What is the Green New Deal?

The Green New Deal as an idea has recently stirred a robust dialogue across the country, triggering a range of passionate reactions. Regardless of where people stand, the Green New Deal is an attempt to answer one central question: Under increasing threats from environmental change and economic uncertainty, how can we secure a strong future for American society?

The recent devastating wildfires and hurricanes are the kinds of impacts that will only get worse without addressing climate change. The costs of living are skyrocketing, economic inequality is rising, and automation is forcing questions about the future of work. Young people, with their future at stake, are leading the call and mobilizing for solutions. The Green New Deal is a response.

The components of the Green New Deal are not novel ideas. Examples of these ideas have been developed or implemented over decades across the country, around New England, and in Rhode Island. The Green New Deal frames these solutions into a systemic way of thinking, based on the understanding that the challenges ahead of us are inextricably linked - you cannot adequately solve one problem without addressing the other.

The three basic pillars of the Green New Deal framework derive from existing sustainability theory:

Environment. Economy. Equity.

Quite recently, a resolution in Congress has utilized these principles to present an ambitious proposal with “green new deal ideas”. This national resolution gives important context behind the need for solutions. It is not an established standard for what needs to be done locally.

A Green New Deal for Rhode Island

The vibrant dialogue at the national level presents a unique opportunity for us in the Ocean State. A statewide green new deal could address our local needs through integrated thinking. After all, Rhode Island faces major challenges that require creative solutions:

  1. Rhode Island is particularly vulnerable to the impacts to climate change. The longer we wait to take action, the greater our challenge will be.

  2. Rhode Island’s economy is experiencing a prolonged stretch of economic stagnation. The state is usually among the first to fall into recession and the last to climb out. For the last few decades, proposed fixes have not worked.

  3. Basic living expenses are surging and inequality is holding back communities. Rhode Island’s poverty rate is the highest in New England. Our state has structurally become a place of haves and have-nots.

Modeling the same guiding principles of environment, economy, and equity, a Rhode Island Green New Deal will be devised by all Rhode Islanders who come to the table. By building this local framework together, a Rhode Island Green New Deal will be well-informed by the needs and experiences of all Rhode Islanders. By coming together, we can confront our challenges head-on, while also meeting the unique economic and social conditions of Rhode Island.