Varshini Prakash of the Sunrise Movement on Climate Justice, the Green New Deal, and Revolution

“We didn’t ask to have the responsibility of protecting human civilization on our shoulders. But we’re stepping up to the plate.”

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Sunrise Movement co-founder Varshini Prakash addresses The Road to the Green New Deal Tour final event at Howard University on May 13, 2019. (AP Photo / Cliff Owen)

It was on a Sunday in March 2014 when I first heard Varshini Prakash fire up a crowd. Several hundred young people were crammed into a quadrangle on the Georgetown University campus, ready to march to the White House—where nearly 400 of them would be arrested protesting the Keystone XL and other tar-sands pipelines. A junior at UMass-Amherst at the time, organizing the (successful) fossil-fuel divestment campaign, Prakash, bullhorn in hand, had an emphatic message for Barack Obama and the Democratic Party.

“We don’t want half-baked solutions!” she declared with attention-getting intensity. “We can’t gamble with false promises! We won’t settle for an ‘all-of-the-above’ energy policy when what this looming crisis demands is a none-of-the-above approach to fossil fuels!”

By the fall of 2015, Prakash and a small group of experienced young climate-justice activists had reached the conclusion, correctly, that what they and most of the climate movement were doing wasn’t enough. They realized, as she told me when we sat down for a conversation at a Boston coffee shop in May, “We need a new movement in America for young people.”

What Prakash and her 11 co-founders went on to build is now known to the world as the Sunrise Movement. Last November, with a media-savvy, hundreds-strong sit-in at Nancy Pelosi’s office on Capitol Hill, they famously launched the fight for the game-changing Green New Deal—and reshaped the landscape of the 2020 election campaign. Thanks to their resilience and steely resolve, a carefully considered organizing strategy focused on electoral politics, some fortuitous timing, and the help of—among many other people—a rock-star rookie congresswoman named Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, they have injected an unprecedented urgency and seriousness into the climate debate in this country. MORE

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal: The Canadian Connection

How Naomi Klein and Avi Lewis are helping AOC reboot US politics.

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Echoes of the ‘Leap Manifesto’: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez addresses the Road to the Green New Deal Tour final event at Howard University in Washington, May 13, 2019. Photo by Cliff Owen, AP Photo.

Avi Lewis put the final touches on his script draft, hit send, and waited to find out if he’d be making history with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Lewis is the filmmaker and former CBC host who has collaborated on documentaries with his spouse Naomi Klein, famously the author of global bestsellers No LogoThe Shock Doctrine and This Changes Everything.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — or AOC as her many supporters call her — broke all the rules when she knocked off a powerful, 10-term Democratic member of Congress by running as a “democratic socialist” to win her Bronx and Queens seat.

At age 29, AOC was the big story on election night in November 2018 and still is, thanks to her deft use of social media and her bold policy proposals, notably the Green New Deal, her resolution to transition the American economy off fossil fuels by 2030 and guarantee a green job to anybody who wants one. When Klein proposed she be central to a short film about what could result, Ocasio-Cortez expressed interest.

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‘Our plan for a world and a future worth fighting for.’ Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez speaks May 13, 2019, at the wind-up town hall event of the Green New Deal tour organized by the Sunrise Movement. Other speakers included presidential candidate Bernie Sanders and Naomi Klein. Photo via Shutterstock

…several of the Canadian thinkers responsible for the Leap Manifesto, a 2015 plan to completely shift Canada away from fossil fuels by 2050, are now playing pivotal roles in shaping and promoting the U.S. Green New Deal. First and foremost: Naomi Klein and Avi Lewis.

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YOUNG PEOPLE ASK: IS OUR FUTURE WORTH LESS THAN THAT OF OTHER GENERATIONS?

“We can still, as a society, choose to comply with the Paris Agreement. If we don’t, the subtext is clear: our future, the future of Canada’s young people, is worth less than that of the other generations. I prefer to choose hope. “

On April 2, Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) tabled a report on Canada’s changing climate.

The effects of climate change can seem abstract and far off, but that is not the case in this country. Canada is already seeing its climate change. And according to the report, these changes are only unfortunately just beginning, and their effects will only become more pronounced over time.

The effects of climate change on Canada’s climate are irreversible, but we can still limit the amount of warming in order to avoid the most catastrophic effects. The report’s authors considered two scenarios: one where global emissions are kept below the 2°C temperature limit set by the Paris Agreement and the other one, the status quo.

Not considered in the report, was a scenario where the temperature increase would be limited to 1.5°C, the threshold for avoiding the most catastrophic effects of climate change.

The ECCC report indicates that regardless of the scenario, Canada will warm twice as fast as the global average, an increase that will be felt particularly during winter. Since 1948, Canada’s average annual temperature has already climbed by 1.7°C.

How can we justify this disconnect between our scientific knowledge on the future of the planet and the absence of political leadership needed to effect a true energy transition?

CANADA’S YOUTH DEMAND CONCRETE, IMMEDIATE ACTION ON THE CLIMATE

This is why youth are mobilizing, week after week. They are following Greta Thunberg’s lead by walking out of school on Fridays and marching in the streets to demand action on climate change. On March 15, 150,000 young people and their allies flooded the streets of Montreal, asking: “Why should study when our future is uncertain?”; and “Why bother with an education when governments don’t listen to educated people?”.

Climate change is not simply an environmental issue; it also involves social and intergenerational justice. While the threat of climate change is starting to be felt in many of our lives, some communities have been dealing with it for centuries. It is essential that this debate forces society to reflect on the disproportionate burden the exposure to environmental risks has imposed on marginalized communities, including Indigenous and racialized peoples. That is why intersectional approaches, like those in the Green New Deal (proposed by the Sunrise Movement, a grassroots political youth group, and championed in Congress by the youngest Congressperson in history, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez), are supported by a majority of millennial electors. MORE

Corporate America Is Terrified of the Green New Deal

As this article argues, a carbon tax allows polluters to continue to pollute as long as they pay up. It does not guarantee emission reductions. It does not put polluters out of business.

There’s a reason more big businesses are pushing for a carbon tax—and it’s not because they want to fight climate change.


Oli Scarff/Getty Images

There is a “major shift” afoot in corporate America on climate change, according to Axios. On Monday, energy reporter Amy Harder reported that major companies “across virtually all sectors of the economy, including big oil producers, are beginning to lobby Washington, D.C., to put a price on carbon dioxide emissions.” These companies, in other words, are asking the government to make them pay more in taxes in an effort to solve global warming.

It’s not as surprising as it sounds. For several years now, the heads of oil companies like Suncor and ExxonMobil and BP have been publicly calling for a carbon tax, in which the government would charge polluters for every ton of climate-warming gases they emit. They’re doing this because a carbon tax, as a market-based policy rather than a mandated regulation, is the most business-friendly solution being floated in Washington.

So why are corporations so passionate about a carbon? “It’s not really about saving the planet,” Harder noted. Indeed, in the face of growing public support for climate action, these companies increasingly realize they need to throw their weight behind some kind of climate policy. They want a carbon tax because it doesn’t threaten the industry’s very existence and allows them to keep polluting—so long as they pay for it.

But a carbon tax isn’t just corporate America’s favorite option; it’s the only option. The only serious mainstream alternative to a carbon tax is terrifying to corporations: an aggressive climate plan that doesn’t cooperate with polluters, but seeks to put them out of business.
A carbon tax does not appear in the Green New Deal—at least, not the version popularized by Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey. It doesn’t appear in Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke’s $5 trillion plan to fight global warming. Even Washington Governor Jay Inslee—who is running for president explicitly on climate change and who spent his career trying to enact a fee on carbon—doesn’t include a carbon tax in his $9 trillion climate jobs plan.
There are many reasons for the absence of a tax in these plans, but the main one appears to be that it doesn’t guarantee emissions reductions. Democrats are starting to realize that drastic action is necessary to prevent catastrophe, and a carbon tax simply isn’t drastic enough. MORE

AOC! AOC! Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Lays It On The Line For Green New Deal

The two videos below, one American, one Canadian, show why activism is so important now and  why so many environmental organizations are  organizing for a Green New Deal for Canada.  

Image result for alexandria ocasio-cortez sunrise movementAt a Sunrise Movement rally, on Monday, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez criticized “both sides” of the aisle for sidelining climate action. Photograph by Alex Wong / Getty

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez gave a fiery speech at an event sponsored by the Sunrise Movement on May 13. The symposium at Howard University marked the end of a 30-day campaign by the Sunrise Movement designed to educate voters across the nation about the Green New Deal proposed by AOC and Senator Edward Markey of Massachusetts.

Now folks, politicians give speeches all the time. Most of them are nothing more than hot air, filled with empty promises and blue sky blathering. The speakers know their promises will never be fulfilled. The audience knows the promises they are hearing are just sloganeering. We all wink and nod and pretend we are witnessing some historic peroration, knowing in our heart of hearts that it is all window dressing designed to obscure the real political wheeling and dealing that goes on in the background.

She pushes back hard against the namby pamby, go slow, middle of the road policies put forth by Joe Biden and clears the air about charges by Republicans that she seeks to make America a socialist country by reminding her audience that a strong nation, a proud nation, a great nation is one that tends to the needs of the poor and the powerless.

Some speeches leave a permanent mark on society. This speech by AOC may well stand the test of time. Please watch the entire video below. It is just over 11 minutes long and it may be the best speech of the 21st century so far.

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And if you need more convincing that Canadians face an urgent climate crisis, watch this video by Elizabeth May:

The road to a made-in-Canada Green New Deal

 


Green New Deal panel in Ottawa at Powershift Young & Rising, February 2019. Photo Credit: Allan Lissner

Popularized by the youth-led Sunrise movement in the United States, and by Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Green New Deal is a bold vision for tackling climate change and inequality at the same time.

The concept of a Green New Deal has been around for a while — former MP Megan Leslie called for one during a House of Commons debate back in 2009 — but recently, it’s been gaining momentum in Canada, especially after the Powershift Young and Rising gathering in Ottawa this past February. A youth convergence organized to skill up and build a stronger and more inclusive youth climate justice movement, Powershift made imagining Canada’s Green New Deal the focal point of a series of strategy sessions, workshops, and panels.

Since then, it’s steadily grown. Social movement leaders have laid out the broad strokes for Canada’s Green New Deal: ambitious action to address climate change, a focus on putting justice first by upholding the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous peoples, ensuring dignity for all, and creating millions of good jobs.

But bringing this idea to life will mean transformative policy change to completely retool the economy. And, in order for it to truly work for everyone, the vision for a Green New Deal must be built from the ground up.

Who decides what’s in a Green New Deal and what isn’t?

People from all walks of life, and every corner of the country, will be in the front seat when it comes to defining Canada’s Green New Deal.Starting this weekend, thousands of people will gather in community centers, church basements, and living rooms all across Canada to identify the kind of solutions that will allow our communities to thrive.

These town halls — almost 200 of them — will come in all shapes and sizes, and take place in urban and rural communities alike. Each one will help us ground-truth a Green New Deal for Canada from the bottom up. Input collected from town halls will help sharpen our shared vision of a Green New Deal, and we’ll use that vision to push politicians to take ambitious action. MORE

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SUNRISE MOVEMENT CALLS FOR MASS CLIMATE DEMONSTRATION OUTSIDE DEMOCRATIC DEBATE IN DETROIT

“I wish as a public servant I could tell you everything is going to be alright, but I can’t tell you that today, because I’m not interested in lying to you…frankly there is no reason for us to be comfortable right now.” – Alexandria  Ocasio-Cortez

Sunrise Movement co-founder Varshini Prakash addresses The Road to the Green New Deal Tour final event at Howard University in Washington, Monday, May 13, 2019. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)
Sunrise Movement co-founder Varshini Prakash speaks during The Road to the Green New Deal Tour event at Howard University in Washington, D.C., on May 13, 2019. Photo: Cliff Owen/AP

ON MONDAY NIGHT, at the final stop on the Sunrise Movement’s “Road to a Green New Deal” tour across the United States, the group called for a mass youth-led mobilization to pressure Democratic candidates to make the 2020 election a referendum on climate change. On July 30, the scheduled date for the the second Democratic presidential debate, Sunrise hopes to bring tens of thousands of young people to Detroit to present all the Democratic contenders with three demands:

  • Sign the no fossil fuel money pledge.
  • Commit to making the Green New Deal a day one priority if elected president.
  • Pledge support for a presidential debate on climate change so voters can hear where candidates stand on the issues.

Sunrise co-founder Varshini Prakash called it the “largest action our movement has organized to date for the Green New Deal.” Monday night’s event came exactly six months since Sunrise activists staged a protest in the office of soon-to-be-Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office, joined by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who had yet to be sworn in to Congress.

Some 1,500 people turned up for the sold-out event in the Cramton Auditorium at Howard University to hear Ocasio-Cortez, Sens. Bernie Sanders and Ed Markey, policy writer Rhiana Gunn-Wright, and Intercept columnist Naomi Klein, among others. The event came just one week after a landmark UN report concluded that at least a million species are at risk of extinction due to human activity, and just days after carbon dioxide levels were recorded at the highest levels ever in human history.  MORE

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Vancouver climate strike organizer Rebecca Hamilton says students are coming together to fight for their lives

The Guardian view on a Green New Deal: we need it now

” Ms Ocasio-Cortez rightly sees parallels with the response to the 1930s crisis where President Roosevelt dispensed with economic orthodoxy and tamed Big Finance. He created a New Deal jobs programme that employed millions, oversaw a massive expansion of government and remade the US industrial base.” – Guardian editorial

Policymakers ought not wait for economic theory to catch up with the environmental crisis


Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has spelled out what a Green New Deal involves in a House resolution: rejecting economic orthodoxy to confront climate change.’ Photograph: Leah Millis/Reuters

The Green New Deal is probably the most fashionable policy in the English-speaking world. In Britain it is advocated by both Tory MPs and Jeremy Corbyn; while a non-partisan Canadian coalition of nearly 70 groups are backing such a scheme. However, it has been made flesh by US Democrats, in particular the political phenomenon in the US House of Representatives, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Ms Ocasio-Cortez has spelled out what a Green New Deal involves in a House resolution: rejecting economic orthodoxy to confront climate change. She ought to be congratulated twice over.

At present the thinking is for governments to tackle global warming by including the social cost of carbon in the prices people pay, either through a carbon tax or a system of tradable carbon-emission permits. Such ideas have a role to play in changing the way societies consume and produce energy, but they are only moving us incrementally – if at all – towards sustainability. Global emissions of carbon dioxide are higher than they have ever been, almost three decades after the first global conference aimed at reducing them. The situation is becoming dangerous for human life. The latest figures show there is little more than a decade to save ourselves and the other creatures with whom we share the planet. To do so we must decouple economic activity from carbon emissions and ecological destruction.

Young People and Climate Change: Why it’s our Time to Take the Reins

“If the environment is being degraded so that with passing time it produces and supports less, then that impoverishes future generations. It means that the current generation is essentially stealing from the next.” Just as we have issues of justice (or more likely lack thereof) between classes, genders, races, countries – we also have justice between generations–intergenerational justice.


We live at a crossroads in history.

Decades have passed, and people are still saying the same thing. In the 70’s, environmentalists in the baby boomer generation wanted to protect the planet for their grandchildren.

Almost five decades later, and those grandchildren they were talking about had time to be born and grow up, and they’re us.

Carbon dioxide, the most common greenhouse gas responsible for causing climate change via the greenhouse effect, can hang around in the atmosphere for 100 years or more once it gets up there.

This fact of chemistry is what drives the entire issue of intergenerational justice when it comes to climate change.

The last few months of 2018 and early 2019 have seen historic levels of climate activism and public attention. Something seems to have finally shifted.

One of the most inspiring things in the climate space right now is the explosion of youth-led climate activism. From Extinction Rebellion that was recently holding mass protests in London to the Sunrise Movement and the Green New Deal to the School Strikes for Climate movement – it’s in the air.

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School Strike for Climate march, Melbourne, 30th November 2018. By julian meehan on Flickr, Creative Commons license.

And it’s having an effect. The UK Parliament recently became the first in the world to declare a climate emergency.

Across the pond in the US, it’s also the young people that are pushing the climate movement forward.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the youngest woman to be elected to Congress, is making waves by pushing the Green New Deal – an ambitious policy package for transitioning the US to a net-zero economy through a ‘just transition’, investing in infrastructure, jobs and marginalised communities.

This bold proposal – which would have been totally unthinkable just a couple of years ago – is now being pushed right into the mainstream at an astonishing rate. MORE