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Could a Green New Deal Save Civilization?


Could a Green New Deal Save Civilization?

Richard Heinberg

The idea is infectious. Could a big government jobs and spending program succeed in kicking into gear the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy, and ultimately save us from catastrophic climate change? The energy transition is currently going way too slowly; it needs money and policy support. And many people would need job retraining in order to work in re-engineered, renewable-powered industrial systems.



In order to effect a civilization-saving regimen civilization must be redefined. As it stands now the decision-making apparatus, maximization of “economic” activity, will not suffer any genuine reform such as a “Green New Deal”. Disincentives such as taxes and incentives such as subsidies will fall short of convincing the truly powerful that they should participate in such gradual reform. Therefore what is needed falls nothing short of revolt by the People. This can only be facilitated by an increase in democratic representation and is one reason why I hope that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her compatriots are harbingers of good things to come. Unless the money system is truly overhauled or even replaced (by what I don’t know), there is little hope to expect effective mitigation of the downward spiral for the quality of life on earth for many species, including anything that could be honestly described as civilization.



Could a Green New Deal Save Civilization?

It could at least save some elements of our current civilization, but what’s left would bear little resemblance to the civilization we have, now. The immediate emergency measures needed to halt global warming would create a massive upheaval of global consumer culture and habits. It’s not matter of could, then, it’s a matter of will it? Unfortunately, as long as the vehicle for implementing it is the very same vehicle that has been much of the problem, namely all the corrupt governments in the world, including our own, it will forever remain an infectious idea, rather than a political reality. This ain’t the 1930s and we sure as hell don’t have a Roosevelt in either party.



For a long time now (like maybe forever?) it has been clear that the one and only way someone can ensure a secure, healthy, comfortable future themselves and their loved ones is to make money…and lots of it. This hard cold fact is not negotiable and everyone knows it. It is also why no one gets too down on the wealthy, it is nearly impossible to focus a movement on wealthy because everyone is hoping and praying that they can get rich.

What needs to happen in order to effect real change is two things;

First make sure everyone is OK. This means everyone has a home, warmth, food, clothing, education. This will make the world a better place to live which is what all the uprisings have been about. This would allow the population to stop doing all of the wrong things to our planet.

Second we need to make it very clear that money no longer provides a secure, healthy, comfortable future themselves and their loved ones as the climate crisis continues to grow. Rich and poor alike will die without proper action. Part and parcel with this aspect is that no one is going to make money addressing the crisis and if they try they should be shunned. Doing what needs to be done means LESS of everything and means much less money all around. ANyone who says that we can do what is needed and all make money and live well at the same time is a liar and should be shunned.

As Richard said it is unlike anything we have ever done before and will be the most difficult thing ever undertaken but the other side can be good.



“Runaway” is likely to begin in a few years, and there’s too little time between now and then to save our species. What’s probable is that we’ll soon join the many other species now going extinct!



It’s an international crisis. Will the U.S. be a leader, or a laggard? That could be the be all, or end all decision.



“It could at least save some elements of our current civilization, but what’s left would bear little resemblance to the civilization we have, now.”

Ain’t that true?

For me, if one has permanent access to tasteful and nutricious food of one’s choice, clothing and housing (3x affirmative in my case), happiness depends solely on one’s physical and mental health.

I would be considered a pauper by the way I live, but I’m perfectly happy, and no rich man can be happier.

However, the way I live might be enabled by the other people squandering the natural abundance of fossil fuels, and me being happy with the (very fat) scraps they leave behind in the process.

So my motto is: buy nothing! But it may be subject to the fallacy of composition.



This reply was to jneastra



Heinberg mentions in his piece changing to 100% reserve requirement for banks, ending their ability to create money out of nothing by loaning out money they don’t have. Thaty’s one obvious reform i support.

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i expand: Buy nothing that you do not actually need. And be honest about the meaning of “need.”

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Here in three parts is Andrew Stewart, a long-time Green Party USA member, outlining his assessment of what a real Green New Deal needs in order to actually address the social and ecological crises (in ways that any Democratic Party program is highly unlikely to):






Heinberg has interesting suggestions to do with an inevitably overbroad topic. A lot of what people claim as “civilization” is what we have to jettison, but we also need to retain quite a bit of all that.

At the same time, we could very sorely use the positive and constructive actions of government and large business–of the ruling class. The trouble is that they have mostly been dead set against any such thing. So we have to ask repeatedly, check, and doublecheck what is meant by “Green New Deal.” It would be hard to imagine that it were worse than what we have seen our rulers already do, but it would be entirely characteristic for them to dress up more mayhem in pretty green ribbons and banners to promote a “green” Bayer-Monsanto harvest, “green” expansion of nuclear energy, “green” restrictions on household and community gardening, “green” wars against supposed egregious polluting countries manufacturing goods for the US and Europe, and other “green” scorched-earth policies.

We have to distinguish between opportunistic politicians relenting and allowing ecological action because circumstances allow them to do so advantageously and opportunistic politicians usurping green for neoliberal autocratic ends.

We need not only ask whether a Green New Deal could save civilization; we need to ask, “Will it bother?”

The current insistence that it “create jobs” is one such potentially double-edged point. To “create jobs” is not to create wealth, nor generally to make it more equal. There is the ready argument currently espoused by the majority of both major parties that money delivered to industry lobbies somehow amounts to “jobs” because people will eventually become poor enough to work for a pittance. It was “Reagonomics” or “trickle-down economics” in 1982; it is neoliberal economics today, with nothing changed but small adjustments to rhetoric for use by either party.

One of the many things that we will have to look out for is the insistence that these things be geared to “profit.” This “profit” thing purports to measure value in dollars, and the idea is something like the central mythology of Western civilization–more universal, more tenacious, more deeply woven into the errors of our ways than the stories of any explicitly designated major religion. In no other realm would we purport to measure a valley or watershed in a single dimension and explain all of it.

Once this metric of profit is in place, the essential problem of extraction with no return of surplus and the externalization of costs will continue. This is very different than insisting that people who work be paid, and both are different than insisting that people be provided for during transition, both things that we ought to espouse.

Here, Bill Mollison discusses one of the few environmentally sound actions of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3JyEHdJS94s). You can scroll down here for Geoff Lawton’s more extensive examination of the same (http://www.naturalbuildingblog.com/greening-us-deserts-80-year-old-swales-near-tucson-arizona/).

Each of these sequesters tons of carbon with zero ongoing human labor providing ongoing habitat for wildlife. It takes one person with a machine or many with shovels and picks. It is best followed by a good day or two of planting, to optimize the species and speed succession. Enough of these alone would even improve rainfall patterns and moderate weather swings in the area. Given some adjustments for climate and topography, there are thousands upon thousands of acres that would be amenable to this, to further cultivation in the newly green land, and to hundreds of other somewhat related structures.

The project is there to be done. The methods are known to us and have been shown to work superbly. Will government bother? Will we?



Here’s an article outlining some radical changes that should be part of any Green New Deal if it is to actually transform the economy successfully to avert disaster:




“Universal basic income or a universal job guarantee.”

Said in the same breath?
Why would we need “make work” jobs?
If we had an UBI we could choose our own jobs without worrying about surviving.



There are financial hurdles to a Green New Deal.

The only hurdle I see is going back and taxing the rich at 90%.



It lends a new meaning to mister DJT’s inaugural statement, “America first.” Of course, he doesn’t give a damn about the USA outside his palatial vacation resort empire. He speaks only to the world’s oligarchs that he refers to with his “We have a world to run.” So what did he mean by America first? It could very well be that he wants American people of color and poor to suffer first, rather than last. This dastardly objective is his collusion.



“averting irreversible societal and ecological catastrophe resulting from population and consumption overshoot accompanied by worsening pollution dilemmas”



Sorry Richard, we don’t want to “save civilization”, we want to save ourselves and the planet and the other species we all need to survive. Indigenous CULTURES were completely sustainable and survived for 200,000 thousand years spreading Homo sapiens to ever corner of the Earth while actually creating more ecological niches. Civilization is the opposite of culture, all are destructive and collapse under there own greed on average in 200 years.
Actual Cultures survived by practicing the law of limited competition and were able to exist essentially forever.

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Um we reached overshoot, a long time ago…



France already does that and it doesn’t help much at all.