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Green New Deal starts needed conversation

By Julia Straka

A poll administered by Stanford University, ABC News and Resources for the Future showed that 60 percent of people asked believe that global warming is a serious problem in their lifetime, while 76 percent labeled it as a serious threat to future generations. So most of us agree that climate change is happening. What should we do about it? That’s where the Green New Deal comes in.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York put forth an ambitious bill, which references the drastic changes implemented by President Franklin D. Roosevelt during the Great Depression. In addition to a myriad of environmental reforms, her Green New Deal promises federal job-guarantee, basic income and universal healthcare programs.

Republicans are historically suspicious of climate change, so adding policies to the Green New Deal that further the liberal political agenda is risky. In order to implement a policy as radical as the Green New Deal, or even just to pass it, support from both parties will be needed. Our political system, and our nation, have become quite divided in recent years. We need neutral bills that will focus on reducing environmental damage and unite us, not ones that take advantage of the situation to sneak in progressive politics.

Virginia delegates Sam Rasoul and Elizabeth Guzman have collaborated with several organizations and created Virginia’s own version of the bill.

Michael Wade, who is running for the 91st District House of Delegates seat that represents the nearby cities of Hampton and Poquoson, is in support of the Virginia Green New Deal. “I believe that climate change is the most pressing issue of our time and […] if you believe, as most scientists do, that climate change is on an irreparable course to threaten all life on Earth, then there is no other solution that has been addressed or been proposed by anyone else that can potentially solve the problem,” he said.

Wade is right: the Virginia Green New Deal is the only legislation that offers solutions to global warming. But, just because it is the only solution to date does not mean it is the right solution. In addition to being polarizing, what seems to be our only option fails to address practical concerns, like the future of gas and oil industry employees, and pushes for projects, like the solar power plant in Spotsylvania County, that only cause more damage than they prevent.

The Virginia Green New Deal promises government investments in the renewable energy sector and job retraining for those affected by fossil fuel elimination. But where is the guarantee that coal industry workers will be the ones to receive help? Yes, renewable energy jobs are already being created at increasingly high rates, pre-Green New Deal. However, they are mostly concentrated in urban and suburban areas; not the rural, western parts of the state whose economies would actually be affected by decreased reliance on coal and oil. Technology companies, who have acted as generous investors in the renewable energy industry, have allocated resources to Northern Virginia, not coal production counties like Buchanan County or Lee County.

A prime example of the trend for renewable energy jobs to concentrate in northern Virginia is the construction of a solar power plant in Spotsylvania County. A Utah-based renewable energy company, sPower, has started the process of building a 3,500-acre, 500-megawatt solar power project in western Spotsylvania County, only 50 feet from residents’ backyards. Apple and Microsoft have been quick to announce their future patronage of the plant. Opponents to the project, who have organized themselves as the “Concerned Citizens of Spotsylvania,” have pointed to the plant’s potential to produce toxic materials, cause fires, and raise the prices of electricity. That’s pretty ironic considering the Green New Deal advocates for a stop to toxic waste, climate change and the forest fires, as well as damage to the economy.

Climate change must be addressed and bills like the Virginia Green New Deal and that of Rep. Ocasio-Cortez have certainly started the conversation. It is now up to policy makers to come up with a better-thought-out plan that unifies our legislature and saves our coal workers and Spotsylvania residents, in addition to the world!

 

Julia Straka is an independent journalist pursuing her undergraduate education in journalism and dance at the University of Richmond. She currently resides in Richmond and is a Virginia native.