Imagine, if you can, the Susquehanna Valley in the year 2050. What do you see?

Do you envision the winding river, with ribbons of trees adorning its banks? Or fields of corn, gently sloping under an autumn sunset, with a glow so comforting you can feel its warmth? Is it a row of businesses on a downtown street that you picture, perhaps your favorite restaurant or a church steeple that pierces the sky?

No matter what comes to mind, I’m sure you thought of a place that you hold dear. And, if you’re like me, your vision of this place in 2050 is not some futuristic scene; your future is a continuation of how that place looks today, in 2019. This is something we share, dear neighbor, despite the possible differences between us. That is, regardless of our creed or political leanings, our ages or occupations, we all want our beautiful and bountiful valley to persist — and thrive — for another 30 years.

So, the question is, how do we make that happen?

I wish it were as easy as staying the course, business-as-usual. But you already know that won’t fly. Our work to sustain our valley must be deliberate and coordinated, because we are facing an uphill battle in preserving, let alone improving, our quality of life.

We have just endured a decade of crushing economic disruption. Income inequality in our community is at the highest level it’s been since the eve of the Great Depression. Valley families are going into thousands of dollars of debt just to cover the basics of food, healthcare and education. Few well-paid jobs are left for young people, resulting in an exodus from our small cities and rural towns alike.

Meanwhile, wealthy CEOs are paid more in one day than most of us make in a whole year. What once was in our pockets is now in theirs.

At the same time, we are starting to understand what climate change means for central Pennsylvania. We’ve witnessed our fair share of floods before, but these rains are different — they’re wilder and more frequent. The ground seems perpetually soaked, sending water into our homes and offices. Our neighborhood stormwater systems are stressed and outdated; the replacement costs are draining municipal budgets and placing another burden on taxpayers. With the summer heat continuing through the start of school, we had mold problems in buildings built when fall was cooler. The new normal is starting to take hold — we have to act now. The world’s top scientists warned last year that we have only 12 years to transform our economy to “avoid catastrophic environmental breakdown” within our lifetimes.

To put it another way, if we want to make our vision of the valley in 2050 a reality, we must take bold action today.

The Green New Deal is one plan of bold action. Like the Depression-era New Deal from which it gets its name, the Green New Deal is a 10-year plan to mobilize every aspect of American society. Its goals are ambitious: 100% clean and renewable energy by 2030; a guaranteed living-wage job for anyone who needs one; and a just transition for both workers and frontline communities. The Green New Deal would be America’s biggest job creation program in a century, employing millions to upgrade roads and bridges, supporting family farms to be both economically and ecologically sustainable and building energy infrastructure that powers America’s new 21st century economy.

Is this feasible? Can we pay for it? And how can we adapt the Green New Deal to meet the needs of us, here in central Pennsylvania?

These are valid and important questions. And rather than pose them to dismiss the Green New Deal, we ought to take them seriously. So, dear neighbors, I invite you to a dialogue on the Green New Deal. This will be a conversation about the valley we love now and the valley we envision for the future — not the politicized hype we confront on our airwaves and news feeds.

Join me in Lewisburg from 7:30 to 9 p.m. Tuesday. We’ll gather in the forum room of the Elaine Langone Center on Bucknell University’s campus. There, we’ll be joined by local college and high school students, dairy farmers, coal families and, hopefully, many of our neighbors and community leaders.

Let’s talk about the Green New Deal. Because it could very well be how we make our vision of the valley in 2050 into something more — our shared reality.

Stuhl is a professor of environmental studies at Bucknell University, working on the New Green Deal Lewisburg initiative and a guest columnist for Susquehanna Valley Progress.

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