Democratic socialism challenges neoliberal environmentalism

Lizeth Badillo

When deciding party affiliation, we are made to believe that only two routes are politically realistic or culturally feasible: Democrat or Republican. 

The reality is that both are inefficient at mitigating climate change and both prioritize private interests over curbing the corrupting influence of big money. Corporate greed has led us to our environmental destruction. Now more than ever we must collectively take on corporate power and fight for climate, jobs and justice.  

We need Democratic Socialism. 

When we look to Republicans for solutions to climate change, we get President Donald Trump claiming he is too intelligent to believe in what he calls “a Chinese hoax.” Instead, he and his administration formulate policies to repeal existing measures set in place to mediate the effects of climate change. There is overwhelming evidence supporting these effects.

To the Trump administration, this evidence does not exist. 

Since Trump’s inauguration, some rollbacks on environmental restrictions include opening the Arctic to offshore oil wells with the aim of extracting up to 70 thousand barrels of oil per day and making extensive cuts to clean energy research. Not to mention confirming an ex-coal lobbyist as the acting administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.

The GOP’s sociopolitical agenda against conservation shows who the party is actually representing. Their policies aren’t made with the working class in mind — those that would be most unable to economically withstand the challenges brought by climate change — they are made in the name of profit. Specifically, profit in the hands of existing oligopoly-dominated fossil fuel markets where only 100 companies have been responsible for 71 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions since 1988.

This corporate loyalty isn’t only unique to Trump — it is the framework behind free market capitalism and its inevitable environmental exploitation.

Capitalism is great if you are a corporation or are part of the capitalist one percent. Rising sea levels or natural disasters won’t disproportionately affect them — they can just buy a second house. But when the remaining 99 percent of Americans are limited to only 60 percent of the wealth in America, the situation is more dire.

Establishment democrats, such as Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, claim to be environmentalists during election season but do little to stop corporate interests from factoring into environmental policy. The tax cuts, privatization, deregulation and free trade deals that allow corporations to amass enormous wealth persist. Any true progressive agenda is relinquished for the sake of remaining politically competitive with self-interested right wing conservatives. 

In 2015, then-president Obama attended a climate change conference in Alaska and claimed the U.S. would lead in the efforts against climate change. Instead, he granted a permit to Shell Oil to drill in the Arctic four days later — despite a 75 percent chance of a spill.

The disconnect between recognized problems and the policies offered in response has led to the deep divide between progressive democrats, particularly grassroots environmentalists, and the neoliberal Democrats representing them. 

In the midst of the progressive democrats are the Democratic Socialists such as Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio Cortez.

Within the party, lowering emissions quickly is prioritized by recognizing that there needs to be a shift in who dictates where and at what rate we get our energy. The aims of oil and fossil fuel corporations will never coincide with the aims of the people as businesses are willing to sacrifice anything for profit.

There must be increased regulation and taxation of corporations to phase out fossil fuels. Making investments in infrastructure for renewable energy is important in creating good jobs with family-sustaining wages that challenge existing social stratifications. 

“Democratic Socialism also works to uplift all people by ensuring universal access to healthcare, housing, quality education, and honest representation in our democracy.” said Katherine Horstman, an economics senior and member of the Young Democratic Socialists of America’s UT chapter.

To truly provide alternatives to neoliberalism and climate change denial, joining movements that increase grassroots collectivism like and the People’s Climate Movement will prove vital if we want tangible conservation. 

The strive for an equitable future that concentrates power in the hands of the many will always be worthwhile. 

Badillo is a sociology and psychology junior from Guanajuato, Mexico.