A Defense of The Green New Deal

The Green New Deal. Most recently formally proposed by rising star Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a lot of you have heard about it, and are already seeing opposition to it, especially among the GOP. Some of you may not be paying attention, thinking that this resolution is just an environmental initiative.

It’s not.

The Green New Deal is a sweeping reform of our democratic processes, financial institutions, and methods of promoting the values of equality, freedom, and the American Dream. It aims to effectively dismantle America’s forced slide into inequality, fascism, and corporate oligarchy. It is the culmination of progressive thought in the new millennium, wrapped up in a plan to promote sustainable practices and combat climate change by cutting pollution and emissions.

So why is there so much backlash? Because the GND also takes aim at the largest financial institutions in the country, and the world. Some of these institutions have helped put a lot of politicians in office, again not only here, but all over the globe- Corporate entities that have the power to start coups and overthrow governments, often using our own media and military through their ownership of our representatives and media conglomerates. The GND aims to break apart the clumps of power that have been allowed, in direct opposition to the wellbeing of the public, to consolidate behind the scenes over the last few decades.

And those powers are worried. Because all of this is wrapped up in a resolution that doesn’t directly call out any of these institutions.

What it does call for:

“Providing all people of the United States with-

  • High quality healthcare;
  • Affordable, safe, and adequate housing;
  • Economic security
  • Clean water, clean air, healthy and affordable food, and access to nature.”

And also, to “achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions through a fair and just transition for all communities and workers… [and] to invest in the infrastructure and industry of the United States to sustainably meet the challenges of the 21st century.’

What it targets, directly:

  • The stagnation of hourly wages since the seventies
  • Worsening socioeconomic mobility
  • The top 1%, relating to the accruing of 91% of gains after the Great Recession in 2008
  • Racial/gender wealth dividesInjustice against indigenous peoples and deindustrialized communities, the poor, and disabled
  • Fossil fuel research/expansion
  • Emissions and pollution sources
  • Anti-union groups –
  • Domestic and international monopolies

Who that worries/concerns:

  • Any large corporation that operates via a business plan that depends on low-paid labor
  • (Predatory) financial, medical, and insurance institutions
  • The elitist and prejudiced communities
  • Fossil fuel and other industries that try to use eminent domain and police power to push pipelines though disadvantaged communities or indigenous lands
  • Big banks, Big Pharma, Big Energy, Big Agriculture, and the MSM
  • Any other industry that hurts public health and wellbeing through pollution and emissions

So, this Green New Deal is bound to get backlash from these entities, and the representatives that they have in office. Goes along with the territory.

There are also, however, others that think the language is not enough. That it is too vague and lacks a specific roadmap. That it doesn’t propose a means of payment for its sweeping infrastructure overhaul. That it has no clear outline for a managed decline of fossil fuel production. But Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is playing a sly game of political poker.

You see, the Green New Deal already existed with far more prominent teeth, as part of the official platform for the Green Party during the November 2018 elections, and originally introduced by Jill Stein in the 2016 presidential elections. In other forms, it goes even farther back than that. So all those on the right that say it’s a leftist pipedream are immediately discredited by the simple fact that Ocasio-Cortez’s GND is actually fairly centrist.

To contrast, the Green Party’s version of the GND calls specifically for:

  1. Free quality healthcare and education, as well as complete student loan forgiveness.
  2. Creation of a federal bank that manages distressed properties and expands rental and home ownership assistance
  3. The right to affordable utilities
  4. Nationalizing the Federal Reserve and breaking up the big banks
  5. Establishing a 90% on bonuses for bailed-out bankers
  6. Supporting the formation of public banking systems that operate as non-profits
  7. Revoking corporate personhood
  8. Replacing big money control of election campaigns with public funding and equal access to airwaves
  9. Abolishing the Electoral College
  10. Repealing the Patriot Act
  11. Reducing military spending by 50%

The problem that Ocasio-Cortez’s GND is vague is protected by the fact that it was not introduced as a piece of legislation, but as a proposed resolution. It was designed to give the public and representatives something tangible to grapple with. And the fact that it addresses very real problems like climate change and socioeconomic injustice means that this version will age well, as these problems will only become more pressing. And as they do, this GND will pull public perception on environmental issues to a more progressive place. It will give the Green Party’s platform more exposure, whilst simultaneously highlighting the complete lack of any other kind of plan to address these issues.

The Green New Deal won’t be built in a day. But now it’s in the public eye, and it isn’t just a catchphrase anymore. It is a plan with steps toward environmental and economic sustainability that isn’t something that some other country is doing or that is impossible to do here. This proposal gives the public a real, tangible, and validated conceptual design for the future of the United States and all Americans.


Gettin’ Busy in the Forest

Lieutenant Planet is currently in Tallahassee. This comes after a major win in the Ocala National Forest!

Originally, I was passing through ONF to camp for the night. The recreational areas there are privately maintained, and not affected by the shutdown. After camping, I was driving West on FL-40 through the forest and I noticed there was trash EVERYWHERE. The roadsides aren’t officially part of the National Forest, and they had been allowed to languish. So I decided to stop there for longer and start cleaning while I figured out who (if anyone) was responsible for roadsides.

I committed the Lieutenant Planet initiative to cleaning the entire East-West stretch of FL-40 through the forest. I spent 5-6 hours a day picking up trash, and organized a community cleanup event through the local churches, the newspaper, and various schools and volunteer organizations. I also talked to the Florida Department of Transportation about the mess and they agreed to get the full bags cleaned up after we were done. When the day came for the cleanup, 5 people came, 4 of them from out of town. It wasn’t the turnout I was hoping for, but it ended up getting the job done anyway, even though we didn’t get a lot (relative to the size of the project- 17 miles of trashed roadway) done. How then? The power of action!

LIV the Planet-Van and is Cleanup-Event-ready!

I’ll explain:

When I called the DoT, they called the company subcontracted for road maintenance, DBi Services, and told them that there was a guy coordinating an event using local media to clean up the park’s roadsides. Which isn’t a good thing for a company that has hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts through the Florida DoT. So a few days of cleaning up after the event, I’m heading to Juniper Springs campsite to shower.

I would like to mention here that the juniper springs staff was very friendly and let me have the cleanup right outside their park. They also let anyone cleaning the roadside into the park for free to use the restrooms or get food and drinks. They also expressed concern over the roadways and offered to try to hold their own cleanup event!

So I’m heading down the road and I see two guys on golf carts, picking up trash on the roadsides. Their truck says DBi Services. Previous to this, I didn’t know that they were subcontracted by the DoT. I stopped the van and talked to them, asking where they were from, who paid them, how often they came out, etc. They told me what company they worked for, that they were contracted by DoT, and that they usually came out every couple months to mow, but “someone” had lodged a complaint about the roadsides and organized a cleanup event and talked to the newspaper. I was filled with pride at the moment, but just gave them a “you don’t say” response and left to take a happy shower.

Next day, I called the DoT again, this time talking to the local yard manager, Jeff. He walked me through some of the requirements and parameters that DBi has as per their contract, and gave me the number to their customer service department. At that time, they only had a complaint about the roads on FL-40 near Juniper Springs. But now, armed with new information, I called back.

As per their contract, there is only supposed to be up to 3 square feet of trash per mile of roadway. I was collecting a 30-gallon trash bag full every 100-200 yards, and I told them so. Also, as per their contract, they have to actively respond to citizen complaints within 48 hours. But I broadened the scope of the complaint to include ALL of FL-40 through the forest, as well as ALL of FL-19 through the forest, which goes North and South. They told me it would take two weeks to get it cleaned up.

At this point I stopped cleaning the mess myself and let the guys getting paid to do it take over. I dedicated a day to giving out the correct numbers to call if the roadsides got trashed again to employees at various recreational areas throughout the forest. And I will share them with you, my wonderful readers, as well:

First contact: DBi Services Customer Service Request Line for the Ocala area: 352-622-6279

If that doesn’t get results: Local FDoT Maintenance Yard: 352-620-3000

I, myself, went a little above and beyond as well, and contacted the FDoT’s Fraud Department and opened a ticket with them about the contract requirements not being met, just as another oversight measure. But sadly, DBi Services has met enough of their requirements to keep their contract. What I found out was that DBi’s performance rating goal for road maintenance is only an 80%. As per the 2016-17 Performance and Production Review, page 68, their composite score for the area was 84%.

And herein lies the problem. The contracts are made through legislators, and the performance that the legislators require is layed out in the FDoT 2017 Performance Report:

 “To determine the maintenance rating, field conditions are evaluated by rating each highway component to develop an overall maintenance condition score. Conditions are compared to FDOT standards and a composite state score is set. The maintenance condition rating system evaluates five highway components:

• Roadway – potholes, pavement joints, paved shoulders, and pavement distress

• Roadside – unpaved shoulders, slopes, sidewalks, and fences

• Traffic services – signs, lighting, guardrails, striping, attenuators, handrail, and pavement markers

• Drainage – storm drains, ditches, roadway sweeping, inlets, and pavement edge drain outlets

• Vegetation/aesthetics – landscaping, litter removal, turf condition, and tree trimming”

With a composite score system, a contractor could literally never pick up litter and still meet and exceed the 80% requirement to keep their contract, as long as nobody calls to file a complaint.

And this is exactly what DBi Services was doing. It was woefully apparent that they were just mowing over trash instead of picking it up, which meant large pieces of trash were turned into dozens of small pieces of trash. I saw this every day I was out on the roadsides picking it up- crushed bottles, shredded Styrofoam and plastic, pieces of rubber tires pushed into the dirt, etc.

The big win for Lieutenant Planet was a big win for Ocala National Forest. I charged Tara, an employee at Juniper Springs who was intensely interested in cleaning up the forest, with being the first line of defense for the Forest for the foreseeable future, as Juniper Springs is on FL-40 and also near FL-19. She told me that Lieutenant Planet had taken a big first step and had gotten a lot of people excited about keeping the forest clean, and that she would use the contacts I gave her whenever it was needed.

I am proud of the progress of this initiative, and I hope it can keep doing wonderful works. Ocala National Forest is healing, but DBi Services is under contract for 592 miles of roadway just in that one (out of nine) zone of Florida through the FDoT. The next step is to contact our legislators and tell them to do away with the composite scoring system, and make the requirement to keep their contracts 80% (90?) for EACH category. If the FDoT employees could do it before DBi was given the contract, then DBi can do it, too. It’s our tax dollars at work here! We can demand better!

And that is why Lieutenant Planet is now in Florida’s capital. The next goal is to find out what it will take to change those contracts for the health of Florida’s environment.

Along those lines, if you want to be a part of the Lieutenant Planet initiative of environmental activism and journalism, you can support the effort by subscribing for as little as $1/month on Patreon. A subscription will also give you access to my video-series and travel log as I span the country, as well as show legislators the strength of the political will of the Lieutenant Planet movement! BE the change you want to see, the power is yours!