While speaking at the Democracy Alliance meeting held in Washington, D.C. this month, former President Barack Obama criticized far-left policies promoted by the current Democratic presidential candidates. He acknowledged that growth as a country is possible without having to change everything about it, stating, “This is still a country that is less revolutionary than it is interested in improvement. (Americans) like seeing things improved. But the average American doesn’t think that we have to completely tear down the system and remake it.”

By referencing some of the passionate and aggressively liberal presidential candidates such as Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Obama brings into discussion whether we should have the mentality of creating revolutionary change or implementing gradual change. In other words, he addresses the monumental changes that certainly should be made for this country but questions their effectiveness if executed comprehensively at an immediate rate. Some aspects of Obama’s legacy could certainly serve as an example for institutionalized positive change in our country. However, the aggressive institutional approaches taken by the Democratic presidential candidates are necessary for the amount of attention the climate issue requires for positive change.

In the face of looming climate devastation, Sanders has demonstrated his support for the Green New Deal and has catered his climate plan towards addressing the major issues outlined in this nonbinding legislation. Essentially, Sanders’s plan consists of phasing out infrastructure dependent on fossil fuels, implementing planting techniques to sequester carbon and targeting oil, gas and coal companies for prosecution, altogether reducing carbon emissions in the United States 71 percent by 2030. His plan relies heavily on the decisions of members of Congress to pass his proposed legislation, evidently striving to embed the importance of climate care into the law of the land. While this plan is projected to cost $16.3 trillion over the decade during which it is implemented, it is also projected to ultimately save the United States economy $21 trillion over 30 years through averting the costs of infrastructural damage from natural disasters that would occur from intense climate events. 

Following the departure of Gov. Jay Inslee from the Democratic presidential candidate race, Warren adopted ideas from his campaign that focused heavily on combating climate change. She states in her new climate plan: “While his presidential campaign may be over, his ideas should remain at the center of the agenda.” While she has demonstrated her foundational support for the Green New Deal, Warren also considers public health care, environmental justice and policies that prevent exploitation of tribal and public lands as necessary and major considerations for an all-encompassing agenda. Similar to the plan proposed by Sanders, Warren’s plan would be funded substantially by the reversal of the Trump administrations tax cuts for wealthy individuals and corporations. In essence, Sanders, Warren and other Democratic presidential candidates have demonstrated the projected economic feasibility of their climate plans to the public in an effort to amplify the importance of the issue.

When attempting the most optimal plan to address the climate issue, we are caught between making a plan that is feasible and considering the likelihood of facing irreversible climate devastation. In the present reality, we truly have no way of knowing how successful one plan could be over another despite the projected outcomes each one has. We are faced with these questions as we address the climate issue: Is trying to implement this radical plan better or worse than not trying? Should we instead adopt a more realistic policy proven to guarantee some progress? 

Considering the current decline of our environment today, aggressive approaches are the only possible methods for restoring the environment to the extent necessary for living beings to not fall into permanent extinction. Thus, regardless of their feasibility or lack thereof, we should be of the mindset that we need monumental reconstruction to achieve climate restoration.

Today, not enough institutions prioritize this mentality in their decision-making for the economy and public policy. As a result, it’s up to us to seek what institutions and society fail to present to us and to understand that no step forward is counterproductive to our existence, despite the costs that it may carry. We must hold each other accountable for the ways we think and the actions we take, knowing that positive outcomes of our actions only occur when we make the moral decision. 

Here on this campus, we are blessed to even have the choice of how we react to the climate issue. We take for granted the fact that our lives aren’t at stake when we choose to be wasteful. We forget that the impacts are monumental on disadvantaged communities and that they have no choice but to decide to survive. The climate catastrophe is growing more volatile and tainted everyday, something that we are out of touch with because of our privileges in this community. Thus, we should act like our reaction to this issue determines our own survival because the necessary impact we need to fix the state of the environment will only start to begin on the day that everyone chooses to act for it. In light of this, we should all support the people fighting for everyone’s survival through revolutionary climate policy.

Kianna Marquez can be reached at kmarquez@umich.edu.

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