This atlas was conceived in relation to three intersecting issues. First, excess carbon in the atmosphere is changing the world’s climate: sea levels are rising, temperatures are increasing, and destructive weather events are becoming more frequent. Second, because it is our own systems of extraction, production, and consumption that are causing this climate crisis, an incremental approach to the future is not an option. Third, the US population is expected to grow by at least 100 million people this century, adding significantly to what is already the world’s most consumptive, high-carbon economy.
Taking on these challenges requires that we ask some big—and unsettling—questions. What will be lost—economically, culturally, psychologically, physically—should the climate crisis continue unabated? How can we begin to come together around a response to the crisis that will reshape how and where we live? How can we begin to think about investments in the built environment as a catalyst for the broader aims of decarbonization, adaptation, and social justice at a meaningful scale?
The Green New Deal does not pretend to have all the answers, but it’s a bold and necessary start. Because it connects social change with environmental change, and because it recalls the ambitious spirit of the original New Deal, the Green New Deal is the only set of ideas on the table that is scaled to the challenges we face. If realized, the Green New Deal would revolutionize our systems of production, our ways of life, and the places we inhabit, enabling us not only to adapt to the climate crisis, but to address its root causes.
But right now the Green New Deal is still embryonic, represented only in the abstract set of goals laid out in H.R. 109. Its outline of a sustainable future needs to be filled in—to be developed, debated, and designed. To that end, this Atlas for the Green New Deal brings together a vast and diverse array of information in the form of maps and datascapes: tools to help us understand the spatial consequences of the climate crisis—not so that we may be frightened by them, but so that we may be mobilized around a response to them.