Element Descriptor

Ooh ooh look, here comes the Green New Deal to Save Us All and sidestep the fundamental questions about our relations to the natural world and other members of our species. Screw that ecomodernist techno-fable. Srsly. But knowing how to parse it, to expose it, that’s gonna be a key skill for policy “debates”

Level descriptors

Can describe the basic idea(s) of the Green New Deal and suggest why it’s attractive to manyCan distinguish between different variants of the Green New Deal, e.g. original Green Keynesian, co-opted mainstream, pragmatic, extended, degrowth-friendly versions.Can say what’s wrong with the main variants (rebound and non-specific multiplier, extractivism/colonialism, incumbent power and political economy, failure to address non-energy dimensions of climate crisis, naive optimism.Can summarise critical analysis of GND and identify corrective/alternative policy and political perspectives and proposals.

Element Overview Essay

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The reasons that this is done badly as follows. Number one, this to some extent a question of punching a smoke monster. What even IS the Green New Deal, beyond a slogan that says we should rearrange the way that we do capitalism or industrialism or the provision of necessary goods and services in society? There are various proposals and brands floating around and Green New Deal overlaps with other concepts like a just transition. And as soon as you talk about justice, you have opened an ideological can of worms.

And Green New Deal? Well, we’re talking light green, dark green, fake green…?

New, how new is it? Is it just a whole bunch of old proposals that have been reheated and cobbled together?

And a deal implies two or maybe more actors who were able to come to sort of some sort of agreement. And as far as I can tell, what we have, at the moment, is a bunch of toffs and  oligarchs who think that they’ve won, (they’re probably right and just going to be a boot. stamping on a human face forever). So the whole question of a “deal” is problematic – who is going to force the oligarchs and their goons and their hangers-on to the  “table” and negotiate a deal?

 But even if there were a specific set of agreed actions that were part of a Green New Deal or policy proposals that were part of a Green New Deal, you’d still be presented with the problem that these will probably be vastly inadequate for the scale of decarbonisation that we need, which will present you with the problem of pissing off your lighter green/under-unaware of the scale of the problem colleagues, who would coalesce around such a thing, and you would look like the edge-lord, prolier than thou/holier than thou never satisfied, which can of course be a lonely place.

You’re killing the buzz, pissing on people’s chips etc etc 

 The consequences of  failing to critique Green New Deal proposals are

  •  The vagueness remains.
  •  There is a sense of coherence and progress which is quite possibly an illusion.
  • your friends and allies do not have to sharpen their thinking and their political proposals, which means that they will get heads handed to them on a plate sooner or later. And you’ve done them no favours by keeping schtum

 And that in general, there is the idea that a redressing up of existing proposals counts as “transformation.” Of course, if you critique too well, and you don’t produce a set of actions that people can undertake in the here and now then you’re just gonna properly demoralise people and be responsible for them leaving “the movement” altogether.

So the fix is probably to identify the main variants of Green New Deal thinking -this work has probably been done-  and to give them pithy snappy names. Then  you explain the advantages and disadvantages of each type, while also explaining to people that you are not a denialist, or a friend of the status quo. And in your critiques of Green New Deal, proposals, you are trying to strengthen them, not weaken them. You’ll need to explain the dynamics that I’ve described above, that people are trying to find a banner to coalesce behind, too much behind and that you’re aware that there’s more complexity than in three words

Ultimately we need to talk about what’s required, which is a strengthening of civil society above and beyond and regardless of any specific set of policy wonk technocratic proposals that get called a Green New Deal.

 Good luck, because oh my are you going to need it….

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