Howie Hawkins: ‘Earth Day 2019: The Necessity of an Ecosocialist Green New Deal’

By Howie Hawkins

Posted By Kevin Zeese

Note: Howie Hawkins, who is exploring whether to run for the Green Party nomination, puts forward the dangerous situation the Earth is facing with many environmental disasters occurring. Hawkins was the first Green New Deal candidate in 2010. Since then more than 60 Greens have run in support of the Green New Deal. Both the campaigns of Jill Stein and Cheri Honkola, as well as the Stein-Ajamu Baraka campaign,  made the Green New Deal an issue they ran on. 

Hawkins points out it is not only a climate crisis that we are facing but many other environmental catastrophe’s. He advocates for more than the watered down Democratic version of the Green New Deal, he calls for an ecosocialist Green New Deal that is part of a full-scale Green Economy Reconstruction Program.

Hawkins is a long-time environmental advocate. He participated in the events of the first Earth Day in 1970 in the San Francisco Bay Area. Below is his Earth Day message.

Hawkins Facebook page is Howie Hawkins Green For President Exploratory Committee. If you want to encourage him to run “like” his page. HIs website is HowieHawkins.US


We Are Approaching Many Planetary Boundaries That Require Transformational Change

As we celebrate Earth Day in 2019, we need to recognize that more than climate change threatens our environment and our very existence. We have passed or are approaching several Planetary Boundaries outside of which human society may not survive.

Environmental scientists have developed the concept of Planetary Boundaries to identify Earth system processes that human activity is disrupting. They have tried to identify boundaries beyond which that disruption will trigger radical planetary environmental changes that endanger the survival of human society.

Of the nine planetary boundaries these scientists have identified, they say that we have already passed four of them:

Climate Change: At 412 ppm atmospheric carbon last month, we have already passed the safe zone of below 350 ppm that would keep global temperature rise to under 1ºC and within the range of the current interglacial Holocene climate in which agriculture, the material foundation for human civilization, developed is possible.

Biogeochemical Cycles: Earth’s biogeochemical nitrogen and phosphorus cycles have been disturbed even more than the carbon cycle. Nitrogen and phosphorus fertilizers pollute waterways and coastal zones and overwhelm ecosystems’ capacity to absorb and recycle them, resulting in ecosystem collapse and low-oxygen dead zones.

Biodiversity: The 6th Mass Extinction in Earth’s history is underway and threatening to collapse ecosystems and hence agriculture and food production. For example, scientists recently reported that insects have declined at a 2.5% rate of annual loss over the last 25-30 years, a reduction of 80% of insect biomass. Insects are at the base of every terrestrial ecosystem food web and energy pyramid. Agricultural pesticides, along with climate change and habitat destruction, are killing off the insects.

Land Use: Forests, wetlands, and other biomes have been converted to industrialized agriculture and urban sprawl to the degree it is disrupting biogeochemical cycles and reducing biodiversity.

The other five boundaries these scientists identify are:

Ocean Acidification: Oceans are acidifying as atmospheric carbon dioxide dissolves into the water as carbonic acid. Acidification is already killing off the corals, threatening the ability of shellfish to form their shells, and thus threatening the stability of ocean ecosystems. The greatest danger is posed by the threat of acidification to phytoplankton. Recent scientific reports warn that by 2100, ocean heating and acidification could so reduce phytoplankton, the source of two-thirds of atmospheric oxygen, that it may result in the suffocation of animal life on Earth. If we have not passed this planetary boundary, we are fast approaching it.

Stratospheric Ozone Depletion: We have good news here thanks to the Montreal Protocol adopted in 1987 by the world’s nations to ban the production of the chemicals that depleted stratospheric ozone. This ozone layer that protects life from excessive ultraviolet radiation (UV) from the Sun is recovering. The Montreal Protocol is a model for the kind of binding international agreements we must forge to address climate change and other environmental threats

Freshwater: Intense water use by industrialized agriculture and urban systems is depleting fresh water faster than it is naturally replenished. Pollution, aquifer depletion, and water-conserving habitat destruction are the causes. At present trends, half of the world’s people and agriculture will face water shortages by 2050.

Atmospheric Aerosols: Microscopic particles in the atmosphere affect the climate and living organisms. Some aerosols warm and others cool the planet, with a slight net cooling affect so far, though it is far from overriding the warming effect of greenhouse gases released by human activity. But aerosols have a negative effect on human respiratory organs, resulting in an estimated 4 million premature deaths annually.

Novel Chemicals and Materials: These include chemical pollutants, heavy metals, radioactive materials, nanomaterials, and micro-plastics. Barry Commoner, the late environmental scientist and Citizens Party presidential candidate in 1980 (which German Green Petra Kelly called America’s Green Party), warned us in his book Making Peace with the Planet (1990) that these novel entities disrupt the biosphere in which every new chemical created in the course of evolution co-evolved with enzymes to break them down to be recycled in the web of life. Without these enzymes for biodegradability, these novel entities bioaccumulate in the ecosystems and organisms, with potentially dangerous consequences to ecosystems and human health. While it is debatable how close we are to overshooting this planetary boundary, there is no debate that microplastics, for example, are now in our food and our organsOf the over 80,000 novel chemicals created for commercial use, only 200 have been tested for safety by the Environmental Protection Agency


What the Planetary Boundaries analysis means is that a Green New Deal must do more than build a clean energy system by 2030. It must be must be expanded into a full-scale Green Economy Reconstruction Program that not only transforms energy production to renewables, but transforms all our production systems to ecological sustainability. We can’t even get to 100% clean energy without reconstructing all of our production systems, from agriculture to transportation.

Industrial corporate agriculture must be converted to regenerative organic agriculture to eliminate pesticides and draw atmospheric carbon into living soils. Manufacturing must converted to processes that rely on biodegradable or recyclable chemicals and materials. Transportation must electrified, powered by clean renewables, with more emphasis on freight rails, high-speed rails, and urban light rails than trucking, personal vehicles, and air travel for intermediate distances. Urban systems must be reconfigured around walkable communities where homes, work, shopping, and mass transit are within a short walk of each other.

The vast majority of the military-industrial complex must be converted to ecological civilian production. The U.S. should be the world’s humanitarian superpower, not its sole military superpower. We should be helping poor countries meet basic needs and jump over the fossil fuel age into the solar age. We should be making friends with a Global Green New Deal instead of enemies with endless wars and a military empire of over 800 military bases placed in other countries to make the world safe for exploitation by global corporations instead of safe for the world’s peoples.


Conversion to an ecologically sustainable and just economy cannot happen under the capitalist system. Capitalism’s competitive structure drives blind, relentless growth that is consuming and destroying the biosphere. Its competitive international structure breeds wars for resources, markets, cheap labor, and geopolitical military advantages. With the nuclear weapons of the nuclear powers on hair-trigger alert and a new nuclear arms race now underway, the capitalist system will annihilate us if we don’t replace it with an ecosocialist system first.

We need an ecosocialist Green New Deal in order to coordinate the conversion of all production systems to sustainability. We need social ownership of key industries, like the energy sector. Exxon and the Koch Brothers are not going to reinvest their fossil fuel earnings in renewables. We must nationalize big oil. We need a bottom-up democratic process of economic planning so the public sector—public enterprises, infrastructure, and services—is responsive to the people in their communities.

We need a Just Transition to a green economy so no one is harmed in the process. The Green New Deal must include an Economic Bill of Rights that guarantees to all a living-wage job, an income above poverty, decent housing, comprehensive health care, and a good tuition-free public education from pre-K to college.

We need system change, not business as usual.

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About Kevin Zeese

Kevin Zeese is a public interest attorney who has worked for economic, racial and environmental justice as well as peace since graduating from George Washington Law School in 1980. He co-directs which works to build the independent movement for transformational change. Zeese co-hosts, Clearing the FOG a radio podcast which airs on We Act Radio, Progressive Radio Network, and other outlets.  He is recognized as a leading activist in the United States in the series Americans Who Tell the Truth. Zeese was an organizer of the Occupation of Freedom Plaza in Washington, DC in 2011.  He serves as president of Common Sense for Drug Policy and is a co-founder of the Drug Policy Foundation, now known as Drug Policy Alliance as well as a former director of NORML. He is a co-founder of Health Over Profit for Everyone which seeks to put in place National Improved Medicare for All. Zeese is an advocate of Internet Freedom and is a leader of the campaign for Title II Net Neutrality to ensure equal access and treatment for everyone on the Internet.  Zeese served on the steering committees of the Chelsea Manning Support Network which advocated for the Wikileaks whistleblower and is on the advisory board of the Courage Foundation which supports Edward Snowden, Julian Assange, and other whistleblowers. Zeese is an election integrity advocate who a co-founded TrueVote Maryland which led a successful campaign to end the use of paperless voting machines in the state.  He has been active in independent and third party political campaigns including Peter Camejo for governor of California served as press secretary and spokesperson for Ralph Nader in 2004 and as a senior advisor to Jill Stein in 2016.  He ran for the US Senate in 2006; the only person ever nominated by the Green, Libertarian and Populist Parties of Maryland and the only person ever nominated by the Green and Libertarian Parties for a statewide office. Zeese served as Attorney General in the Green Shadow Cabinet.

10 thoughts on “Howie Hawkins: ‘Earth Day 2019: The Necessity of an Ecosocialist Green New Deal’

  1. Chuck Moulton

    More hogwash from people who don’t understand basic economics and will impoverish everyone if their crazy ideas are ever implemented.

    The best way (and probably only realistic way) to save the environment is to innovate technologically, like Elon Musk is with electric cars.

  2. dL

    We need a real Green New Deal, not one started by the youth division of the Gang Green folks at the Sierra Club

    “despite its acknowledgement that much of climate change will hit poor of all ethnicities and especially minorities.”

    It’s not clear to me that climate change wouldn’t be net redistributive from rich to poor. I recall Bill Nye’s “Manhattan will be under water” response to why the average joe should care about climate change. If climate change actually were to have a disparate impact on the poor and marginalized, I’m skeptical why governments would give much a fuck about it. If governments were actually in the business of mitigating human catastrophes, the easy fist step commitment to that end would be the abolition of nuclear weapons and WMD. I’m not a Marxist but there is one thing I concur with Marx on: bureaucracies serve the ruling class.

  3. Freeman

    article says, “…we have already passed the safe zone of below 350 ppm…”

    It is not known that there’s any such “safe zone.” What is known is that there’s an unsafe zone below 150 ppm. Below that the plants all die of suffocation. Plants respire well if it’s above 250 ppm.

    The warming effect of CO2 diminishes logarithmically with increased concentration. The more CO2 you add, the less difference it makes. But, Earth’s climate is extremely complex, and the intricate interrelations, sensitivity, feedbacks, are not well understood.

    It is likely that a 10% increase in CO2 concentration over the current level (to about 450 ppm) would make an insignificant difference. Twenty years ago, the level was about 10% less than the current level. That previous 10% increase makes a much bigger difference than a subsequent 10% increase because it’s a logarithmic, not a linear, relation. Over the last twenty years there has been no warming trend. This means that CO2 cannot be the climate control knob that alarmists insist it is (though it does not rule out the possibility that it is a significant contributing factor). This also suggests that a continued increase of a few dozen parts per million (ppm) over the next few decades to come is likely to be of little consequence.

  4. paulie

    It’s not clear to me that climate change wouldn’t be net redistributive from rich to poor. I recall Bill Nye’s “Manhattan will be under water” response to why the average joe should care about climate change.

    Manhattan has lots of poor people too. At least it did when I lived there, they may have been priced out to the outer boroughs and suburbs by now. Climate destabilization will disproportionately hurt poor people because flooding and stronger storms impact less sturdy construction more, because backup supplies for disaster relief are less available and less well networked for distribution, because crop failures increase the price of food and price it out of the reach of those whose food survival budget is already marginal, and so on.

    abolition of nuclear weapons and WMD.

    Almost everyone agrees with this, but no one who has them actually wants to get rid of theirs because they are afraid some other country will cheat and keep theirs, or because they are afraid of who else may develop them. Likewise no one who is developing them wants to stop, for the same reasons. Of course, even if we did, conventional warfare has only become deadlier since the two world wars of the last century. The prospect of global nuclear annihilation may have something to do with why we haven’t had a third one of those yet.

    one thing I concur with Marx on: bureaucracies serve the ruling class.

    Yep. The bureaucracy of Marxist states no less so than that of corporatist or monarchist ones.

  5. Jim

    Freeman “It is not known that there’s any such “safe zone.” What is known is that there’s an unsafe zone below 150 ppm. Below that the plants all die of suffocation. Plants respire well if it’s above 250 ppm.”

    There is an unsafe level for humans, above which humans have impaired cognitive ability and decision making. The low estimate for that is 426 PPM, but more likely it is around 800 PPM.

  6. Jim

    Chuck Moulton “More hogwash from people who don’t understand basic economics and will impoverish everyone if their crazy ideas are ever implemented. The best way (and probably only realistic way) to save the environment is to innovate technologically, like Elon Musk is with electric cars.”

    Yep. In 2015, without subsidies, it became cheaper to build a solar or wind electrical generation plant than a coal or natural gas electrical generation plant. By 2017 more solar electrical generation capacity was added globally than was added from all forms of fossil fuels combined. By the mid 2020s it will be cheaper to build new solar electrical generation plants than it will be to continue operating existing coal power plants.

    By 2035 or so coal and natural gas electrical generation will have almost disappeared from earth.

    Now combine that with emerging photovoltaic paint technology, which isn’t quite efficient enough to use yet, but when it’s ready it will be possible to apply it to both existing residential and commercial buildings and new buildings. Most buildings by 2050 will get 100% of the electricity they use from solar or wind power.

    And photovoltaic paint can also be applied to electric vehicles, which means that electric vehicles will be able to refuel themselves, for free, while they are parked in the driveway. That’s going to take the market by storm. 90% of the global vehicle fleet could be solar powered electric vehicles by 2050.

    And if the planet knocks off 90% of carbon emissions from both electrical power and transportation, we could be talking about a 65% – 75% reduction in global carbon emissions by 2050. That’s with no carbon taxes and no subsidies beyond those which have already been provided in the past to keep solar tech companies afloat until they reached competitiveness in 2015. The global warming problem, to the extent that it exists, is going to be solved with advanced technology in relatively short order.

    But the eco-extremists need to paint a doom-and-gloom scenario so they can get the authority to implement the socialist half of their eco-socialism.

  7. Freeman

    “There is an unsafe level for humans, above which humans have impaired cognitive ability and decision making. The low estimate for that is 426 PPM, but more likely it is around 800 PPM.”

    Where there are people in an enclosed room, it gets stuffy after awhile because of the depleting oxygen. While that’s happening carbon dioxide levels rise in that closed room. If CO2 gets much above 1000 ppm it’s beginning to get stuffy due to the lack of oxygen.

  8. Freeman

    Maybe I should clarify. Oxygen is about 20% of the air. Almost all the rest is Nitrogen. Carbon dioxide is a trace gas, at about 400 parts per million, or 0.04%.Supposing it gets up to, say, 1000 ppm, then it would be one tenth of one percent (0.1%).

    People consume oxygen and put out small amounts of carbon dioxide. So, in a closed off room if the oxygen gets low enough to feel stuffy the carbon dioxide level will be high side of 0.1%. If CO2 is at 800 ppm, 0.08% that is, that’s an ordinary part of indoor living.

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