Chapter News

Book Review: A Planet to Win

Laurie Dougherty
January 17, 2021

A Planet to Win: Why We Need a Green New Deal by Kate Aronoff, Alyssa Battistono, Daniel Aldana Cohen, and Thea Riofrancos. (Verso 2019)

“An effective Green New Deal is also a radical Green New Deal.” A radical Green New Deal calls for a “new political economy,” one that is deeply transformative, grounded in global solidarity, redistributing power, resources, work, income, and leisure. To accomplish this transformation requires rebuilding and revalidating the public sector, not as a form of concentrated power, but as a vehicle for investing in and coordinating decentralized community and worker controlled economic, social, and cultural affairs. 

A radical Green New Deal is one that rapidly decarbonizes the economy while leaving no one behind. The fossil fuel industry is clearly identified as an enemy of the people. However, taking it down requires a “managed decline” that maintains decent livelihoods and economic resources for workers and communities dependent on that industry. Just Transition, a concept that originated in the 1990s in what was then the Oil Chemical and Atomic Workers union, offers principles for programs and policies to shift from a toxic extractive economy that harms and exploits workers, communities and ecosystems into an economy that is clean, regenerative, and nurturing.

A Planet to Win upholds an expansive understanding of green jobs that includes not just jobs transitioned from fossil-based to green energy, but also care work that protects, heals, and enhances life for people, communities and ecosystems. In order to provide for everyone, the government must be the employer of last resort, ensuring that everyone who wants to work will have a job. Protecting livelihoods, ensuring medical care and benefits is critical to engaging workers in the movement for a Green New Deal.

The authors do not shy away from other hard questions. Two that are critical for building a sustainable regenerative economy are global solidarity and reducing growth, consumption, and waste. One whole chapter is devoted to redefining internationalism in terms of the global solidarity that is necessary to fulfill the moral imperative to leave no one behind. Workers must unite all along renewable technology supply chains to ensure that the green economy does not replicate the exploitative, extractive systems of capitalism. Solidarity demands that resources be shared equitably; that workers’ rights, health, safety and living standards be protected; that the rights of Indigenous peoples to land, clean water, traditional values and practices, and governance be respected; and that ecosystem health be preserved throughout the processes of production and distribution of goods and services.

The need to reduce growth, consumption, and waste comes up early and often. Rather than promoting a winner-take-all competition for material excess, a radical Green New Deal will provide material sufficiency, fulfilling work, more leisure time, common spaces and facilities for recreation and creative activities, and now and then some “eco-friendly hedonism.”

“Ultimately capitalism is incompatible with environmental sustainability.” However, the urgency of the climate crisis requires immediate action most effectively accomplished “through egalitarian policies that prioritize public goals over corporate profits and target investments in poor, working-class and racialized communities.” A radical Green New Deal!