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.

Not long after Lewis sent off his try at a script, he received a call from AOC.

“One day my phone rang,” Lewis tells The Tyee, “and it was a Facetime with her communications director and I answered it and all of a sudden I was in her office with her.” The final product, released in April, was a video called A Message from the Future, meant to win public support for a Green New Deal.

Though AOC has been in Congress less than a year, her gigantic social media following helps make her one of Washington’s most influential politicians. These days, during any given news cycle, major Democratic contenders for president say that they support her Green New Deal vision in principle. Prominent Republicans scramble to offer their own plans in response. Global temperature rise, for the first time, is a defining issue of a U.S. presidential election primary.

Less known is how Lewis and Klein contributed to this moment, driven by last October’s dire report from the United Nations, which calculates we must roughly halve global emissions by 2030 to preserve any kind of climate resembling normal. “The stakes are incredibly high,” says Lewis.

Fox News is one media outlet to zero in the Canadian connection — albeit with its own torque. Justin Haskins argues in an opinion piece on Fox’s website that “there is strong evidence to suggest that much of the draft text of Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal is merely a revised version of the ‘Leap Manifesto,’ a socialist green-energy plan pushed by far-left environmentalists in Canada.”

Haskins, who is the executive editor and a research fellow at the Heartland Institute, an Illinois-based think tank that questions whether humans are causing climate change, is not totally out to lunch. His piece fails to mention that the term “Green New Deal” was first used by Thomas Friedman in 2007; that the idea of a Second World War-style mobilization to fight climate change was described as early as 2009 by Bolivia’s Angelica Navarro Llanos in a speech to the United Nations; or that the movement for a Green New Deal properly began when young activists with the U.S.-based Sunrise Movement occupied Nancy Pelosi’s office after the 2018 U.S. midterms.

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Avi Lewis and Naomi Klein at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival for the debut of This Changes Everything, an award-winning documentary Lewis adapted from Klein’s bestseller of the same name on how climate change demands a new political economy. Photo by Aaron Vincent Elkaim, Canadian Press. 

But Haskins is correct that 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.

The Canadian power couple have “been pushing far-left environmental policies in the United States for quite some time,” the Fox News contributor wrote in an email to The Tyee. “Although Lewis, Klein, Bill McKibben and others aren’t household names, they are incredibly influential in eco-socialist circles, and it appears that their fame and influence are growing in the United States in the wake of the rise of politicians like Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.”

The clearest example of Lewis and Klein’s impact on the U.S. climate debate is A Message from the Future, which quickly went viral. In it, Ocasio-Cortez describes what U.S. society could be like if the ambitions of the Green New Deal were ever fully realized. The idea for the video came out of a conversation last December between Klein and Molly Crabapple, an illustrator, writer and filmmaker.

“The question was: How do we tell the story of something that hasn’t happened yet?” Klein recounted on the Intercept, where she is a columnist. “We realized that the biggest obstacle to the kind of transformative change the Green New Deal envisions is overcoming the skepticism that humanity could ever pull off something at this scale and speed.”

She and Crabapple discussed creating a short film that could “help win the battle for hearts and minds that will determine whether [the Green New Deal] has a fighting chance in the first place.”

Around that time the Intercept ran a widely-read piece by journalist Kate Aronoff describing in vaguely utopian prose the life of a young woman named Gena in the hypothetical Green New Deal world of the year 2043.

“Crabapple and I decided that the film could do something similar to Aronoff’s piece, but this time from Ocasio-Cortez’s vantage point,” Klein wrote. “It would show the world after the Green New Deal she was championing had become a reality.”

The Intercept said it would produce the film. Ocasio-Cortez agreed to narrate. And Lewis was brought on to write the script with AOC. To Lewis it was an exciting and daunting opportunity. “My co-writer was literally one of the most famous people in the political world,” he told The Tyee.

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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.

The goal was to have the film done for April, so that it could debut in Boston for the first stop of a U.S. tour promoting the Green New Deal that was being planned by the Sunrise Movement. Taking a cue from Aronoff’s Intercept piece, Lewis focused his first draft mainly on the generous social programs and environmental progress that Americans in the future might see under a Green New Deal. “It was a totally different creative muscle than I’ve ever exercised,” he says.

Lewis sent the draft off to Ocasio-Cortez. Then came the Facetime phone call. She liked the draft but thought it needed work. “‘We have to do not just the vision of the future,’” Lewis recalls her saying. “‘We have to do the past, how we got here, the present, the fork in the road, the deciding point that we’re in now.’”

A few weeks later her communications director texted Lewis a photo — it was a printout of his script with Ocasio-Cortez’s comments in handwriting. “Over the next couple months I got like line-by-line edits from her as photographs,” he said.

The hard work seemed to pay off. “By the time I met her in Washington, D.C., at the Intercept’s studio, it was her words,” Lewis said. “I was really pleased when we recorded the narration. She was able to locate a more internal and reflective tone.”

This was crucial for the narrative of the film, Lewis explained, “because the whole thing really does take place in her head.”

The video debuted on the Intercept on April 17. That morning, Ocasio-Cortez shared A Message from the Future on her Twitter account. “Climate change is here + we’ve got a deadline: 12 years left to cut emissions in half. A #GreenNewDeal is our plan for a world and a future worth fighting for. How did we get here? What is at stake? And where are we going? Please watch & share widely,” she wrote.

The post now has more than 96,000 likes and the video has been viewed 6.7 million times.

With those views came national media coverage. “AOC sends a stark climate message from the future,” reported Mashable. TeenVogue described it as a “powerful video offering a vision of a Green New Deal future.” Outlets like the Washington Post, Fox News, Huffington Post, the Hill and the Washington Examiner offered takes. Slate reached out to futurist Amy Webb to dissect it.

Meanwhile the Sunrise Movement took it on the road during an eight-city tour attempting to make the Green New Deal a top priority in the 2020 election. “At most of the tour stops across the country we were showing the video,” said Stephen O’Hanlon, a Sunrise spokesperson. At the final sold-out tour stop in Washington, D.C., 1,500 people squeezed into the Cramton Auditorium at Howard University.

Among the speakers that night were Ocasio-Cortez, Democratic senator Ed Markey and Bernie Sanders. Klein also spoke. Varshini Prakash, the executive director of the Sunrise Movement, introduced the Canadian author as “a personal hero of mine.”

Klein told the crowd, “We have all been raised in a culture bombarded with messages that there is no alternative to the crappy reality we have today.” She added, “If we’re going to win a Green New Deal we’re going to have to start telling different stories about who we are and about the kinds of futures that are within our grasp.”

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Naomi Klein (seated) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are throwing open the window of expectations people have about what can be done, says Avi Lewis. ‘Of course, turning this stuff into concrete action is the epic work of many lifetimes.’ Photo via Shutterstock. 

For years, right-wing politicians in Canada and their fossil fuel industry backers have been obsessed with the fact that some environmental groups have received a portion of their funding from U.S. sources. Fox news contributor Haskins frets about the “grave threat” that “radical environmentalism” poses “to individual liberty.”

Lewis argues that the true threat to our freedom is an economic system that’s destabilizing the foundation for all life on Earth. “I think we’re all carrying a huge amount of climate grief and fear about what we know we’re doing to our only home.”

Some viewers of A Message from the Future told Lewis they cried while watching the video. “It’s just so interesting psychologically and such an important clue for activists that hearing more bad news and watching walruses hurl themselves off cliffs on Netflix — that somehow doesn’t move us the same way as letting ourselves actually having a brief flicker of hope that we could do something about it,” he says. “That seems to open the floodgates of our repressed grief and emotion.”

Lewis marvels at the speed of the political changes he’s witnessed and participated in over the past several months. The Overton window is the name given to the range of views taken seriously in public discussion. When it comes to climate change solutions, Lewis says, “I’ve been thinking that the Overton window hasn’t been cracked open, it’s been knocked off its freaking hinges, in terms of permissible political speech.” He pauses and adds, “Of course, turning this stuff into concrete action is the epic work of many lifetimes.”

We don’t have lifetimes. If we’re not able to achieve the unprecedented emissions cuts called for by the United Nations, we could be locking ourselves into global catastrophe — the implications of failing are unthinkable. You don’t have to tell Avi Lewis. “It’s got to happen,” he says, “in 10 years.”  SOURCE

Where Is the Green New Deal Headed in 2020?

Details are emerging for what this ‘moon shot’ federal program merging climate, jobs and economic security might look like. It’s a powerful force already.

Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez announce legislation to transform public housing as part of their Green New Deal plan. Credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez announced legislation in November to transform public housing. It’s one part of a Green New Deal proposal that, after a year of promotion by activists, is now starting to take shape. Credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

To appreciate the power of the Green New Dealthe mobilization effort for clean energy and jobs that burst into the national conversation last yearlook at how forcefully the opponents of climate action moved to quash it.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky arranged a byzantine floor vote aimed at killing the concept soon after the non-binding Green New Deal resolution was introduced.

Fox News anchors aired more than twice as many prime-time segments on the Green New Deal as rivals MSNBC and CNN combined last spring. And in California, the state’s most powerful blue-collar union (which has a policy alliance with the oil industry) staged anti-Green New Deal protests at the state’s Democratic Party convention last summer.

But the Green New Deal survived the battering to become an animating force in climate politics, with its advocates determined to make it the most important touchstone of the 2020 election.

For Democrats, support for the Green New Deal has become a central tenet. Nearly every major Democratic presidential candidate has endorsed it in some formeven moderates like Joe BidenPete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar who are reluctant to give a fulsome embrace to the rapid phase-out of fossil fuels. All Democratic presidential contenders now have goals aligned with the science to bring fossil fuel emissions to net zero by mid-century, far beyond the ambition of the Obama administration.

“Our top priority for [2020] is building the multiracial, cross-class youth movement that we need to elect leaders who will champion the Green New Deal,” Stephen O’Hanlon, spokesperson for the Sunrise Movement, said in an email. The youth-led advocacy group helped catapult the Green New Deal into the national discussion on climate with a sit-in outside the office of then-House Speaker-in-Waiting Nancy Pelosi right after the 2018 midterm election.

Public opinion on the Green New Deal has become politically polarized, with Democrats overwhelmingly in favor and Republicans opposed. But O’Hanlon said it is significant that polling shows it is popular among swing voters in pivotal states.

“Any candidate for office who wants to win the youth vote in 2020 should back it,” O’Hanlon said.

Easier to Get Excited About than Carbon Taxes

The Green New Deal, at its core, is a marriage of two policy goals: getting greenhouse gas emissions to net zero and creating jobs and economic security for all. In a sense, it is an extension of the idea, dating back to the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio, that climate action must be bound up in the drive for poverty reduction and economic justice.

But charismatic leaders like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) have helped supercharge the concept for American appealcalling for a 10-year mobilization akin to the moon shot, the industrial buildup for World War II, and of course, FDR’s New Deal.

What has it meant to the climate movement? “In one word, ‘hope,'” said RL Miller, founder of Climate Hawks Vote. It has allowed the discussion to move beyond “the only solution that had been on the horizon” taxing carbonwhich Miller said has divided climate activists “into ‘Team Have To’ and ‘Team Don’t Want To.'”

“Frankly, nobody has ever been excited about waking up in the morning and thinking, ‘I’m going to be taxed for carbon!’ What the Green New Deal has done is broken through that, with something you can genuinely get excited about,” Miller said.

It’s not just changing Democratic politics at the national level. Democrats in Virginia flipped the state legislature in 2019, with the help of candidates running on Green New Deal pledges. Seattle has begun to lay out an ambitious Green New Deal plan that includes free public transit, and the U.S. Conference of Mayors has endorsed the idea. And this past November, California’s Democratic Party shook off concern about losing labor support and voted to make the Green New Deal part of its platform.

Conservatives Made the GND a Target

It’s hard to imagine now, but only a year ago, the appeal of the Green New Deal crossed party lines. Support splintered after conservatives, amplified by Fox News, took it on as a bete noire.

In December 2018, soon after the Sunrise sit-in, 81 percent of registered voters, including 64 percent of all Republicans, were in favor of a Green New Deal, according to researchers at the Yale Program on Climate Communication. But by April 2019, support among Republicans had dropped 20 percent. It fell even more among those who identified themselves as conservative.

“Fox News viewing was a significant predictor of both familiarity with the GND and opposition to it, even when controlling for alternative explanations,” the research team wrote in Nature Climate Change.

Conservative and fossil fuel industry-funded think tanks, such as the Texas Public Policy Foundation and the American Action Forum, claimed that the Green New Deal would trigger economic devastation, even though details of the plan have yet to be fleshed out.

Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.) encapsulated Republicans’ critique in the competing nonbinding resolution he introduced. The Green New Deal “is simply a thinly veiled attempt to usher in policies that create a socialist society in America, and is impossible to fully implement,” his resolution said.

Details Are Starting to Surface

Green New Deal advocates have begun putting together the policy nuts and bolts to bring their vision to life.

Ocasio-Cortez and her political mentor, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), unveiled a bill in November that would invest $180 billion over 10 years to retrofit the U.S. public housing stock with renewable energy and efficiency upgrades. The Green New Deal is also central to Sanders’ presidential platform, which calls for investing $16.3 trillionmore than any other candidate has proposedin a 10-year program that he says “factors climate change into virtually every area of policy.”

Sanders is just one of the longtime U.S. climate advocates who have shifted from talking about carbon taxes to talking Green New Deal as the path to addressing the climate crisis. That’s not to say that a carbon tax is off the tableindeed, it would be an obvious source of revenue to fund the massive government spending that the Green New Deal envisions, and at the same time send a price signal to consumers and investors to propel the clean energy transition. But Sanders has also talked about wealth taxes to help fund his program, while Ocasio-Cortez has argued against the idea that a dedicated revenue source should be required for a government investment that will pay back dividends.

Charles Komanoff, co-founder of the Carbon Tax Center, who also is making the shift in his advocacy to the Green New Deal, says there’s another reason to do so: a carbon tax is no longer enough. “Now, the situation, in my view, is so exigent, that more than just a carbon taxeven a robustly rising oneis needed.”

Komanoff still thinks that the price signal of a carbon tax would be helpful, but that it should be a secondary goal.

“You can count me and the Carbon Tax Center in as adhering to the Green New Deal paradigmthat we need a massive federally guided shift in investment and infrastructure that will jump-start the project of eliminating fossil fuels,” he said. “And I am quite ready, not with teeth clenched, but in a welcoming way, to have the carbon tax be a subsidiary to the larger project of the Green New Deal.” SOURCE

Forged in Fire: California’s Lessons for a Green New Deal

FILE - In this Nov. 8, 2018 file photo, flames climb trees as the Camp Fire tears through Paradise, Calif. A federal hazard tree-removal program will remove destroyed trees from last year's deadly Camp Fire that remain on private property and could fall on public roads and facilities. But the Chico Enterprise-Record reports that the Federal Emergency Management Agency program will not take down trees that could fall on homes. Some arborists have estimated there are half a million to a million burned trees remaining from the fire that wiped out 14,000 homes and killed 85 last November. (AP Photo/Noah Berger, File)

Flames climb trees as the Camp Fire tears through Paradise, Calif., on Nov. 8, 2018. Photo: Noah Berger/AP

WE WERE JUST TAKING PICTURES. Of the ash, stray bricks, and weeds. Of twisted metal and charred patio furniture. Of the pine trees still standing on the edge of the lots, their towering trunks now charcoal black. Of the lonely white brick fireplace in the middle of it all, the only surviving structure, metal pokers hanging expectantly by the grate.

“Get the hell off my property!”

The words came bellowing from a burly man who had just pulled up to the pile of ash that once was his home in Paradise, California. As he shouted a litany of complaints, it became clear that his rage wasn’t only reserved for us trespassers — and there have been plenty who have gone to Paradise to gaze at the eerie emptiness where a thriving community once stood, before it was decimated by California’s deadliest fire one year ago.

The target was myriad forces that had conspired to twist the knife, again and again, on his already wrenching property loss — from the insurance company that wouldn’t pay up, to the county that wouldn’t let him clean up, to the state that wanted his (now contaminated) well to be sealed up. His rage was also directed at the absence of decent temporary housing for fire victims like him, not to mention the electric utility that had started the blaze and was still evading responsibility.

When the complaints petered out, I approached the man to introduce myself and apologize for our intrusion. But as I got closer, I felt his volatility: I have been in many disaster-struck communities and know how quickly the gale-force of emotion these events churn up can direct itself at the closest available target. We wished him luck and left.

The encounter was a reminder of the kind of stress that is in the air in the parts of California recently scorched by fire, as well as in the communities that have welcomed thousands of newly homeless neighbors to towns now bursting at the seams. The intersecting hardships experienced by so many in the region also explain why, days before the one-year anniversary of the deadly Camp Fire that burned down Paradise and killed 86 people, local politicians in neighboring Chico unveiled a plan calling for the small city to adopt its own Green New Deal.

Like its national inspiration, the Chico Green New Deal framework marries rapid decarbonization targets with calls for more affordable housing; a safe and sustainable food system; investments in “clean, 21st century” public transit; green jobs creation, including projects earmarked for the poorest residents; and much more.

Chico shows that there is no way to cope with climate breakdown without a simultaneous shift to a very different kind of economy.

“Your city council has heard the call of its community that has resounded locally and across the nation,” said Chico Vice Mayor Alex Brown when the plan was announced. “We are choosing to walk the walk of this movement and to take the leadership being demanded of us.” In an interview, Brown told me that the Camp Fire’s impact on both Paradise and Chico was a glimpse of the future unless action is taken to both radically lower emissions and build “communities that are more resilient to these shifts.” Brown is well aware that a small city like hers isn’t going to make much of a dent in global emissions. But, she said, “We can demonstrate what a Green New Deal looks like at the local level.

The Chico plan is one of many similar local initiatives that have sprung up in the year since the Sunrise Movement occupied the office of then-prospective House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, with young demonstrators demanding that the Democratic Party embrace a sweeping Green New Deal to meet the twin crises of climate disruption and deepening inequality. Since then, as the Green New Deal proposal has picked up momentum in the Democratic primaries, several states and big cities have unveiled their own frameworks, including Maine and Seattle, where city council recently passed a resolution that included the city’s most ambitious climate justice targets to date. It also pledged to create an oversight board to hold the city to its commitments, a body that will be made up of representatives from communities directly impacted by racial, economic, and environmental injustice, as well as climate experts and representatives from trade unions and green groups.

And yet the contribution now coming from humble Chico — a scrappy northern California college town with a population of approximately 100,000 — may be the most politically significant. Because the Chico Green New Deal is based directly on this region’s hard-won experience of living through the 2018 inferno; it was forged, quite literally, in fire.

Ever since the Green New Deal landed on the political map, liberals have attacked it for its supposedly impractical scope and ambition. Fighting poverty, racism, and homelessness are worthy goals, we have been told — but what do they have to do with lowering greenhouse gas emissions? Surely a carbon-centric approach — like a simple tax or cap-and-trade and some narrow regulations on polluters — would be more likely to succeed. And besides, connecting greenhouse-gas reductions with building a fairer society just confirms Republican beliefs that climate change is a vast left-wing plot: Better to focus exclusively on pollution and worry about the rest down the road. Conservative Chico city council members have gone on the offensive against the Green New Deal with precisely this kind of attack.

PARADISE, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 21: An aerial view of a neighborhood destroyed by the Camp Fire October 21, 2019 in Paradise, California. It has been one year since the the Camp Fire ripped through the town of Paradise, California charring over 150,000 acres, killed 85 people and destroyed over 18,000 homes and businesses. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

An aerial view of a destroyed neighborhood in Paradise, Calif., on Oct. 21, 2019, one year after the Camp Fire. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Yet Chico’s lived experience over the past year is a devastating rebuke to this line of criticism. As the community that housed the vast majority of people displaced by the Camp Fire, Chico shows that there is no way to cope with climate breakdown without a simultaneous shift to a very different kind of economy, one that is willing to make major nonmarket investments in housing, transit, health (including mental health), water, electricity, and more. MORE

Naomi Klein and Youth Environmental Leaders to Join Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez in Iowa for Climate Crisis Summit

“We’ve never seen something like this in U.S. history. In 2020, Green New Deal voters could determine who wins the Iowa caucuses, and from there the presidency.”


“The climate crisis is an international challenge and we are ready to take it on with a Green New Deal,” Sen. Bernie Sanders, a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, tweeted Monday. (Photo: Bernie Sanders/Twitter)

Author and environmentalist Naomi Klein, U.S. Youth Climate Strike co-founder Isra Hirsi, and Sunrise Movement leader Zina Precht-Rodriguez are among those slated to join Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in Iowa on Saturday for a “Climate Crisis Summit” focused on the urgent need for a Green New Deal.

“The climate crisis is an international challenge and we are ready to take it on with a Green New Deal,” Sanders, a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, said Monday in a tweet promoting the summit, which is set to take place at Drake University in Des Moines
.

The event, as Vox reported Monday, is part of the Sanders campaign’s push to win the Feb. 3 Iowa caucuses with an ambitious climate message and policy platform. In August, Sanders unveiled a sweeping Green New Deal proposal calling for a 10-year mobilization to transition the U.S. economy to 100 percent renewable energy while creating 20 million decent-paying union jobs in the process.

“Sen. Bernie Sanders wants to be the new climate candidate of the 2020 presidential race—and his campaign is betting it can win them Iowa,” Vox reported Monday.

The youth-led Sunrise Movement tweeted in response to Vox‘s story that the country has “never seen something like this.”

“In 2020, Green New Deal voters could determine who wins the Iowa caucuses, and from there the presidency,” the group said.

The Sanders campaign said in a statement that the summit on Saturday “is set to be one of the largest gatherings in Iowa to confront climate change.” The event will feature national climate leaders like Hirsi and Precht-Rodriguez as well as local Iowa activists.

“Sen. Sanders probably has the most intensive climate plan on the circuit right now,” Hirsi told Vox. “I think a lot of young people are hearing Sanders’ message and waking up.”

“The climate crisis is everything,” Hirsi added. “It’s healthcare, it’s racial justice, it’s criminal justice—everything. It’s our lives on the line; lives are already being lost because of it.”

The day after the Climate Crisis Summit, Sanders plans to go on a “Green Jobs Tour” across Iowa’s conservative fourth congressional district.

Bill Neidhardt, the Sanders campaign’s deputy state director in Iowa, predicted the Vermont senator’s bold climate message will have broad appeal among Iowa voters.

“Climate is typically seen as an issue for young voters but we reject the notion that climate only engages young voters,” Neidhardt told Vox. “We think a strong focus on climate, especially on the economic issues, can really turn the tide.” SOURCE

RELATED:

Sanders, Ocasio-Cortez at ‘Climate Crisis’ summit

Activist Naomi Klein talks global climate justice imperative

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Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

When Naomi Klein looks at the world today, she sees flames. There are three “fires” that the global community is facing, she told an audience at Richardson Auditorium on Tuesday, and they are increasingly converging.

Klein gave introductory remarks before speaking with Assistant Professor of African American Studies Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor about Klein’s new book, “On Fire: The (Burning) Case for a Green New Deal.” She is a Canadian journalist and activist widely known for her biting indictments of capitalism and globalization.

The first “fire” that Klein identified is the central concern of her book: climate change.

She cited the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 2018 report, which laid out both a plan and a deadline for global leaders to stave off climate chaos. The plan, Klein said, was an “‘unprecedented transformation in virtually every aspect of society,’ in energy, in agriculture, in transportation, in building construction.” The deadline was twelve years, now down to eleven — what Klein described as a “very, very, very short window.”

“Any of us who focus even tangentially on what we’re hearing from climate scientists knows that what we do or don’t do in the next handful of years will determine the lives and fates of hundreds of millions of people,” Klein said.

The second “fire,” Klein said, is a political one.

She pointed to the ascendancy of populist leaders in the U.S., Brazil, the Philippines, India, Australia, and Russia. In each of these countries, Klein said, politicians are defining national in-groups against a “sharply defined out-group, inside the respective countries and outside, on the borders … the illegal, the illegitimate, the frightening other.”

And these two fires — the “political and the planetary” — are linked, Klein added.

“I think they are feeding each other,” she told the audience. “I don’t think it’s a coincidence that at the very moment when the reality of climate breakdown ceases to be some future, abstract threat off in the indeterminate distance and becomes a lived reality, that at this very moment we have the global phenomenon of the rise of these strongmen figures, riling up hatred, turning populations against each other, using this fear and sense of scarcity.”

Politicians like President Donald Trump and President of Brazil Jair Bolsonaro are facilitating rather than fighting climate change, Klein said, from relaxed environmental regulation in the United States to wildfires rippling across the Amazon. Meanwhile, climate events are having the most devastating impact in other countries, those without the infrastructure and resources to adequately deal with them.

Klein argued that this imbalance has “created the cruel irony that the very people who are forced to move first are the people who did the least to create this crisis.”

“They deserve not just asylum but an apology,” she added.

Rather than asylum and apologies, however, Klein claimed that powerful countries are responding to climate change with a model of economic development that profits off of climate refugees. She traced the origin of this model from the “Island Solution” in Australia to criminalization of migrants in the E.U. to the treatment of immigrants at the U.S. border.

The result, Klein asserted, is “climate barbarism,” a me-first response to climate change that entails cutting down on foreign aid and funneling money into the containment of climate refugees.

But there is an important alternative, she argued, to the policies of climate barbarism, and it lies in the “third fire”: the global climate justice movement.

This fire is being stoked by Greta Thunberg and the Sunrise Movement, and it is proliferating, Klein stated, gaining followers in an exponential and unprecedented fashion. In September, over seven million people took to the streets in worldwide climate strikes.

“There is incredible urgency in the fires that have been lit in this coming generation, and they’re trying to light fires in the generation that came before them,” Klein said.

Klein also emphasized that the global climate movement needs to be intersectional in order to match the demands of “intersecting crises” in political, economic, and social realms. In this sense, the radical scope of these crises presents an opportunity for a radical re-envisioning of society’s most basic yet problematic structures — a central argument in her book.

“It’s going to take an all-out war on pollution and poverty and racism and colonialism and despair, all at the same time,” Klein read from the introduction to her book.

In conversation with Klein, Assistant Professor Taylor asked what factors have contributed to the sudden, rapid visibility of the climate movement, particularly in the United States. Klein said that the lived experience of climate change — hotter, longer summers; wildfires in California — are helping to bring urgency to the movement, along with publicized scientific reports and collective action.

Klein and Taylor also discussed the role that climate policies are playing in the 2020 election. Klein critiqued Senator Elizabeth Warren’s recent interpretation of climate change as an issue of political corruption, emphasizing instead that it is inextricably linked to capitalism. She also said that Senator Bernie Sanders’ “Green New Deal” proposal is the most internationally focused.

But across the slate of Democratic candidates, the unprecedented attention given to climate policy indicates an “absolute sea change” in the way we are approaching the climate crisis, Klein emphasized.

“Just a few months ago we were talking about whether we can get Republicans on board for a revenue neutral carbon tax,” she said. “This really is a shift.” MORE

Welcome to the US, Greta. With your help we can save the planet and ourselves

Even in such a divided and troubled country, there is hope. Between us we can beat the climate destroyers

Dear Greta,

Thank you for travelling across the Atlantic to north America to help us do the most important work in the world. There are those of us who welcome you and those who do not because you have landed in two places, a place being born and a place dying, noisily, violently, with as much damage as possible.

It has always been two places, since the earliest Europeans arrived in places where Native people already lived, and pretended they were new and gave them the wrong names. You can tell the history of the United States – which are not very united now – as the history of Sojourner Truth, the heroine who helped liberate the enslaved, as that of the slaveowners and defenders of slavery, as a place of visionary environmental voices such as Rachel Carson and the corporate powers and profiteers she fought and exposed.

Right now the US is the country of Donald Trump and of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, of climate destroyers and climate protectors. Sometimes the Truths and the Carsons have won. I believe it is more than possible for Ocasio-Cortez and the Green New Deal to win, for the spirit of generosity and inclusion and the protection of nature to win – but that depends on what we do now. Which is why I’m so grateful that you have arrived to galvanize us with your clarity of vision and passionate commitment. 

Not long ago I talked to a powerful climate organizer who began her work when she was only a little older than you, and she told me that her hope right now is that people recognize that this is a moment of great possibility, of openings and momentum, and a growing alarm and commitment to what the changing climate requires of us. Something has changed, thanks to you and to the young people who have brought new urgency and vision to the climate movement. Many people have become concerned and awake for the first time, and the conversation we need to have is opening up. People are ready for change, or some of us are. This is what’s being born in the US and around the world: not only new energy systems, but new social systems with more room for the voices of those who are not white or male or straight or neurotypical.

The old energy system was about centralized control and the malevolent power of Gazprom and BP, Shell and Chevron, and the governments warped into serving them rather than humanity. The new system must not only be about localized energy, but democratized decision-making, about the rights of nature and the rights of the vulnerable and the future, over profit.

Some of this is already here: not only the larger groups you’re surely heard of – the Sunrise Movement350.org, the Sierra ClubRainforest Action Network – but countless local and tribal groups that have arisen to stop this pipeline or that coal port or these fracking projects, to protect this forest or this mountain or these waters. They are not visible the way the United Nations or the US Congress or European Union is, but their work matters, and perhaps we will build a lot of this transition out from below – but we need the big policy agendas set from above as well.

Everywhere I see remarkable things happening. No matter how much you see of this big country, this huge continent, there is more than you can see. I hope you have a chance to see some of the beauty of the American landscapes, from rainforests to deserts; there is also beauty in the passionate commitment around the country. Coalminers in Kentucky have been blocking a coal train track for a month, because their bankrupt company stiffed them on wages, and coalminers elsewhere recently spoke to this newspaper about their clarity that coal is over and that the Green New Deal and its jobs are welcome. The gigantic coal-burning, sky-polluting Navajo Generating Station in Arizona will shut down later this year, and, Scientific American reported, “Its average annual emissions over that period are roughly equivalent to what 3.3 million passenger cars would pump into the atmosphere in a single year. The Navajo Generating Station isn’t alone. It’s among a new wave of super-polluters headed for the scrap heap,” including giant plants in Kentucky and Pennsylvania.” Last year, US coal plants with annual emissions of 83 million tonnes of carbon were shut down.

Several states – California, New York, Hawaii, New Mexico – have made commitments to 100% renewable electricity in the near future, and while the federal government tries to push us backward, many states lean forward. This summer Texas began to get more energy from wind than from coal. Iowa in the midwest now gets 37% of its electricity from wind, not because of idealism alone, but pragmatism: wind is cheaper. Science magazine reported last month, “Solar plus batteries is now cheaper than fossil power,” and a Connecticut newspaper recently announced that Chubb, the largest commercial insurer in the USA, will stop insuring coal plants and coal mining.

Worldwide, we are in the midst of an energy revolution that dwarfs the industrial revolution: human beings will for the first time not use fire, will not release carbon into the sky, to get most of our energy. We will inevitably transition away from fossil fuels as a primary energy source, and the question is only when. If we do it swiftly, we minimize damage to the climate; if we wait, we maximize it. The damage is here, and it’s not only destroying nature, it’s killing us. When the California town of Paradise burned down last November, at least 86 people burned to death or choked on smoke; millions suffered from the smoke that spread across the region. Heat deaths are up in the south-west, where 235 people died in Arizona alone from this cause during 2017.

But we also know that there are so many uncounted deaths from poisonous fossil fuels. We know that many of the refugees on the USA’s southern border are climate refugees, driven out of their homes in Central America by the failure of agriculture from unpredictable and violent weather, heat, and drought. We know that Alaska was this month for the first time ice-free all along its coast, and the hot dry weather inland led to horrific wildfires. “Starting on the fourth of July and lasting multiple days, temperatures across Alaska were 20 to 30 degrees above average in some locations,” reported National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

To be a climate activist anywhere on Earth now is to stand at a crossroads: heaven on one side and hell on the other. Heaven because the transition we need to make and are making – just not big enough or fast enough – is not only an power-generation revolution, but a decentralization of political power, a shift away from the big energy companies who used governments to make wars and make profits for them, a shift away from the poisonousness of fossil fuel. Hell because the destruction of what it took nature millions of years to create – the exquisite balance of ecosystems, of bird migration in harmony with seasons, of symbioses between species, of the great Himalayan and Andean glaciers whose waters feed so many people, of rainforests and temperate forests – is hideous as well as terrifying. The Amazon is burning because of one rightwing leader and a system that rewards agricultural products but not forest protection, even though we need rainforests more than we need the soybeans and beef raised on the land stolen from the rainforest and its indigenous inhabitants.

I’ve mentioned a bit of what is going on in my troubled, complicated country, the US, but of course these are global conflicts and global situations, and the solutions are advancing almost everywhere, because they are good solutions to terrible problems.

You have come to help us choose the former over the latter, and more of us thank you than you will ever be able to see or hear. More than that, we’re with you, trying to realize the goals that the climate demands of us, to make a sustainable world for those who are young now, those yet to come, and for the beauty of the world that is still with us. SOURCE

Youth Activists Tell Washington “We’re Coming for You” on Climate Change


Sabirah Mahmud speaks at the Philadelphia Youth Climate Strike in March 2019.YOUTH CLIMATE STRIKE

This crisis will take away our ability to live unless we do something,” Sabirah Mahmud, a 16-year-old youth climate organizer, told me earlier this month.

I had invited Mahmud — the Pennsylvania director for Youth Climate Strike, a national youth-led organization committed to climate justice for marginalized communities in the U.S. and globally — to share her thoughts on the climate crisis. As we sat together on a shaded patio in West Philadelphia in the muggy September weather, Mahmud turned to me with a look of determination on her face and explained why youth leadership is essential for the climate justice movement.

“We have a right to a future, and now that future is in jeopardy,” she told me. “We have all of these big dreams and we are always being asked: ‘What do you want to do in the future?’ I can’t have a response to that question because of this crisis. I don’t even know if we will have a future or what kind of future that will be.”

Alongside Mahmud are hundreds of other youth climate organizers in Pennsylvania who are striking from school as part of Fridays for Future, taking to the streets in acts of dissent against the fossil fuel industry, developing protest art, educating the public, and demanding decision-making power in domestic and international deliberations about the fate of the planet.

Reil Abashera, a 16-year-old high school student and resident of Philadelphia, decided to join the struggle when she learned of the scientific reality of the climate crisis and understood the urgency of this moment.

“We don’t have 10 years to turn things around,” Abashera told me. “We have 18 months.”

The fact that these conversations are taking place in Philadelphia is not insignificant. The “City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection” has a long history of environmental racism that goes hand in hand with its history of state violence against Black people, disinvestment in public education, the criminalization of poverty and the segregation of communities of color. According to the Public Interest Law Center, low-income neighborhoods and communities of color in the city have long been disproportionately impacted by air pollution from oil and gas operations. This air pollution has resulted in increased rates of childhood asthma, cancer, depression and schizophrenia for many Philadelphians. As recently as July 2019, Philadelphia’s City Council approved the construction of a $60 million LNG plant in South Philadelphia — a section of the city already heavily impacted by environmental toxins. Mahmud and her peers, along with youth organizers from the Sunrise Movement, were actively involved in the fight against the LNG plant. They took part in street demonstrations, elevated dissenting voices from South Philadelphia, and attended public consultations organized by the city government. MORE

The new face of climate activism is young, angry — and effective

A growing sea of crusaders known as the Sunrise Movement has helped put climate change on the national agenda. Most aren’t even 30.


Sunrise Movement activists rally in support of a Green New Deal outside of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s office on April 30, 2019. Drew Angerer/Getty Imag

Unlike some recent college graduates, Sunrise Movement activist Paul Campion doesn’t have a five-year plan. Climate change doesn’t let him plan that far into the future.

“I can’t think more than 16 months out. The other day I was talking with my partner about the magnitude of what we face, and it’s a weight that’s always there,” Campion told me as he sat on the couch in the apartment he shares with four other young Sunrise Movement activists in Northwest Washington, DC.

Their apartment looks like a stereotypical DC group house, but it feels more transient, like its inhabitants could be ready to pick up and move at a moment’s notice. There is no-frills furniture and basic cooking supplies; small “Green New Deal” posters and a huge “Our Time to Rise” banner adorn sparse white walls.

Paul Campion, 22, a Sunrise Movement fellow, in his bedroom in the organization’s “movement home,” located in a small apartment building in Washington, DC. Maura Friedman for Vox
Gabbi Pierce, 22, cooks at the DC movement house.
 Maura Friedman for Vox
Joanna Zhu, 26, another roommate, works on a living room couch. Maura Friedman for Vox

The three-bedroom apartment in Washington’s Columbia Heights neighborhood is one of a handful of so-called movement houses around the country where Sunrise Movement activists live and work together. Their mission is twofold: trying to force politicians to act on one of the most dire issues facing humankind and building an army of young people to send the message.

After they spend their days working at the Sunrise office in downtown DC or meeting with lawmakers on Capitol Hill, they come home to share vegetarian meals at their table each night. A small sign in their kitchen says “everyday I’m brusselin’,” and the apartment wifi password alludes to their shared love of eggplant. They try to minimize their trash impact by composting, which they can take to the local farmer’s market for free.

This small group is part of a much larger national organization whose members are disproportionately in their teens or 20s. (The Sunrise Movement doesn’t have formal membership.) But its core leaders — a small group of activists in their mid-20s — estimate that 15,000 young people have showed up to in-person actions across the country and that 80,000 have participated in less direct actions such as emailing and calling their representatives. As of this month, the group has 290 small, autonomous chapters of activists (called “hubs”) across the country. In November 2018, there were just 11.

The 15,000 people who have turned out in person have spent the past year occupying the offices and hallways of the US Capitol, state houses, and Democratic National Committee meetings across the country, yelling at the top of their lungs.

Their methods are straight out of the playbook of the civil rights movement of the 1960s: Frequently, they sing protest songs. They stand quietly as police officers zip-tie their hands behind their backs and lead them into vans for civil disobedience. Their eyes pleading, they carry signs, including ones that say, “The Youth are Coming for You.” MORE

 

 

Naomi Klein: The Green New Deal: A Fight for Our Lives

Sunrise Movement protesters inside the office of Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Capitol, Washington, D.C., December 10, 2018.

One month before the young Sunrise Movement activists first occupied the office of then-soon-to-be House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in November 2018, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published a report that had a greater impact than any publication in the thirty-one-year history of the organization. The report examined the implications of keeping the increase in planetary warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7°F). Given the worsening disasters we are already seeing with about 1°C of warming, it found that keeping temperatures below the 1.5°C threshold is humanity’s best chance of avoiding truly catastrophic unraveling.

Doing that would be extremely difficult. According to the UN World Meteorological Organization, we are on a path to warming the world by 3–5°C by the end of the century. To keep the warming below 1.5°C would require, the IPCC authors found, cutting global emissions approximately in half in a mere twelve years and getting to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Not just in one country but in every major economy. And because carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has already dramatically surpassed safe levels, it would also require drawing a great deal of that down, whether through unproven and expensive carbon-capture technologies or the old-fashioned ways: by planting billions of trees and other carbon-sequestering vegetation.

Pulling off this high-speed pollution phaseout, the report establishes, is not possible with singular technocratic approaches like carbon taxes, though those tools must play a part. Rather, it requires deliberately and immediately changing how our societies produce energy, how we grow our food, how we move around, and how our buildings are constructed. What is needed, the report’s summary states in its first sentence, is “rapid, far-reaching, and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society.”

It was against this backdrop that 2019’s cascade of large and militant climate mobilizations unfolded. Again and again at the strikes and protests, we heard the words “We have only twelve years.” Thanks to the IPCC’s unequivocal clarity, as well as direct and repeated experience with unprecedented weather, our conceptualization of this crisis is shifting. Many more people are beginning to grasp that the fight is not for some abstraction called “the Earth.” We are fighting for our lives. And we don’t have twelve years anymore; now we have only eleven. Soon, it will be just ten.

As powerful a motivator as the IPCC report is, perhaps even more important are the calls from many different quarters in the United States and around the world for governments to respond to the climate crisis with a sweeping Green New Deal. The idea is a simple one: in the process of transforming the infrastructure of our societies at the speed and scale that scientists have called for, humanity has a once-in-a-century chance to fix an economic model that is failing the majority of people on multiple fronts. In tackling the climate crisis, we can create hundreds of millions of good jobs around the world, invest in the most systematically excluded communities and nations, guarantee health care and child care, and much more: a Green New Deal could instill a sense of collective, higher purpose—a set of concrete goals that we are all working toward together. MORE

 

‘A Year Ago I Wouldn’t Have Believed It’: Not Enough, But 2020 Climate Town Hall Hailed as Big Progress

“Gotta say that just seeing the words ‘Climate Crisis’ in red on screen is a victory for our movements.”


CNN’s marathon town hall Wednesday night, featuring ten of the top 2020 Democratic presidential candidates, “put the climate crisis closer to the center of a presidential election than ever before.” (Photo: CNN)

Despite steady concerns that much of the news media—especially the corporate media in the United States—continues to downplay the far-reaching threat of the international emergency of rising air and ocean temperatures, climate campaigners and experts praised a town hall-style forum with 2020 Democrats candidates hosted by CNN Wednesday night as a hopeful sign of progress.

“10, 5, even 2 years ago – these were fringe ideas for mainstream Dems.  This is what shifting the Overton window looks like. So much love for the movement tonight.” —Collin Rees, Oil Change International

“Gotta say that just seeing the words ‘Climate Crisis’ in red on screen is a victory for our movements,” tweeted Canadian author and activist Naomi Klein as the evening of television kicked off and she praised the movement who pushed so hard for giving the issue the singular focus it deserves. “Finally the starting premise is correct and none of it would be happening without the work of millions.”

Throughout the more than 6-hour forum—with each of ten candidates given 40 minutes to answer questions about the Green New Deal, fracking, the costs of transition, holding fossil fuel companies to account, how to offer justice to displaced workers and communities, and other key issues—the event had the desired result for many, regardless of the range of answers given, of putting the climate emergency front and center.

“Lots could be critiqued tonight,” said Justin Worland, a journalist for TIME magazine, “[but] it still feels remarkable to see 7 hours of largely substantive talk on CNN where science is taken as a given and candidates face good questions about solutions.  A year ago I wouldn’t have believed it; makes me wonder where we’ll be in a year.”

At the conclusion, highlighting multiple mentions of the direct connection between the climate emergency and Hurricane Dorian, Klein agreed:

Collin Rees, a campaigner with Oil Change International, expressed a similar sentiment:

Despite the progresse signaled by CNN’s forum—and a pair of similar events to be held by MSNBC later this month—many campaigners still agree that what is really needed is a comprehensive debate between candidates on one stage.

Despite the Democratic National Committee voting down a resolution last month that would have approved exactly that, groups like the Sunrise Movement are calling for the top Democratic candidates to buck the party’s decision and hold a climate debate anyway. MORE

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