The oil industry and the military suppliers have so much power in Washington that we now find ourselves in endless war to protect our access to Middle Eastern oil. Further, campaign donations to politicians have hampered efforts to prevent climate catastrophe for 40 years.

I’m not saying corporations are evil; they simply are designed to maximize profits for investors, and tragically, what is good for profits oftentimes harms the American people. Fortunately, there are solutions that involve reforming campaign finance laws and all Americans working together to protect the planet and the people we love.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-New York, has proposed that a bipartisan congressional committee be created to develop a plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 45 percent and transition the United States’ electrical grid to 100 percent green energy within 12 years.

Some people say this Green New Deal is not realistic, but it is exactly what the world’s best scientists tell us we need to do to keep our climate safe for our children’s lives. Don’t we care enough about our children to aim for these goals?

This transition is possible if we fully devote ourselves to preventing climate change in the way our nation devoted itself to the New Deal to reinvigorate the economy after the Great Depression. We will have to keep our economy strong to accomplish this transition, and the Republicans on the planning committee will surely insist on this.

It will also help that the Green New Deal would stimulate our economy by creating 10 million to 20 million new jobs to replace much of our nation’s infrastructure for energy, transportation and agriculture. A just transition would also give aid to those Americans most hurt by climate change and train fossil fuel workers for alternative work.

Although parts of this transition will be expensive, other parts will be free or save money for our government. It is important that Congress designs a budget that works. The Green New Deal would include ending subsidies for the fossil fuel industry, which would add billions in revenue to our government. It would also include passing carbon fee and dividend legislation, with the fees the fossil fuel industry would pay for their carbon emissions going back to every American citizen. This would cost our government nothing. These changes would make green energy cheaper than dirty fuels, which would push our entire economy toward renewable energy.

We would save billions in our military budget as we rely more and more on green energy, and no longer have to fight wars to protect our access to oil.

Finally, ending the burning of fossil fuels would reduce electricity costs and reduce air pollution. The resulting cost of medical treatment for asthma, heart attacks, strokes and cancer would be greatly reduced.

If this plan is to be worth enacting, it must be fair to every segment of our nation, including the working class. Consequently, the Green New Deal includes living-wage jobs, education and equal treatment for all Americans. Climate justice will have to go hand in hand with economic fairness — no one gets left behind.

This is not about being liberal or conservative. It’s more spiritual, with the goal of working to protect the people we love and expanding our hearts to care about all Americans. It is also better for the Earth, our home.

This is doable if both sides of the aisle work together to create this plan. Let’s face reality. Our children’s future is worthy of this effort, even if it demands much of us.

Watch for the Green New Deal in the news. This is a unique opportunity. Without the threat of climate catastrophe, we could not gain the political traction to free our government from the corrupting influence of huge corporate campaign donations. Unless we free our democracy, we will not be able to make the rapid transition to clean energy that our children and grandchildren need. What an important challenge we face — to make our government truly represent us and what we care about most.

Dick Thomas is a member of Sustain Mid Maine Coalition’s Public Policy Team. He lives in Waterville.


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