University of Pennsylvania: Student-led project takes a global view of the Green New Deal

Faculty and students have dedicated whole semesters defining a broad set of proposals to address climate change and social injustices through investments in infrastructure and high-quality jobs. For Palak Agarwal, there was still something missing from the conversation.

“It was too American-centric,” she says.

So last year, Agarwal approached Billy Fleming, the Wilks Family Director at The McHarg Center in Penn’s Weitzman School of Design, who has led three studios on the Green New Deal, to talk about a project that would envision what a Green New Deal in the U.S. might mean on a global scale. The result, launched earlier this year, is Field Notes Toward an Internationalist Green New Deal. Collaborative and student-led, the research project is “intended to open new terrains for scholarship, organizing, contestation, and struggle in the fight for a globally just Green New Deal,” as described on the website. The site hosts data and visualizations on dozens of topics relevant to the Green New Deal, including deforestation, mass extinction, oil and gas reserves, international development, and global carceral infrastructure. In an essay describing their approach, the organizers write that the project focuses on the built environment because it is “a critical site of contestation in the fight for climate justice.”

“We do not expect people to walk outside in 30 years and notice, viscerally or materially, that there are fewer carbon molecules in the air,” they say. “We do, however, expect that investments in people’s homes, offices, schools, transportation options, and other elements of the built environment will drive real quality of life improvements, fight historical injustices, lower carbon emissions, and offer opportunities to grow the political coalition supporting frameworks like the Green New Deal beyond a few enclaves in major cities.”