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Guest opinion: A new alternative to the Green New Deal gives me hope, not fear

The American Climate Contract, put forth by the American Conservation Coalition last month, provides hope. It recognizes and aims to build upon the good in our current systems.

Climate change activists holding signs join in on a rally supporting the “Green New Deal” in Pershing Square in downtown Los Angeles on Friday, May 24, 2019. A new proposal from the American Conservation Coalition could prove to be a valuable alternative.
Associated Press

The Green New Deal paints a picture of the dystopian society to which we are doomed if we do not support it. Its focus is social injustices allegedly perpetuated by current U.S. institutions, and it claims the only way to rectify this is to replace them with socialist-leaning systems. The document evokes feelings of fear and guilt. Additionally, its skeptics are told they’re responsible for destroying the planet.

I’m a 16-year-old who will have to deal with all of this. I’m terrified.

The Green New Deal blames the U.S. for having “historically been responsible for a disproportionate amount of greenhouse gas emissions.” Supposedly, our government’s been failing us. Strangely enough, the Green New Deal then goes on to advocate for more government power and increased intervention. Its central idea eliminates independence. It assumes that people are too weak and victimized to provide for themselves or their environment, so the federal government must do it for them.

As a young conservative, I’m left wondering where I belong in all of this. According to the Green New Deal, my only role is to accept what the government gives me and reject anything that differs from this plan. I’m completely disregarded as an individual and I have no purpose in preserving the environment.

Fortunately, there is an alternative. The American Climate Contract, put forth by the American Conservation Coalition, provides hope and a place for young people like me. It recognizes and aims to build upon the good in our current systems. There is no guilt and no one is excluded from its benefits. It provides a clear plan that focuses on facts and attainable objectives, rather than using fear to gain backing.

Belonging to no political party, the American Climate Contract is simply for those, like me, who care about our environment and want realistic solutions without being labeled something they’re not. People are encouraged to support it, but more importantly, it supports people. It allows for original thinking and supports private industry’s efforts toward creating a greener nation.

Unlike the Green New Deal, the American Climate Contract understands the immense importance of individuals and private businesses in the conversation on environmentalism. It does not seek to restrain the influence of the individual by handing power to the government. Instead, it calls for cooperation between government and businesses, giving these industries the ability to advocate for themselves.

Danielle Butcher, executive vice president at the American Conservation Coalition, stated, “We can’t let the size of the task overwhelm us as individuals.” A drastically different approach from the Green New Deal, the Contract aims not to overwhelm or guilt me, but rather to empower me and spotlight our shared responsibility in overcoming climate change.

Reading the Contract, I’m inspired by my essential role as a citizen to seek out environmental solutions, and urge businesses and government officials to do the same. As a young advocate for environmentalism, it gives me great comfort. I no longer fear for the future of our world. Instead, I am optimistic and ready to help create that future.

The Green New Deal presents the choice between the economy and the environment, a losing deal either way. The Contract, however, makes it clear that one doesn’t have to choose. Environmental solutions actually bolster the economy. Researching ways to fight climate change has often led me to a list of can’ts and don’ts. The Contract rejects this, instead defending innovation and modern solutions to the challenges we face. Rather than stifling American originality, the Contract focuses on “harnessing the power of American ingenuity.” Yes, please! The American Climate Contract lets Americans do what they do best: innovate.

Especially now, all I want is hope. People my age are constantly bombarded with the crises of the world. Climate change is something that cannot be ignored, as it affects every individual across the globe. Knowing this, I’m crushed reading a proposal that essentially states that there is no bright future. I’m told I have no capacity to save the environment without hurting the country I love.

I don’t want to leave it to the government. I want to take action. I want to be the driving force in preserving both American values and the environment, and I’m not alone. The American Climate Contract shows there are ways to conserve energy and resources, and that as an individual, I have a part in that plan. It gives me hope.

Brooklyn Brown is a student at Clearfield High School and an activist with the American Conservation Coalition. She worked with the ACC team to write this piece.