I’ve been talking lately about the various crises confronting us. But I’ve also said that times of crisis are times of change, times of possibility, times of hope.
This issue of Nygaard Notes is about change, possibility, and hope. I hope you like it.
As always, if you want to download a printable PDF version of this issue of Nygaard Notes, just click HERE.
In an April article in Rolling Stone magazine, former activist and now Democratic Representative from Washington State Pramila Jayapal said this:
“I always used to say that if politics is the art of the possible, then it’s our job as activists to figure out how to move the boundaries of what people see as possible. That’s what I feel like has happened with how the pandemic has combined with the racial justice movement, the economic justice movement, the climate justice movement, and the labor justice movement. All of those things have kind of come together and really created a different vision.”
Social movements create social change. But what IS a movement?
In the last Nygaard Notes I talked about three facets of sociopolitical organization: Policy, Systems, and Consciousness. To use a biological metaphor, policies are like seeds, systems are like the soil, and consciousness is like the environment. That is, for seeds to sprout and grow they need to be planted in the right soil, and they need to have the right amounts of rain and sun, as well as the proper temperatures and other conditions.
If we have no seeds, or the wrong seeds, if the soil is too acid, or too alkaline, if it’s too warm, too cold, too wet, or too dry, then the things that we want to grow will not grow, and the things that we do not want to grow will take over. And we will have to live in a world in which a few hearty weeds are thriving while most of us are fighting simply to survive.
But there are always people planting seeds. And there is always soil underneath our feet. And, like it or not, we are always shaping an environment in which some things will grow and other things will not.
So, what is a movement? A movement is when large numbers of people share a vision, a vision of a different world. A vision of a world that produces life-enhancing seeds, that has plentiful, fertile soil in which to plant them, a world in which we are constantly creating and supporting an environment in which those seeds can flourish, grow, and reproduce.
We have to care for our seeds, and produce new ones. We have to tend the soil, and fertilize it. We have to live on the earth in harmony with it, not in dominion over it.
I’ve been talking in recent months about the various crises confronting us in the early 21st Century. And I’ve been saying that all of these crises are coming together to make The Big Crisis of the 21st Century. But I’ve also been talking about how each crisis is providing an opportunity, is producing a movement for change.
It’s really hard to say when a “movement” is born. It’s messy, it’s crazy, it’s a bumpy road, it’s a roller coaster, it’s a house of horrors, it’s a celebration!
So this issue of the Notes is about how—as this week’s “Quote” of the Week puts it—“all of those things have kind of come together and really created a different vision.” Nobody knows where it will lead. Each of us just has to do our part.
Back in September of 2020, New Mexico Democratic congresswoman Deb Haaland introduced House Resolution 1102, described as “a bold plan for economic renewal known as the Agenda to Transform, Heal, and Renew by Investing in a Vibrant Economy, or THRIVE Agenda.”
Upon its introduction, the Democrats (it had no support from Republicans) issued a press release that said, in part, “Eighty members of Congress across both chambers have already endorsed the THRIVE resolution as original co-sponsors. THRIVE lays out the unifying principles necessary to build a society that enables dignified work; increased racial, economic, gender, and environmental justice; healthy communities; and a stable climate. The THRIVE agenda is built on eight pillars, which span from creating millions of good, safe jobs with access to unions to averting climate catastrophe while investing in Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities.”
I’m happy to say that Ms. Haaland will not introduce the THRIVE Agenda into the current Congress. I say I’m happy because the reason she will not introduce it is that she resigned from her seat in Congress in March to become Secretary of the Interior, making her the first Native American Cabinet secretary in U.S. history.
In the current (117th) Congress, the THRIVE Agenda was re-introduced on February 5th as H. Res. 104 by Michigan Democrat Debbie Dingell with 58 cosponsors. The companion resolution in the Senate is Resolution 43, introduced by Massachusetts Democrat Ed Markey and 11 co-sponsors.
A March study by the Political Economy Research Institute describes THRIVE as “a $9.5 trillion, 10-year program designed by the member organizations of the U.S. Green New Deal Network. The THRIVE investment program … focuses on four major investment areas: clean renewable energy and energy efficiency; infrastructure; agriculture and land restoration; and the care economy, public health, and the postal system.” The PERI study estimates that, “at an average annual investment level of $954 billion, this program will generate about 15.5 million total jobs per year, including direct, indirect, and induced jobs.”
Upon introducing the THRIVE resolution on February 5th, Congresswoman Dingell stated that it “outlines a framework for a bold economic renewal plan that addresses the four current ongoing and intersecting crises: the public health disaster, racial injustice, the climate crisis, and economic inequity. The THRIVE agenda is built on eight pillars, which span from creating millions of good, safe jobs with access to unions to averting climate catastrophe, all while investing in Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities.”
I found those eight pillars so inspiring that I decided to offer Nygaard Notes readers a brief summary of each of them. Read on…
Pillar One: Creating millions of good, safe jobs with access to unions.
This Pillar states that “We must invest in:
1. Millions of secure jobs with healthcare benefits;
2. Upgrading our broken infrastructure; Building clean and affordable public transit;
3. Replacing lead pipes for clean water;
4. Expanding wind and solar power;
5. Increasing jobs, wages, and benefits for the work of caring for children, the elderly, and the sick;
6. Modernizing buildings to cut pollution and costs;
7. Protecting and restoring wetlands, forests, and public lands;
8. Supporting family farmers, agricultural workers, and rural communities;
9. Creating high-skill, high-wage manufacturing jobs by expanding manufacturing of clean technologies
Pillar Two: Building the power of workers to fight inequality.
1. It’s time to give all workers access to unions and penalize employers that try to stop union organizing.
2. We must expand union representation for all workers, particularly women and people of color.
3. THRIVE ensures that millions of new clean energy jobs, existing low-wage jobs, and frontline jobs become the family-supporting jobs that everyone deserves.
Pillar Three: Investing in Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities.
1. The THRIVE Agenda calls for 40 percent of investment to go to communities that have been excluded, oppressed, and harmed by unjust practices to support job creation, pollution reduction, and climate resilience.
2. Investments will be focused on Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities; working-class communities; and communities facing environmental injustice.
3. It’s key that the most affected communities have the power to democratically plan, implement, and administer these projects.
Pillar Four: Strengthening and healing the nation-to-nation relationship with sovereign Native Nations
1. It is long past due that the United States government recognized the sovereignty of Native Nations.
2. The THRIVE Agenda calls for strengthening Tribal sovereignty and enforcing Indian treaty rights.
3. THRIVE includes the codification of Free, Prior, and Informed Consent so that Indigenous peoples can determine the outcome of all decision-making that affects them.
Pillar Five: Combating environmental injustice and ensuring healthy lives for all.
1. No one should have to live in a community marred by toxic air, polluted water, or the associated health hazards.
2. Everyone deserves clean water. Everyone deserves clean air. These are not controversial ideas, and yet Black, Brown, Indigenous, and working-class communities across the country have consistently been denied these basic rights and sacrificed to the fossil fuel industry.
3. We must curtail air, water, and land pollution; replace lead pipes; and address the health and environmental impacts of toxic pollution.
4. Under the THRIVE Agenda, communities affected by environmental injustice will receive the vital health and mental health resources they need, as well as access to healthy food, schools, hospitals, child care, senior care, and care for individuals with disabilities.
Pillar Six: Averting climate and environmental catastrophe.
1. The plan will keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius to avoid increasing climate disasters and build climate resilience to keep communities safe.
2. New investments will spur the largest expansion in history of clean, renewable energy, emissions reductions, climate resilience, and sustainable resource use.
3. We will transform the agriculture sector so that family farms and farming communities are fairly paid for sustainable, domestic production of healthy, nutritious food.
Pillar Seven: Ensuring fairness for workers and communities affected by economic transitions.
1. Workers impacted by the pandemic, climate change, and other economic shocks will receive guaranteed pay and benefits, including full pension, healthcare and early retirement, and equitable job placement in new industries.
2. Communities impacted by economic transitions will not be left to wither but will be reinvigorated with investment in economic diversification; high-quality job creation; retooling and conversion of factories; and reclamation and remediation of closed facilities.
Pillar Eight: Reinvesting in public institutions that enable workers and communities to thrive.
1. The THRIVE Agenda will create new public institutions to strategically mobilize investments that tackle the interlocking crises of racial, economic, and climate injustice.
2. As we rebuild vital public services and strengthen social infrastructure, new public institutions will help ensure universal access to critical resources.
3. Democratic governance and accountability in these new public institutions will ensure equitable access to the investments of the THRIVE Agenda.
The THRIVE Agenda was developed by the Green New Deal Network (GNDN), which describes itself as “a coalition of grassroots organizations, labor, and climate and environmental justice organizations growing a movement to pass local, state, and national policies that create millions of family-sustaining union jobs, ensure racial and gender equity, and take action on climate at the scale and scope the crisis demands.”
In service to this mission the GNDN has put together “a 50-state campaign with a national table of 15 organizations: Center for Popular Democracy, Climate Justice Alliance, Grassroots Global Justice Alliance, Greenpeace, Indigenous Environmental Network, Indivisible, Movement for Black Lives, MoveOn, People’s Action, Right To The City Alliance, Service Employees International Union, Sierra Club, Sunrise Movement, US Climate Action Network, and the Working Families Party.” (Any or all of these groups are worthy of your support, in any form you may be able to offer it.)
Like the THRIVE Agenda, the GNDN starts by talking about strategic “pillars.” In this case the pillars are three: Narrative Change; Powerful Coalitions; and Electoral Engagement. They describe their Three Pillars like this:
“We will change the narrative by investing in movements. We invest in and support creative and disruptive movements that can dramatically change public opinion and what’s politically possible.”
“We will advocate and win transformative policy changes by building powerful grassroots coalitions that organize grassroots activists at the local, state, and national level. Our state coalitions build power by campaigning on and organizing for precedent-setting policies, and they also mobilize together to pressure for federal action, such as the THRIVE Agenda.”
“We will expand the mandate through direct participation in elections.”
THE GNDN has so far organized several distinct campaigns that it is supporting or leading. First of all, in the early days of the pandemic, the GNDN organized to push for The People’s Bailout, which Organizing Upgrade’s Max Elbaum called “The New Center of Gravity for the Resistance.” I wrote about The People’s Bailout in Nygaard Notes #653 “Pandemic Thinking and Acting.”
Secondly, they are supporting the THRIVE Agenda, and also the THRIVE Act, which is the legislative incarnation of the THRIVE Agenda.
A third campaign kicked off on February 11, 2021, when the Green New Deal New Deal network and dozens of state, national, and local organizations sent a letter to President Biden calling on him to incorporate the THRIVE Agenda into his economic rebuilding and recovery proposal.
Finally, on April 1st the GNDN announced that they would be putting up forty-six billboards across the country during the congressional recess “to push members of Congress and President Biden to go much bigger and pass a $10 trillion, transformational infrastructure package.” The billboards were “part of a broader two-week ‘Recovery Recess’ campaign” in which tens of thousands of activists took action to promote the THRIVE Agenda.
Is all of this more evidence of a broad and growing movement for social change? Could be. Keep your eye on the Green New Deal Network, and the grassroots groups that created it.