Former Green Cabinet presidential nominee Dr. Jill Stein discusses her movement’s efforts to address environmental problems through a “Green New Deal” that would transition the U.S. away from a fossil-fuel and profit-driven economy
JESSICA DESVARIEUX, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Jessica Desvarieux in Baltimore.
A new, in-depth 1,300-page report issued by the government on climate change has provided definitive analysis of the effects of climate change on the United States. The National Climate Assessment and Development Advisory Committee, which came up with the report, is a panel of more than 300 leading scientists and experts appointed by Congress.
Now joining us in-studio to discuss the report and the state of climate change is our guest, Dr. Jill Stein. Dr. Stein was the Green Party’s 2012 candidate for president of the United States and now serves with the Green Shadow Cabinet. She was one of the initiators of the Global Climate Convergence, which has organized, from Earth Day to May Day, waves of actions for people, planet, and peace over profit, laying the groundwork for bigger actions to come.
Thanks for joining us in-studio, Jill.
DR. JILL STEIN, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE, GREEN PARTY: It’s great to be with you, Jessica.
DESVARIEUX: So, Jill, tell us more about this global climate convergence. What exactly were the events that you guys planned? And what was your goal for starting this?
STEIN: So the global climate convergence is basically an education and direct action campaign on behalf of people, planet, and peace over profit, and it launched with this ten days of action, this wave of action from Earth Day to May Day, in order to connect the dots along the spectrum of justice and to say, hey, we’ve got to change course. And basically it brings us together from Earth Day, the day of justice for the planet, to May Day, the day of justice for immigrants and for workers, to point out how these things are connected.
DESVARIEUX: How are they connected?
STEIN: They’re connected in so many ways. It sort of takes a certain kind of denial to fail to see how they’re connected, because the planet provides us food and water and jobs and the basis of industry. If we destroy the planet, we don’t have jobs, basically. We also don’t have food. The price of food is skyrocketing right now because of the drought in California, which produces half of the fruits and vegetables for the country. You know, on the other hand, if we don’t take care of people, then we’re not going to have a planet. And it’s been sort of one of the driving forces throughout the history of civilization. When civilizations fall, it’s generally because of environmental exhaustion that you overgrow your water supply or your food supply or you’ve chopped down all the forests. I mean, this is the makings of civilization collapse. So it’s really important for us to take care of both.
Everyday people understand that. We understand that we need clean air, we need clean water, we need a healthy and reliable food supply in order to exist and survive. So most people get that our welfare, our survival depends not only on jobs and jobs at good wages, but it also depends on having a stable and healthy environment. And right now we have a system which is essentially exploiting both our natural resources and our human resources.
We don’t have the democracy that we need in order to have either of those. That’s why all these things are connected. And they’re connected to the essential institution of our democracy. A study recently came out, this Princeton and Northwestern University study, saying that we effectively don’t have a democracy, we really have a plutocracy that is a government run by a few people with a lot of money. And we really didn’t need a study, tell us that, because whether you look at our jobs, our wages, our health care, debt, the expanding and endless war, the attack on our civil liberties, on our basic civil rights, on immigrant rights, we got a lot of unhappy campers out there, ’cause things aren’t working for most of us. And we essentially wanted to do this convergence because climate is in many ways an emergency that brings us together.
DESVARIEUX: So if you want to do this convergence and you want to basically marry the ideas of economy and the environment and not look at it as, like, two separate fronts, but looking at–it’s kind of–it’s the same battle that you guys are both fighting, the counterargument is always, oh, but what about the jobs? Because people in West Virginia, if you’re telling them, coal is not the way to go if we’re really looking to move away from coal so we can try to fight climate change, in other words–but for them, they’re saying, wait, that’s going to mean you’re going to be closing down that Coke plant that I’ve been working at for 10-plus years. So what’s your response to that?
STEIN: That’s why we say the biggest environmental issue out there is jobs. We are not going to fix the problems of our environment unless we are also creating jobs at living wages for everyone. And that’s why we insist this convergence campaign is not only about getting together; it’s getting together with an agenda. We have an agenda, which is to create jobs, to put everyone back to work at living-wage jobs
DESVARIEUX: How would you actually do it?
STEIN: Well, number one, we need to declare the emergency that we have. We have managed to rise to the occasion for far lesser emergencies. We had the Manhattan Project to produce the atom bomb in a hurry in the Second World War, or we had the Marshall Plan to recover Europe and Japan after the Second World War, which we poured a lot of resources into. We took incredible steps during the Second World War in order to mobilize. We converted, for example, our car factories into airplane factories in order to fight the war.
We have another war going on, which is every bit as much a threat, is actually much more of a threat than the Second World War, because it actually holds out the possibility–in fact, the likelihood, according to the premier United Nations scientific body on climate, the IPCC, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that came out with a report a couple of weeks ago, they’ve been very conservative institution. They’ve actually called the crisis far less severe that it’s been. Their track record is to basically under-predict what has actually occurred. And they are now saying we have 15 years to fix it or else it’s pretty much curtains for civilization.
DESVARIEUX: So how do we fix it, then, Jill?
STEIN: We create a green New Deal. We did this during the Great Depression in order to put people back to work. We basically still have a Great Depression going on right now, not for the top five or 10 percent, but for most of America. Half of America’s in poverty or low income, heading into poverty right now. There is a crisis, and we need to respond like that New Deal.
But at the same time, we cannot only create the jobs to put everyone back to work in a living wage job; we can also make those jobs the transition within 15 years to 100 percent clean renewable energy, wind, water, and sun, which is distributed, which supports our local communities and our economies, which is good for workers’ health–they pay the biggest prize right now for these very toxic fuels. It’s good for community health. And we save so much money, actually, by preventing the diseases from fossil fuels, we save so much money from preventing this pollution, it actually pays for itself in about that 15-year timeframe. So we can have our cake and eat it too, instead of being on this lose-lose course right now to a collapsing climate, a collapsing economy, no jobs, lousy wages, expanding wars for oil and other resources, and soon for food and water, too. We can push that all aside. Instead of that lose-lose proposition, we can actually have a win-win proposition of ending climate change, putting everyone back to work, dramatically improving our health, and making wars for oil and resources obsolete. So this is a win-win. The only reason we don’t go there is because the predators are still at the steering wheel at the helm of our government.
DESVARIEUX: Can we name some of these predators? Who are we talking about here?
STEIN: Well, I think we’re talking about both political parties who are funded by the usual suspects. And don’t take my word for it. This was the output of that study that I just mentioned from Northwestern and Princeton, which said for the past many decades we have not had a democracy, that the decisions government makes and the policies that it implements, whether you’re looking at state capitals or national, this is basically what the economic elite wants. They’ve been served very well. But the 99 percent isn’t doing so well. And we’re sort of accelerating on that course right now.
So polls show repeatedly that people want the things that we need. They want a Medicare-for-all health care system. They want health care as a human right. They want affordable education. They want jobs and, actually, support that there be government-created jobs where the private sector cannot create them, that people deserve jobs, people deserve a living wages, and we deserve a comprehensive fix to the climate crisis. And essentially what we’re calling for in the Convergence is what the American people are calling for.
DESVARIEUX: Okay. Let’s turn talk about the Supreme Court decision that came down last week, the ruling, which basically said that the EPA still has jurisdiction over monitoring air pollution. Did you look at that ruling and say that was a victory for environmentalists?
STEIN: I think it’s a victory for all of us. And it’s a victory for our economy, too, because you have to have healthy people and healthy workers. We pay an incredible price for pollution and the sickness that goes with it. And I think this benefits our economies by helping to drive clean renewable energy.
DESVARIEUX: So do you see regulation as being the way that you kind of curb emissions? How would you do it? The carbon tax? A lot of people are throwing out a lot of different options.
STEIN: Right, and I think we need a lot of different options. But I think we need big options, which is why we’re calling for concerted national policy.
We are heading over the cliff right now in no uncertain terms. This is very clearly established by the scientific work of all real climate agencies that are out there. All real scientific and environmental agencies are very clear that we are headed over the cliff right now. We need a dramatic change of course. That’s why we’re calling for a solution as big as the crisis.
So that means we’re not going to really regulate our way out of this problem. We really have to transform the economy. So, sure, a carbon tax is a good thing, and it’s important, but I think we also need a national commitment at the community, state, and national level, as well as at the international level. And there’s been no greater impediment to international progress than our current government, our current White House, and the George Bush White House before it, who have been the real disruptors of international progress.
But we the people know that we need that. We need a comprehensive solution which will both get us the jobs that we need, because most people are thinking about today and tomorrow. How do they keep the roof over their heads, and how do they keep bread on the table? So we’ve got to solve that problem, as well as the problem that may be ten years away or 15 years away, or, if we’re lucky, maybe it’s 20 years away. But it’s coming, it’s coming with a vengeance, and it’s coming right now, and it’s making the struggle for justice and for economic security more difficult as it comes.
That’s why we’ve got to solve them both, and that’s why we’re calling for a green New Deal, a real national commitment for starters, and an international commitment to actually solving this problem like we did in the New Deal in the 1930s. We can do that now. So we’re calling for a global solution, and really to put new solutions on the table, not to confine the discussion to sort of the same old windowdressing solutions. Now, they’re important, they are good windowdressing, but we–.
DESVARIEUX: Which specific ones would you call windowdressing?
STEIN: Well, I think, for example, regulations, they are good, they’re helpful, but they’re not going to do it.
DESVARIEUX: ‘Cause companies will get around it?
STEIN: That’s right. And, actually, I think it’s been–Judge Louis Brandeis said many years ago that we can have either a democracy or vast concentrations of wealth. We’ve had vast concentrations of wealth for the last century, roughly, and before that as well. But as wealth has become increasingly concentrated, really since the Second World War–that’s what this really took off again–since that happened, money finds all kinds of ways to influence power. So just dealing with the surface policies alone isn’t going to do it. We really need Democratic–that is, small d–democracy transformations as well. We need a political democracy and we need economic democracy, and a green New Deal is part of that. Regulation is sort of what we do within the current predatory economy to try to restrain its greatest excesses. But that’s never made the difference.
And we have been on a very steep downhill course, certainly since the ’70s, actually since the Chamber of Commerce came out with its plan in the early ’70s, which was really a response to the progress being made in bringing the troops home from Vietnam, and the civil rights movement, the environmental movement, with the establishment of Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act, and the EPA, and the women’s movement, as well as the peace movement. You really had movement towards people-powered progressive policies in the ’60s and ’70s. And the Chamber of Commerce then basically wrote up its blueprint, which then led to the likes of ALEC, the American Legislation Exchange Council, the American Business Roundtable, the Heritage Foundation, any number of institutions which have really been steering our course over the cliff. It’s been great for the 1 percent, but for the rest of us it’s really been a progressive and unmitigated disaster, and the attack on labor and all the rest. So there’s a very big process going on here.
But in response to that, there’s a very big response that’s coming back, because with this assault on democracy, our economies, our ecology, and peace, this is been the grand assault over the last several decades. People are rising up. And there is an amazing movement now for democracy and justice, which is really sweeping the planet, from the democracy revolutions in the Middle East, the Occupy protests, the austerity uprisings from Europe to Brazil to the U.S., the workers who are rising up for living wages and union rights in the fast food industry and the retail and Walmart. There’s an incredible uprising going on–the eviction blockades, the fights against fracking, and so on. There’s a rebellion in full swing going on. This is sort of the basic premise of the convergence is that there is such an uprising right now, such an upwelling of democracy and justice. This is a wonderful spirit. It’s a very energized and empowered moment.
But, in the words of Alice Walker, the biggest way people give up power is by not knowing we have it to start with. So the convergence is all about linking together these incredible movements, which unto themselves don’t have the power we need, but hook us up together, we are unstoppable.
And it’s not as if we have some mystery agenda. We have a basic agenda, which is already supported not only by these various progressive people-powered movements, but basically by the American people themselves. So the convergence is basically about harnessing the power we all already have, which is transformative, because once we get together, we are unstoppable.
DESVARIEUX: Well, we’re going to certainly be keeping track of all the movements and all the actions you guys are going to be putting together. Dr. Jill Stein, thank you so much for joining us.
STEIN: It’s been great talking with you, Jessica.
DESVARIEUX: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.