We demand a UC Green New Deal

Illustration of Climate Strike in front of Sproul
Emily Bi/Senior Staff

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On Sept. 20, more than 1,000 UC Berkeley community members crowded on Upper Sproul Plaza to participate in the global climate strikes. On that day, we rallied for climate action and called for our state and federal government to endorse a Green New Deal. Now, we are demanding our own.

The federal Green New Deal was introduced as a joint resolution earlier this year by junior U.S. Sen. Ed Markey, D-Massachusetts, and U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-Bronx. The resolution, in recognizing the intersection of environmental problems and social justice, proposed a framework for combating climate change and social inequalities in a swift manner that was long overdue. The Green New Deal calls back to the New Deal to provide a similar framework for swift, bold government action and social mobilization to mitigate and adapt to the climate crisis, while also ambitiously increasing commitment to equity and social justice. The resolution has remained at the forefront of the national conversation on climate action, with institutions and governments at various levels adopting or planning to adopt their own versions of a Green New Deal — including our UC community.

Looking to expand upon and institutionalize the demands of our first climate strike, Students for Climate Action partnered with campus labor unions to form a coalition tasked with facilitating the creation of a UC Green New Deal. On the evening of Nov. 18, campus community members filled every seat in 315 Wheeler Hall in attendance of the UC Green New Deal Town Hall. The town hall featured a brief presentation on the national Green New Deal, a panel featuring various union and community members, a breakout session in which audience members split into working groups to review the drafted set of demands and offer their input, and a large group discussion. Each attendee received a one-page summary of the current draft with the message, “These are Draft Demands – we want your input!” Emphasis was and will continue to be on gathering community input and support to craft the UC Green New Deal.

This town hall was just the beginning.

On Friday, we took to Upper Sproul Plaza once more to strike and rally in solidarity with the global climate strikes and in celebration of the start of our journey toward achieving a UC Green New Deal. We were not there to protest for the cool social media pictures or solely in the name of protesting. We were there to make the activist reputation of UC Berkeley and the worldly prestige of the UC system actually mean something. The UC system is the largest employer and landowner in the fifth-largest economy in the world. What we do and how we do it matters. The UC system has already declared a climate emergency, but it seems it has yet to effectively present how it will rise up and act as a true global leader — one that is resilient in the face of the climate crisis. Our UC Green New Deal will provide us with this much-needed framework.

We demand tangible change, including but not limited to more equitable state and university policies, a safer and more inclusive campus climate, more basic needs resources and funding, more ethical research and partnerships, a curriculum overhaul that best prepares students to be leaders in a world characterized by multiple ecological and political crises, a just transition and increased rights for all UC workers, as well as sustainable energy, food and waste infrastructure.

Our resolution will be necessarily thorough and inclusive. It may be called a “Green” New Deal, but this policy is for more than just the natural environment. Climate justice is labor justice, racial justice, basic needs justice. It is all of the above and more.

Since the UC system is run by its workers and students, its actions should reflect our values. The UC system should be working to protect and uplift community members.Great, positive change within the UC system has arisen out of the courage and labor provided by its community members. A UC Green New Deal offers up a unique opportunity for us to stand together with a unified mission and to uplift each other’s work.

So step up, and step through. Dig your heels in, and join us in doing the work that needs to be done. Speak out, show up and stand in solidarity with the demands of your community. This is your university, and this is your Green New Deal.

Tess Gauthier (they/she) is a sophomore at UC Berkeley studying conservation and resource studies, the director of climate action in ASUC Senator Sylvia Targ’s office and a UC Green New Deal lead in Students for Climate Action.