But it also feels imprecise. The wealthy few have not just weathered the storm, but strengthened their economic position; US billionaires alone added $282 billion to their wealth in the first month of the pandemic. Meanwhile, an increasing proportion of humanity faces life-or-death conditions that will persist long after the virus has subsided. This fate isn’t preordained. Social movements, progressive policy, and international solidarity could push the pendulum in another direction. But regardless of which forces prevail, the stakes of our current moment are exceedingly high. The question of what is to be done has never felt more consequential.
The paradox of such moments is that they are both too long and too short. The Covid-19 pandemic has already lasted too long: stronger international coordination and public health investment could have contained the virus and limited its death toll by the thousands. The economic consequences of Covid-19 are now reverberating around the world. Lockdown is merely step one; as unemployment climbs to new heights, the horizon of the crisis stretches out, its end and impact unknowable.
As opportunities for of radical renewal, however, moments like this are too short. Blink and it's over, and someone else will have written the rulebook. The struggle over the social order in the world after coronavirus is already underway. In boardrooms beyond public scrutiny, those who have captured the lion’s share over the last decades are busy putting in place mechanisms to secure their privileges at the expense of everyone else. These plans will shape our lives for a generation — and lock us into an economic model that will determine the fate of our planet for centuries. We have only a narrow window in which to impact the political arena and shape the policymaking process.
And so we shall. With the pandemic, billions of people across the planet are currently confronting the same challenge, if with vastly different resources. From this point forward, Covid-19 will only deepen the world’s inequalities, both within and between nations. If we do not take advantage of this rare moment of shared crisis, it is likely that the Global North will get back on its feet and refuse to redistribute resources or alleviate crushing sovereign debt for a Global South still battling the virus and its economic fallout—a refusal quite likely be paired with intensified security measures to further restrict cross-border migration.
All of this to say: as odd as it sounds, our politics may never be more fertile for internationalism than they are right now.
This is the spirit in which we have convened this collection. The goal is to trace out the components of an international Green New Deal: to begin a conversation about what it should and should not entail, what we can learn from those who have already put so much work into this in so many different places around the world, and how we might build a robust international institutional structure to support those efforts, coordinate communication and learning between them, and construct new infrastructures that can provide them and others with the solidarity and support to expand and deepen those efforts, and to initiate new work yet to be done.
Our vision for a Green New Deal is international in two senses: first, without global cooperation there is no path toward massive reductions in global carbon emissions; and, second, the diffusion of GND experiments across borders is essential to the realization of climate justice everywhere. These two senses of internationalism nourish one another. Fundamental transformations of the world order, from debt relief to fair distribution of green technology, are necessary foundations for national and sub-national Green New Deals — especially in the Global South, where finances and sovereignty are brutally constrained by the existing geopolitical architecture. On the flipside, the innovative ideas for how to set this transformation in motion must emanate from concrete, lived experience of collective organization and climate policies that improve the lives of ordinary people in cities, provinces, and countries around the world.
The collection will contain a diverse set of perspectives, covering a vast range of concerns. From central banking to debt to biodiversity loss, the contributions shed light on how we might reclaim the world after Covid-19. We have not filtered them to represent one point of view or strategic priority, but invited people to sketch out ideas on variety of fronts of political struggle, based in their own knowledge and experience. As urgent as action is at the moment, it is also a time for ideas — new ideas, fresh critique of the familiar, the reanimation of helpful and hopeful things some of us may have forgotten or never encountered before.
The collection kicks off with Mike Davis's wide-ranging analysis of the current conjuncture, “C’est La Lutte Finale,” before moving on to contributions from thinkers like Jayati Ghosh and James Galbraith, activists like Carola Rackete and the National Coordination team of Brazil’s Movimento dos Antingidos por Barragens. These contributions analyze where we are and what existing institutions should do to address the current emergency — questions that an International Green New Deal must tackle in the short term. Over the coming days, we will publish potent discussions of the longer-term trajectory, including examinations for the role of technology and digital communication, energy transition in Latin America, urban climate politics, international law, and socialized financial governance.
Ultimately, of course, the contributions are far from comprehensive, but a work in progress. More voices — and a wider and wider range of voices — will be necessary to develop the paradigm of the international Green New Deal. And as the collection builds over time, it will hopefully become a better reflection of the necessary breadth and depth of the work ahead. But the stakes are too high not to get going, and to share the ideas that can help power an international movement. It is imperative to start now, before the rules will get written without us.
Photo: Marc Tarlock