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Why a 'Green New Deal' must be decolonial

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Discussions of a Green New Deal (GND) have been all the rage these days, as hundreds of thousands have taken to the streets around the world to demand action on climate change.

First proposed in 2008 to initiate a comprehensive action plan to combat climate change in the UK, the Green New Deal (GND) has come to global attention, gaining particular traction in North America.

Its vision goes beyond the "green," "hip," "vegan," and "mindful" lifestyle choices of a burgeoning elite social class or the tried and failed policies of carbon-offsetting, cap and trade, and sustainable development of green capitalism.

It proposes definitive steps to help combat impending climate crises and to give the younger generation hope in the face of rapidly accelerating socio-ecological breakdown and unprecedented inequality.

It puts forward a plan to shift the economy away from fossil fuels towards renewable energy; to eliminate polluting practices in industrial production; to provide affordable housing for all, free education and health care; to create jobs with dignified working conditions and security, and to promote racial, gender and socio-economic equity and justice.

But for the GND to work and, indeed, transform the economy and our lives, it must be decolonial. This means, its application must go hand in hand with a concerted effort to rethink relationships to land, labour, and our collective imaginaries from the structural and historic injustices of Western-style development.

The understanding that development policies and ideas rooted in European and North American notions of "progress" are destructive and exploitative by their nature must be at the heart of the GND. In seeking to build a new economy and another way of relating to the environment around us, we must heed the advice of indigenous people, in their historical and ongoing demands for cultural autonomy and self-determination, on the need to restore a diversity of relationships with our environment.

The GND is meant to halt the loss of biodiversity, the degradation of soils, water, and rapidly decelerate global warming to pre-empt further the catastrophic impacts of climate change that a failure to stay below two degrees of warming will bring.

To achieve all these things, however, technological fixes, such as carbon capture and storage, bound to market economy forces cannot be the solution. The relationships we must develop with our living environment cannot depend on policies regulated by costly, unpredictable and market-driven accounting metrics, which defy the speed and severity of the social and climate shifts we are experiencing.

While all efforts to put the "emergency brake" on ecological degradation are needed, we must recognise the roots of how today's custodianship and caretaking of land and waters was established and how it is linked to Western notions of development.

Our development trajectory has been marred by the idea that humans are the overlords of the world, who have to tame nature and submit it to exploitation for their exclusive benefit. It implies that human civilisation is somehow separate from nature, whose only role is to provide unlimited resources to feed and expand the human material world.

The separation between humanity and nature is also implied in how environmentalism has been approached in Western societies. It implies that environmental degradation is merely a symptom of bad management in an otherwise non-negotiable economic development model. The arrogance of this logic is deeply embedded in the mechanisms adopted by the international community to respond to social and ecological crises, including its........

© Al Jazeera