Thursday, February 21, 2019
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Green New Deal Could Unite Nation to Promote Renewable Energy & Advance Economic, Racial Justice

Interview with Ronnie Cummins, co-founder and international director of the Organic Consumers Association, conducted by Richard Hill

Late last year on Dec. 10, 150 protesters from the youth-led Sunrise Movement were arrested outside incoming Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s office, demanding bold action on climate change.  Newly-elected House Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-New York, addressed the demonstrators and put forward a proposal for a Green New Deal that calls for a 10-year plan to neutralize the United States’ greenhouse gas emissions, move the nation toward adopting 100 percent renewable energy and reduce widening income inequality.
While the Sunrise Movement has received praise for forcefully bringing the issue to Democratic House leadership, neither Speaker Pelosi, House Majority Whip Steny Hoyer nor chairman of the House Rules Committee Jim McGovern have endorsed the Green New Deal proposal and have given early indications that they regard a program of this breadth and depth to be a bridge too far.
Between The Lines’ Richard Hill spoke with Ronnie Cummins, co-founder and international director of the Organic Consumers Association, who assesses the Green New Deal proposal and offers his perspective on its holistic, systemic approach that has the potential to unite small farmers, working class families and organic activists in a movement to promote renewable energy conversion while also advancing economic and racial justice.

RONNIE CUMMINS: The basic idea is that we’ve got us a crisis of the system like we had back in the 1930s in the U.S. that can’t be fixed with small changes here and there. We need a package of political reforms at the federal, state and local level that can address the literal climate emergency that we’re facing, but that can fix other major problems at the same time that preoccupy people and justifiably. When you have 80 percent of the public living from paycheck to paycheck and a third of the public in the United States living in literal poverty, you can’t expect people to wake up in the morning and think about solving the climate change problem. People wake up in the morning and they think about how they’re going to pay their bills. They think about the health problems. They think about the student debt. They think about the fact that they don’t make enough money to cover their bills, much less purchase organic food.

They think about a lot of issues that are all important and they don’t wake up thinking about preserving organic standards or carbon sequestration through regenerative organic methods and grazing and crop production. But that doesn’t mean that these folks can’t become our allies in the food and farming and climate change movement. It just means that we have to address the basic necessities of people as we move to solve what leading climate scientists are now telling us – we’ve got to turn things around aggressively in the next 12 years or we’re going to lose control and it’s going to be horrible.

We’re not going to convince everyday people to forget about their health problems, their job problems, their family’s problems, their kids’ lack of job opportunities, their deteriorating environment and poisoned water and all these other things. But if we package what we believe, which is a revitalization of the organic and regenerative sector into a package like the Green New Deal that says basically, “We’ll give jobs to everyone who wants to work rebuilding our society – rural and urban – for renewable energy and sustainability, they’ll sit up and take notice.”

The brilliance of the Green New Deal is similar to the brilliance of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal in the 30s and 40s, which is it’s not a single reform. It’s a package of reforms designed to alter a degenerate system, which is what we have right now. But I think we’re going to be able to build a very large national coalition bigger than we’ve ever had in the food and farming movement around this issue because we can’t go forward with the peace movement over here. The food movement over here. A fair trade movement over here. The climate movement over here, economic justice movement over here, social justice movement. We’ve got to break down the silo walls and work together because we do not have unlimited time to solve these problems and the longer the problems go unsolved, as we can see from recent political developments in the U.S., Brazil, Hungary, Poland, really many places – is that we’re creating a climate for fascism.

If we don’t deal with the everyday needs of working class people in the majority of the population, we can’t go forward as a climate movement anymore thinking that we can actually save the climate just based on the strength of our arguments that we’ve got to stop emitting fossil fuel emissions and that we’ve got to stop doing destructive land use practices. We got to come together in a way that people have not in the United States for 70 years. And, one thing we can draw hope from – the fact that Mexico has taking a decisive step in this direction. In July, the Morena party, which is called the Movement for National Regeneration of Mexico, swept the elections, not just the executive branch, but both houses of Congress. And they came into power Dec. 1, but they are already making sweeping changes to implement what can only be described as a Green New Deal where they’re trying to deal with poverty, corruption, migration, agriculture, food sovereignty, climate at the same time, and they’re immensely popular in Mexico. This is the most popular government that there’s been since the 1930s when there was the last decent government in Mexico, which was patterned on the New Deal – Lázaro Cárdenas.

So there are signs across the world that this has been a very dark hour, 2018, but that we can now move into a new era if we’ll wake up and get organized.

For more information on the Organic Consumers Association, visit organicconsumers.org.

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