Voice from the vanguard: The New Green Narrative

Climate Justice

Voice from the vanguard: The New Green Narrative

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Discussing politics without climate change is like arguing about the food on the Titanic

The demand for a new political establishment, economic systems, and an understanding of how environmental justice – the new green narrative – is synonymous with individual liberty.

The planet is dying, and rapidly so. Despite persistent drastic warnings from scientists across the globe, the complacency and stagnation in political discourse are astounding. Most political leaders have yet to propose a tangible plan or holistic strategy to ecological recovery, let alone honestly address the scale of the crisis at large. Even the Paris Climate Accord creates an illusion of responsibility in the vein of non-binding, eventual emission reduction. Regardless of annual COP summits and youth-lead climate action, global carbon emissions and temperature continue to rise at unprecedented rates.

To curtail this crisis and implement the types of radical change needed to survive such ecological calamity, a new green political narrative needs to occupy the current zeitgeist. This is not a demand for fringe, Green Party movements to meander into the mainstream. It is a call to realize a system based on an environmentally-minded political establishment. Such a narrative has the potential to transcend the traditional confines of left-right, blue-red, domestic-foreign, and the smaller sub-niches of identity politics that have splintered modern liberalism (and politics in general) into various combating factions.

The New Green Narrative

One of the notable reasons that climate has become an excessive detail in modern political dialogue is that voters think tribally and immediately; most of us do not have the ability to concern ourselves with these far-away warnings. The drowning polar bears, the looming coastal flooding, and the dystopic future our children will inherit are too hypothetical to win over the unemployed parent trying to feed a family or the daily struggle of someone facing systemic oppression. If environmentalism takes a more personalized route, it should stand to engage and inspire.

This new green narrative is about the protection of the individual’s pursuit of a healthy life: clean air, clean drinking water, fresh, unprocessed food, and the notion that no corporation has the right to infringe or impede upon these human necessities.

The plan to mitigate the climate emergency will not succeed without proposing a more equitable economy, and just society in the process. It is imperative to intertwine this environmentally-driven narrative with one that seeks to empower local communities and a now fading middle-class. While globalization once illustrated a utopian future of interconnectivity, multiculturalism, and post-colonial reconciliation towards a fairer dispersion of wealth, this dream has long since faded. Unregulated global trade has killed two essential birds with one burdensome stone: the environment and the possibility for locally flourishing economies.

Local prosperity through global unity

The essence of the path forward is local prosperity through globalized unity. This is a teleology that still embraces diversity and peaceful co-existence, but also one that demands a system to protect smaller communities against the powerful wrath of predatory multinational corporations.

Such a shift would not only be imperative for the salvation of human life on the planet but to catalyze a more egalitarian and prosperous society. While transitioning to a zero-carbon energy system, this push can coincide with the empowerment of local communities through new renewable platforms like municipally-owned solar energy and the jobs it could create. With the rise of an automated workforce, there is an immediate demand for state subsidization of low carbon occupations like teaching, healthcare, and pediatric/geriatric care – all of which are severely underserved today and will unlikely be replaced by robots, no matter how intellectually or emotionally intelligent.

In the coming decades, entire regions and cities will become uninhabitable due to intolerable weather patterns and coastal flooding. There will be a mass migration that demands the construction of new and resilient homes, urban centers, and cities. Such large-scale re-building of civilization will not only catalyze work but also give jobs with powerful meaning and intention. Ultimately, if governments decide to address the scope of the crisis, there will be no shortage of labor regarding healing the planet. Further employment sectors can be envisioned in the realm of planetary recovery: carbon capture & sequestration, ecological reinvigoration, re-forestation, and the re-introduction of species.

Courageous leadership on a global scale

On a global scale, tackling climate is an insurmountable issue that can only be fought with an international, diplomatically engaged coalition. No single country or region has the means or wherewithal to solve it alone. The types of innovation and scientific understanding needed to solve these problems will solely be achieved through a collective sharing of knowledge, information, and technological advancement. The priority of global environmental co-operation forces leaders is to see this universal threat as more imminent than antiquated neighborly grudges. Courageous leadership asks all of us to surrender petty differences and begin to engage in ways human society has not yet been able to do.

Written by

Milo McBride

Milo McBride is a recent graduate of Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs. His background is in climate advocacy with the Sunrise Movement.