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A virus at the time of the Green New Deal

Structural inequality, substantial economic stagnation and environmental crisis have been given an additional tragic dimension by the pandemic emergency triggered by Covid-19. The eternal bubble of the markets has burst once again, leaving political institutions with the burden of sustaining and relaunching a crisis that many analysts imagine far more radical and lasting than the one which began in 2008. According to economist Miguel Faria -E-Castro of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, 47 million people could lose their jobs in the United States alone, 32% of the entire population. A figure far higher than that reached with the peak of the Great Depression of the 1930’s. In few weeks the number of individuals asking for unemployment benefits in US passed from 300.000 to 3 million. The European Union, divided even over the emergency measures, has not yet dared to quantify the possible extent of the collapse, nor has it imagined a joint recovery strategy.

It is difficult to say whether the Green New Deal launched by the President of the Commission Ursula Von der Layen will be implemented, how long it might take, and what will be its impact on the paralysis of the global market, forced by a quarantine affecting now over two billion people. Between 4 and 11 March, while the coronavirus silently widened its presence on the continent, the first law and the first European climate pact were discussed in Brussels, an industrial strategy and a shared plan for the circular economy were advanced.

The end of the emergency, characterized, as is desirable, by massive support to the health structures and the most exposed and fragile economic categories, not to corporations as in the past, must be followed the project that only few weeks ago imagined the environment at the center of the new economic paradigm. The organic link between deforestation, pollution, birth, spread and persistence of epidemics, which was clearly identified at least a decade ago (see the document "Save yourself if you can" produced by Greenpeace and Doctors for the environment in December 2010), is the powerful manifestation of how the parasitic nature of neoliberalism, freed from any kind of control, leads to catastrophe. Can there be a more anachronistic and bankruptcy result for an economic system gravitating around the principle of development? Leaders of the industrial sector and conservative parties, everywhere in the world, call loudly for the abolition of any perspective linked to the ecological transition. Indeed, and once again, the inherent danger of the state of exception is displayed.

Western economies have the means and intelligence to plan the immediate future despite the storm. Just a week ago, hundreds of citizens in the United States signed a letter that researchers and intellectuals, marginalized by the presidency's gross denial, addressed to congressmen. "A green stimulus to rebuild our economy" is a long, detailed document that proposes interventions in every articulation of the relation existing between economy and environment. Four strategies frame the long list of reforms: creating millions of jobs in the expansion of the sector linked to renewable energy sources; making strategic investments such as the construction and modernization of green buildings, the installation of solar panels, the spread of electric buses, the development of rural broadband and other forms of diversification, in order to relieve poverty and integrate into the economic and political community the downtrodden strata of the population; extending public and employee ownership by leveraging state agencies and resources; reducing carbon dioxide pollution by at least 1.5 degrees celsius. In the United States, where the philosophy of the Green New Deal was born, the pandemic is not perceived by many as the tombstone on a utopian project, but as a manifestation of the unavoidable need for a revolution. Thus must be it in Europe. Radicalism ceases to be radical during historical disastrous seasons.

Green New Deal, and Blu New Deal. We must not forget that 71% of the globe is covered by the oceans. Reducing polluting emissions, and intervening accordingly on climate change, would mean securing 800 million people living on the coasts, threatened by the sea level rise, calculated in one meter by 2100. Habitats such as swamps, ponds and immense algae meadows are capable to absorb five times more carbon dioxide per hectare than a tropical forest. Wind and waves can constitute an immense basin of renewable energies. In the past 50 years, the fish population has decreased by 50%, plagued by overfishing, rising temperatures and pollution. Sea, coasts and wetlands must become a place where economic issues coexist with ecosystem balances. The transition from exploitation to harmony will certainly be difficult, contradictory. But if we can argue on how, about rhythms and passages, we cannot argue about timing. The time for change has come, nature has presented us the bill.

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