Earthrise at Christmas, December 1968, showing Earth for the first time as it appears from deep space.
Source: NASA

“We can be whatever we have the courage to see.” — Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

 

Today marks 50 years since humans first set foot on the moon on 20 July 1969. 

That means it has only been a mere 50 years since we first truly discovered Earth with that first image looking upon our world from afar. And what did we see? We saw land, clouds, and water. We saw no country borders. No jurisdictional lines. And we sure as hell didn’t see any walls. 

In 1961, President John F. Kennedy announced to Congress that our country would land a man on the moon by the end of the decade! Guess what? They did accomplish this great feat–and–in just shy of 10 years.

The United Nations has warned us. We now have only 10 years to prevent irreversible damage from climate change. If we landed humans on the moon in 10 years, we can do this, too! The moon landing proves amazing feats things can be accomplished with American ingenuity, spirit, drive and vision! 

In 2017 when Brand New Congress rolled out our economic vision for America, the goal was to create a 100% clean energy economy in a decade. We meant it. The Green New Deal is our moonshot! 


 

The moon landing opened our eyes to climate change.

A newfound appreciation for our planet ensued in the years that followed the moon landing, and the human race took it upon ourselves to protect and preserve our world. We looked at a planet where many cities had polluted air, our waterways were toxic, and global warming was starting to devastate our planet. The Environmental movement was born.

Organizations like The Environmental Defense Fund and GreenPeace fought for massive global reforms. This gave rise to federal organizations like the Environmental Protection Agency, spurred legislation like the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts and even led to the declaration of Earth Day. 

A massive transformation was happening across the world for the betterment of both our environment and our livelihoods. In 1977, a scientist named James Black presented his findings on how the burning of fossil fuels could likely result in a global temperature rise. Following another decade of research, a top climate scientist at NASA told Congress that, based on his findings, he was 99% sure that global warming was caused by humans. 


 

We are still not doing enough. We have 10 years to curb climate change.

Our precious earth is in trouble, and we have been the ones destroying it. Yet, when we realized this, what did we do? Did humankind come together across the color-coded boundaries of our traditional maps? 

No. The motivation for environmental protection that followed the moon landing had faded. As soon as oil and gas companies caught wind of the destruction they were causing, they did everything in their power to hide it from the public. From forming and funding think tanks and phony research projects that would refute our world’s top climate scientists, to establishing lobbying groups and buying politicians in Washington DC in order to protect corrupt corporations. And they continued to make hundreds of billions of dollars and allowed America to become the top producer and consumer of oil in the world. 

50 years since the historic achievement of putting a man on the moon, humanity is now sitting at a similar crossroads. We are being tested, yet again, but this time with the responsibility of protecting the earth. 

In 2018, the world’s leading group of climate scientists determined that the state of our planet is even worse than we thought. Their findings disproved the long-standing notion that we should restrict our global temperature rise to 2 degrees C above pre-industrial levels, and discovered that we must be even more diligent with the reduction of our carbon emissions. Because even with that 2 degree C temperature rise, we would see not just a spike in mass migration, heat-related mortality, and wildfires, but it would also cost us trillions of dollars and millions of lives


 

Those same scientists told us that we have 10 years to cut our emissions in half to just avoid irreversible, catastrophic damage. And we are already seeing that damage emerge as sea levels are getting higher, cities are getting hotter, deserts are getting drier and natural disasters are getting harsher. Looks like the scientists were right. And we cannot allow ourselves to fall behind when there is an opportunity for us to push ahead in this race to restore our climate. 

In recent years we’ve gone backwards in our push to address climate change. The Trump administration has slashed environmental regulations such as the Clean Air and Clean Water acts, dropped out of the Paris Climate Accord, and openly ignores or undermines scientific fact. (If you want to see more, check out National Geographic’s extensive running list of how the Trump Administration is changing environmental policy.)

In order to put us back in the race, in 2017, Brand New Congress laid the foundation for the Green New Deal (GND). The GND lays out solutions for our climate, our economy and our people that are on the same scale as the crisis we are facing. It is challenging our country to come up with solutions for climate change. And we need to meet those challenges with the same urgency and motivation that landed us on the moon. 

It is not your typical legislation, but rather a resolution sparked by a revolution. The GND was written with the knowledge and understanding that fighting climate change will be a holistic problem with moving parts. The resolution touches upon poverty in our communities, corruption in politics and big business, a crumbling infrastructure across the nation and an oppressive economic system that helps only those already at the top. 

The GND is the first U.S. resolution acknowledging what most of us (including 99.9% of scientists) already know is coming. The fourteen-page resolution consists of two main parts. 

The first part addresses what we need to do to solve the climate crisis. From eliminating greenhouse gas emissions and building a national smart grid, to investing in renewable energy and transforming our infrastructure, the GND calls for fast and drastic measures since we are beyond the luxury of making incremental change. 

The Green New Deal will:

  • Leverage funding to help communities that have already been or will be impacted by climate change

  • Update existing infrastructure to better withstand extreme weather events

  • Encourage investment in renewable, clean energy

  • Build smart, distributed power grids to generate and store affordable electricity for everyone

  • Upgrade all existing buildings to achieve energy and water efficiency, safety and affordability

  • Create a more equitable and sustainable food system by supporting local and family farming and investing in sustainable farming

  • Invest in our transportation systems and focusing on zero-emission vehicle manufacturing, public transit and high-speed rail

  • Restore our ecosystems through land preservation, afforestation and further research

  • Clean up all hazardous waste 

  • Work with the international community on solutions

Part two includes provisions to proactively protect the people who will be harmed by decarbonizing our economy. 

The GND is not only an environmental vision, it’s an economic vision. In order to prevent inequality from getting worse during the transition, the GND actually helps working Americans. It includes universal health care, public options where Americans can earn living wages in jobs that do not destroy the planet, access to education, training and a federal jobs guarantee with “green jobs” (including childcare and teaching due to their low carbon footprint and society-building benefits). Rather than leaving low income workers and people of color even worse off, the GND gives us the opportunity to be more proactive while we still have the chance.

Fifty years from now, when we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the moon landing, our children will be living on a more equitable and healthier planet than ever. Here at BNC, we are dedicated to making this vision a reality.

And we do still have a chance. America put the first man on the moon within 8 years of deciding to put our minds to it. So why can’t we also be the first country with a carbon-neutral economy within 10 years? 

Many will say it is impossible, but that is exactly what they said about landing on the moon. So, yes, the Green New Deal is a moonshot. But it is also possible.

 

Contribute today to help us elect a Brand New Congress who make the Green New Deal a priority.

 

Written by BNC volunteer Leigh Osterhus. Leigh is an American expat living in Sydney who advocates for social and environmental equity in our communities.