicitly anti-capitalist, decolonial, and anti-racist.
During the creation of this issue, the world changed fundamentally. Readers may note a variety in the tone of the articles since most were completed before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, while others were written and edited during the March and April spikes. As the pandemic intensified, it became easier, even necessary, to imagine a world beyond the status quo. In the face of border tightening, discriminatory executive orders, a land grab against the Wampanoag reservation among other injustices meted out to Indigenous communities, dismantling of environmental regulations, massive unemployment and other economic dislocations, the new forms of territorial control, dispossession, extraction, and inequality only increased the stakes for climate action. Working class people continue to bear the brunt of the disease while the US government rolls back environmental protections; emergency public health edicts become new justifications for police to brutalize Black people. Yet as uncertainty and economic chaos spread, we are also seeing rising rebellion, concerted action, and investment in communities through mutual aid networks.
Just as there is no universal politics of climate change, there is no one Green New Deal; it is open to co-option by the ruling elite, corporations, and even eco-fascists. For the Green New Deal to be truly emancipatory in a post-pandemic world where there is no returning to “normal,” we must ensure that any Green New Deal is a People’s Green New Deal. It is our ardent belief and hope that this issue of Science for the People will provide a necessary contribution to make that a reality.
Volume 23, Number 2 Editorial Collective
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