Rhiana Gunn-Wright

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Rhiana Gunn-Wright in 2019

Rhiana Gunn-Wright (born 1988) is the Climate Policy Director at the Roosevelt Institute. She has worked with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as co-author of the Green New Deal.


All We Can Save: Truth, Courage, and Solutions for the Climate Crisis (2020)[edit]

edited by Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Katharine K Wilkinson

"A Green New Deal for All of Us"[edit]

  • I have spent my life trying to rewrite systems of power, and policy is nothing if not a system for creating and distributing power. That is why, contrary to popular belief, the most important part of a policy proposal is not the details at least not at the beginning. It's the vision that the policy presents and the story it tells. The best policy proposals-that is, the proposals that move the most people to fight for them-present a clear narrative about what went wrong, why it went wrong, and how the government plans to fix it.
  • When I asked my mom and grandma why Englewood looked like this, they told me about the government. About how the highway system had been built through Black neighborhoods, destroying communities that would never be rebuilt. About the city's housing authority razing public housing and scattering families in the name of "urban development," only for city officials to turn around and sell the prime real estate to developers on the cheap. About the city systematically underfunding Black schools and then shutting them down because of "underperformance." And that's just what happened to my neighborhood-not even what happened to my family.
  • The United States is a nation of scarcity, and increasingly so. Seventy-eight percent of Americans live paycheck to paycheck. As of 2018, about 40 percent of Americans could not afford an unexpected $400 expense without going into debt or having to sell off their possessions. About 25 percent of Americans skipped necessary medical care because they couldn't afford it. For most people in this country, we are not a nation of prosperity.
  • The ability to burn fossil fuels with no limit and no legal repercussions requires two things. First, fossil fuel industries and those who control them (or profit deeply from them) can concentrate enough wealth and political power to override the will of the people-who, by and large, want to stop climate change. Second, there are people and places that can be hurt, even killed, with little consequence.
  • Fossil fuel impunity requires intense concentrations of economic and political power among corporations and the wealthy who profit from them.

"Policies and Principles of a Green New Deal"[edit]

  • The GND resolution proposes to achieve these goals in two ways. The first is through a set of "projects" that, if completed, would nearly eliminate carbon emissions in the US. The second is through a set of policies that aim to protect Americans from the disruption and instability that transitioning away from fossil fuels will create and reduce inequity.
  • The Green New Deal is a new policy vision-one that will guide government and society through the biggest task in modern history: decarbonizing our global economy within the next ten to twenty years.
  • The Green New Deal is designed, first and foremost, to address the climate crisis at the speed, scale, and scope required to prevent catastrophic levels of warming.
  • Only the federal government wields the power to lead a national mobilization that can decarbonize the economy fast enough.
  • Every economic mobilization in American history has exploited marginalized people. The Home Owners' Loan Corporation (HOLC)-created during the New Deal to provide loans to homeowners facing foreclosure-often labeled predominantly black neighborhoods as "high risk," which discouraged lending and encouraged redlining. Today, 74 percent of the neighborhoods labeled "high risk" are low- to middle-income neighborhoods, and 64 percent are predominantly minority-meaning that these areas are still racially and economically segregated to this day.
  • Highway expansion and urban renewal programs during the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s displaced hundreds of thousands of residents-mostly people of color-without adequate financial assistance, erasing decades of wealth for those who owned homes and businesses. Because of this, the thought of an economic mobilization understandably frightens millions of Americans. The Green New Deal must directly address these fears, or risk losing the public support it needs to sustain itself across a decade.
  • The GND's vision of power is one of redistribution: from private to public, from employer to worker, from the historically advantaged to the historically disadvantaged.
  • the climate crisis can continue unabated only with immense concentrations of economic and political power.
  • The success of the Green New Deal depends on the ability to reroute power away from the 1 percent and the political and economic institutions designed to serve them. If we are going to become an economy that serves people and the planet, then the people-all of the people-need power, and we need it now.
  • Given the time frame, the climate crisis-vast, existential, worsening by the day-is solvable only through an economy-wide energy transition, which requires an economic mobilization. Only a national coordinated all-out push can ramp up production of clean energy infrastructure fast enough-and ramp down emissions fast enough.
  • Critics who doubt our nation's capacity to achieve a transition of the scale and speed the Green New Deal proposes should heed the lessons of the World War II mobilization: set the production targets you need to win, even if they seem impossible at the outset, and then hustle to meet those targets through massive, coordinated, strategic public investment and collaborations with private industry.
  • all GND policy, whether narrow or broad, serves a triple bottom line: achieve the decarbonization goals set out by H.R. 109, reduce income inequality, and redress systemic oppression.
  • GND policy works to shape markets and create demand so that low-carbon and no-carbon goods become the default, rather than the alternative to carbon-intensive goods.
  • The details will keep changing as we learn how best to decarbonize equitably and mobilize the American people-our hands, our creativity, our resources-to remake our economy, while caring for one another every step of the way. But no matter what we encounter in the weeds of policy blueprints and implementation, the vision of the Green New Deal provides the compass we'll need.

External links[edit]

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