Green New Deal Plan

Humans have been terrible stewards of the environment. Mining, deforestation, pollution, overuse of freshwater, sprawl, depletion of natural resources – even before the threat of global warming became apparent, the authors of the book The Limits of Growth, almost 50 years ago, tried to warn humanity that the planet’s ecosystems could not survive under the assault of development without a consciously planned restructuring of society. Now both calamities, of ecosystem destruction and climate catastrophe, are feeding each other and accelerating the extinction of species – including, perhaps, humans as well.

We can turn back toward long-term survival, but only if we reconstruct a civilization that mimics nature in one important area that we have only barely initiated – recycling and reusing almost everything we produce. Since no one wants to reuse pollution, if enforced this principle would eliminate air and water pollution as well. Thus, when we manufacture, as explained in the section about manufacturing, the goods produced must be recyclable and reusable, so that we can eliminate most mining, and the attendant ecosystem destruction. One big advantage of replacing all fossil fuels is that the environmental destruction caused by the extraction of oil, coal and natural gas will also be eliminated. In addition, we can manufacture everything, including chemicals, without pollution, and if we can’t, then we won’t make it.

Agriculture, instead of mimicking the cycles of ecosystems, has also been set up in such a way that the inputs, like pesticides and artificial fertilizer, cause further environmental havoc, and the outputs, water pollution and unhealthy food, cause problems at the other end. Humans have been warping these natural ecosystems in order to maximize short-term efficiency – but as so often happens in our modern civilization, this short-term productivity leads to long-term collapse. The destruction of soil, which is the very foundation of terrestrial life, is proceeding apace, as is the pollution of water sources. Global warming will make things worse, and indeed the deforestation and destruction of critical ecosystems, including prairies and wetlands, is contributing to global warming in what is called a ‘positive feedback loop’, one increasing the other, until there will be no way to grow food for billions of people.

Misuse of ecosystems in general, including agriculture and deforestation, contributes about 12.5% and 15% of global greenhouse gas emissions respectively, that is, about 28% in total, and other sources from land misuse, such as methane from landfills, adds another 2.5%, so fully 30% of global greenhouse gas emissions can be attributed directly to destroying ecosystems. The landfill part can be dealt with by recycling and reusing, including for food products which can be used for compost, for example, and thus the Program includes a Recycling Corps. For agriculture and deforestation, we need to add other solutions.

Much of deforestation comes about simply to give livestock, particularly cattle, pasture to feed, as in the Amazon, and much of the rest comes from clearing forest to grow crops, such as palm oil in Borneo. As part of the Global Green New Deal, much of this could be stopped by exchanging green machinery from rich countries for preservation of critical ecosystems in poor ones. In addition, reforestation will be a necessary part of a path to making the planet habitable. In the United States, reforestation actually already decreases the United States’ greenhouse gas emissions. A new Civilian Conservation Corps can have as its main objectives two core tasks: to restore ecosystems, and to plant trees. Both will help to decrease emissions and to rebuild ecosystems that are critical to health and well-being.

Restoring ecosystems and planting trees will also help the agricultural sector, which needs trees and healthy ecosystems to provide services like minimizing flooding, cleaning air and water, and providing a place for beneficial organisms like insects and birds to grow. We must move towards an agricultural system that does not use pesticides, which are hazardous, not only to the health of humans, but as we are discovering, to the existence of critical insect and other populations. These pesticides are getting into everything, even mother’s milk. The Federal government needs to spend hundreds of billions to convert the nation’s farms to grow organic food that will be cheaper, better tasting, and healthier than what we have now.

Artificial fertilizer kills the soil, and the runoff ruins river and ocean ecosystems. We need to rebuild the soil in order to draw down carbon as well. Soil should be considered a strategic national resource, like oil is today.

Livestock, if allowed to rotate throughout parts of a well-functioning ecosystem, can benefit agricultural ecosystems. This sustainable livestock must replace the horrible factory-farmed livestock system, which makes the general population ill, partly because of the miserable existence of the livestock. In addition, we need to make fruits, vegetables and healthy grains much cheaper and more available so that people can easily try alternatives to meat.

Another aspect of a global Green New Deal should be to patrol the world’s oceans and ensure that fishing stocks are allowed to expand to the point where they are sustainable. Currently humans are embarking on the insane venture of wiping out most edible wild fish. A sustainable world will be one where people get much of their protein from well-protected ocean and river sources.

The transformation of agriculture can even benefit from the expansion of walkable neighborhoods in cities, which can be used to establish networks of urban gardens. In addition, a Green New Deal should encourage the establishment of farm belts around urban regions to encourage local food production.

There is much to be done to prevent ecosystem collapse, and there are many benefits to doing so. A healthy agricultural system leads to healthy people, eating better tasting food. Restored ecosystems can be left for future generations to enjoy, provided such ‘ecotourism’ takes place in a sustainable and caring way. By restoring forests, wetlands and soil, we can have a fighting chance of drawing down enough carbon dioxide to avert climate catastrophe. Why should humanity be denied the wonders of forests so a few oligarchs can buy more yachts?