Is There A Rift Between Progressives And Environmentalists?
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Maybe I’m asking too much. To be effective and pack a punch, a political platform (especially in the age of Twitter) has to be short and sweet. The One Nation organizers have hit all the high notes of a progressive agenda: An end to militarism abroad, good jobs at home, basic rights for everyone regardless of ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation. Throwing in a bunch of demands about greenhouse gas reductions might just have resulted in goobledygook.
But there's a larger problem here. To quote The Captain from Cool Hand Luke : “What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate.” Self-identified environmentalists haven’t communicated to their partners in the labor and civil rights movements that they share a passion for social and economic justice. Trade union and civil rights leaders haven’t communicated that they truly understand, as the bumper sticker goes, “There are no jobs on a dead planet.” With the exception of a few cross-cultural ambassadors like Ellis-Lamkins, our movements aren’t talking to each other.
Beyond that, what we have is a failure of imagination. Despite the visionary leadership of Van Jones, despite the speechifying by President Obama, despite all the summits and ad-hoc alliances and opeds, it seems the progressive left still has not internalized the idea of a green collar economy. The Chinese and Europeans are set to eat our lunch when it comes to clean energy technology. Our manufacturing sector is a shell of what it once was. Earth’s core systems are failing. A Green New Deal could address all of those problems by harnessing government investment to spur an industrial renaissance based on green manufacturing. It’s a win-win-win.
Yet too many progressives still seem to view the economy as over here and the environment as over there. Until we connect them, we’ll keep marching past each other.
Jason Mark is the co-author, with Kevin Danaher, of "Insurrection: Citizen Challenges to Corporate Power." He is researching a book about the future of food.