A solar array. (Getty Images)

By Beth Kreydatus, Golden Carter, Emily Satterwhite and Kim Williams

National news has been brutal and relentless lately.

Reasonable people might question whether we can actually fix any of our problems when so much of our collective energy has been sucked into division and vitriol. But there are good reasons to be hopeful.

In Virginia, an encouraging sign of progress is the growth of the Green New Deal Virginia coalition, a partnership between grassroots community advocates, statewide and national organizations, and elected officials seeking smart transformative policies that address widespread and persistent inequities. As Virginia mothers and grassroots activists, we are proud to be a part of this coalition. This coalition has been hard at work developing policies that can really make a difference in Virginia, and we don’t need to depend on federal action to make these state-based changes.

The “Green” in the Green New Deal Virginia has received the most public attention. Virginia environmentalists are enthusiastic about Green New Deal Virginia because our proposals will protect our air, land and water quality and address the climate crisis. Green New Deal Virginia legislation would enact a moratorium on new fossil fuel projects and commit Virginia to a rapid transition to clean, safe renewable energy sources that will include worker protections like transition assistance, job training programs and prevailing wage guarantees.

The coalition has also proposed climate-friendly transportation policies, such as investment in electric vehicles, clean car standards and public transit. It also prioritizes sustainable agriculture that would sequester carbon while helping small-scale local farmers, and land-use plans that would create Smart Cities and increase accessibility to housing.

But Green New Deal Virginia legislation does not just address what are traditionally thought of as “environmental” issues.  It recognizes the reality that communities of color are disproportionately targeted for polluting fossil fuel projects and are on the front lines of climate change worldwide. Solutions to the climate crises therefore must focus on addressing those inequities.

Environmental legislation cannot exist in a vacuum.  Virginia families are not just facing a global pandemic and a climate emergency. We are seeing structural inequities that have existed for generations exposed by these crises. The pandemic has been made worse because of structural racism.

Our economic crisis has been made worse by our failure to address poverty. Our problems are intersectional and the solutions must be intersectional as well.

Virginians right now are facing a multitude of crises that Green New Deal Virginia directly addresses, including the economic downturn, racial and social inequities and the public health emergency. The Green New Deal Virginia is innovative because it is not trying to address each crisis in isolation, but instead, it is building community around a collective response to these problems, and prioritizing community voices when drafting the legislation it proposes.

The Green New Deal Virginia coalition supports paid quarantine leave for workers impacted by COVID, and protects Virginia families from eviction or utility shut-offs when they struggle to pay for these essential services during the pandemic. The coalition is backing important police reform legislation and working for racial justice in Virginia. And in 2021, our coalition will also enable a just recovery with green infrastructure bills, employing thousands of Virginians at fair wages.

The Green New Deal Virginia is promising because it was developed from the bottom up, by communities for communities. Our coalition includes environmental organizations as well as civil rights and social justice groups and a wide array of community based organizations. As a result, the legislation sponsored by our coalition came from the grassroots, not lobbyists. Green New Deal Virginia lets ordinary Virginians, especially those most impacted by social and racial inequities and environmental injustice, take the lead in planning solutions to these problems. But our proposals will need your support.

To learn more about the Green New Deal Virginia Coalition, join us in attending “Voices of the Green New Deal,” today at 7 p.m., where you can find out more about our proposals and how to get involved.

Beth Kreydatus is a volunteer with the Richmond chapter of Mothers Out Front, an organization working for a livable climate for all children. Kim Williams and Golden Carter are volunteers with the Hampton Roads chapter. Emily Satterwhite is a volunteer with the New River Valley chapter.