Building a real, winning Green New Deal

Dedicated eco-advocates—especially we Catholic ecologists—should be worried about the ongoing political drama surrounding the Green New Deal.

Progressive politicians here in the States are rightfully calling for drastic eco-action. But they’re going about it the wrong way. While they may be well-meaning, they’re not helping those of us seeking to prompt many of our brothers and sisters in the pews to not only care for God’s creation but to act—and to act decisively.

Two recent conversations prompted me to finally write about this (after several demanding months at home and work, so sorry for the slow pace of posting).

First, I was asked to comment for a story in Our Sunday Visitor Newsweekly about what Catholics ought to think about the Green New Deal. Soon after, I was speaking with my former graduate advisor about growing disunity within the Church—as well as the place of ecology in that divide. Ecology hadn’t always been this divisive, he said. Which got me thinking about why it was today.

So, I’ll begin with one of my quotes in the OSV News story:

“When you have hardcore progressive Democrats pushing this issue, it’s immediately going to turn off lots of people who need to listen, because those voices are also championing partial-birth abortion, same-sex marriage and all these other issues that are antithetical to the Christian faith,” said William Patenaude, who blogs and writes about ecology from a Catholic perspective.

However, the Democrats’ positions on life and family issues does not mean they are wrong on climate change and environmental protection, Patenaude, who is also an engineer with the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, told OSV.

Longtime readers know that partisan empire building is a big concern for me and for many of those I write about. In our world of automated dislike for any comment or proposal of one’s opposing ideology, I’ve urged before that if you want your opponent to sign on to your project, you might not want to shout about it too loudly. Of, when you do, you might wish to use language and develop ways forward that recognize opposing ideas and philosophies.

That is, after all, the sort of dialogue that Pope Francis calls for.

But that isn’t what’s happening. Hijacked by the extreme Left, rolled out with astounding incompetence, and crammed with all sorts of Progressive bells and whistles, the current incarnation of the Green New Deal was dead on arrival.

Hence the tragedy. Action is needed now and everyone needs to be pulling in the same direction—not left or right, but forward, together in ways that serve the common good, even if that means going along with some of your rival’s philosophies and ameliorating their concerns.

Back to what I had to say in OSV News:

Patenaude said, “The United States has always benefited from being innovators, so why are we afraid to do this now? The question is how does government, hand in hand as partners with the private sector, make this happen in a way that’s beneficial to all?

As a thirty-year government regulator, I am certain that that is the winning equation. Both the public and private sectors have a role to play to build up the common good because both—when seen through the eyes of faith and elevated with the grace of God—play roles that the other cannot.

And so a politically viable Green New Deal (and yes, it has to have broad political appeal) would have the following five pillars:

Understanding: Here’s where academia comes in, as well as federal research agencies, such as the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration. Dialogue and data is a powerful combination.

Regulation: Here’s where government comes in. We need statues and regulations, but they must be reasonable, evenly applied, and predictable, so that those who are regulated can plan for the long-term investments and changes that will be needed.

Encouraging: Here’s where the Church can buffer the greed of the individual—and thus the private sector, as she attempts with this document on the Vocation of a Business Leader. The Church’s role should be one of inspiration and elevation. Indeed, it is a sacramental role because it baptizes and ennobles. The state, for its part, also needs to be inspired and elevated—lest its members seek lazy or improper ends. When it plays its proper role, governments can facilitate a wide range of audiences and endeavors, helping them move toward a common goal. (I could say much more about this, and have, but you get the idea.)

Enabling: In other words, helping with capital and investments. The government plays a role here but it needs to be careful that it does not violate the innate laws of economics, which are ever present in this fallen world.

Creativity: This is the domain best suited to the private sector. Governing bodies that do not allow for private individuals and endeavors to think outside the box will stifle rather than advance true progress. Properly regulated and cooperated with, the private sector is the true engine for a better way forward.

In short, what’s needed are fewer partisan demands and more dialogue and humility.

What’s needed is an understanding of one’s opponent and, yes, an effort to love them.

Hence, the necessary role of the Gospel of life and its message of sacrificial love. Because the future of the world and its peoples (born and unborn) depends, more than ever, on those divine commands to enter into relation with and love one’s neighbor—and even one’s political enemy.

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About the Blog

Catholic Ecology posts my regular column in the Rhode Island Catholic, as well as scientific and theological commentary about the latest eco-news, both within and outside of the Catholic Church. What is contained herein is but one person's attempt to teach and defend the Church's teachings - ecological and otherwise. As such, I offer all contents of this blog for approval of the bishops of the Church. It is my hope that nothing herein will lead anyone astray from truth.