“We believe in science. We believe in climate change.” These were statements that US Representative Katherine Clark opened with at a Green New Deal Town Hall last night in Framingham, MA. She and Senator Ed Markey spoke about the Green New Deal and took questions from the audience. Not all the questions were on topic, but it was clear from the standing-room only situation that people are anxious for a change of course in this country.
The theme of science was carried on by Markey. He made it clear that the Green New Deal is first and foremost rooted in science. Science published by our government agencies in the fall of 2018 (over Thanksgiving, with no fanfare from the White House of course) and by the IPCC around the same time, warning of catastrophic consequences (e.g. 10 feet of sea level rise by the end of the century) if we don’t take extreme action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. Markey also made it clear that the Green New Deal was also heavily influenced by FDR’s “Second Bill of Rights” (sometimes referred to as the “Economic Bill of Rights”) which speaks of economic equity for all. A goal of the Green New Deal is to provide jobs, opportunities to increase energy efficiency, and increase environmental quality for all. He provided concrete examples of how to get this work done, including paying for many of the programs by revoking the tax cuts for the super wealthy, which would bring in trillions of dollars. Of the tax cut he said “They didn’t need it. They didn’t deserve it.” So true. Our country has gone into a deficit again, in part due to these tax cuts. I don’t understand why people never remember this pattern: Republican presidents run up the deficit, Democratic presidents tend to end their terms with budget surpluses. But I digress.
One question from an audience member was “The House is passing lots of legislation (about climate change, etc) but that legislation doesn’t make it to the Senate floor for votes. What are you planning to do about this?” To which both Markey and Clark agreed that Mitch McConnell needs to be voted out of office in 2020. He has refused to bring any climate change (or gun control) legislation to a vote (and let’s not forget he refused to hold confirmation hearings for the Supreme Court at the end of Obama’s term...another digression). Markey had a long answer, including that the Democrats will “create a legislative graveyard to run against the Republicans in 2020.” Clark simply summed it up in this way “Ditch Mitch.” (If you want to help on that front, you could donate to the Democratic National Party or directly to McConnell’s opponent, a veteran fighter pilot, Amy McGrath.)
Another audience member noted that animal agriculture is a huge producer of greenhouse gases and one of the most environmentally destructive industries. (I was happy that she got a lot of applause; as you know, I feel that this issue needs much more attention.) She noted that if everyone went to a plant-based diet tomorrow, global warming would stop. Clark and Markey acknowledged the contribution but of course softened the message. Clark said just reducing your meat intake by 20% has a big impact and Markey mentioned the Impossible burger. I wish someone had referenced the recent IPCC report that indicated the benefits of a plant-based diet for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and feeding the world (see the summary in a BBC report).
Another audience member brought up a piece of legislation called “We the People” that will create an amendment to the Constitution that will overturn the Citizens United ruling by the Supreme Court which says that corporations are people and thus can contribute to political campaigns. Markey stated that this was one of the worst rulings in the history of our country. He promised that he would introduce the legislation in the Senate (it’s already in Committee in the House, Clark is a cosponsor). I recommend writing to your legislators to encourage them to support this amendment. Corporations lobby against environmental regulations so that they can make more money. They should not be able to buy the votes of politicians with campaign donations.
Overall, I was glad I went. I learned a lot about my legislators and was heartened to see so many people turn out to support climate change legislation. Now I know a bit more about the Green New Deal so that I can answer student questions about it. I also met some members of “Renewable Natick” who are doing great work on the local scale. Plus, there were some great sound bites:
“There are no emergency rooms for sick planets.” (Clark, quoting Markey)
“Don’t underestimate the power of your vote to change course. We have to change course on this issue.” (Clark)
“If he (Trump) wins, it’s a death sentence for the planet.” (Markey)
“We know the NRA holds the Republican party in a vise-like grip.” (Markey...a few times he digressed a bit to gun control issues, the crowd didn’t mind.)