Sen. Markey and Rep. McGovern hold Green New Deal town hall

‘Climate change is this generation’s Vietnam’

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Sen. Markey and Rep. McGovern hold Green New Deal town hall

(Alvin Buyinza/ Daily Collegian)

(Alvin Buyinza/ Daily Collegian)

(Alvin Buyinza/ Daily Collegian)

(Alvin Buyinza/ Daily Collegian)

By Michael Connors, Assistant News Editor

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Though the current Congress is unlikely to place the Green New Deal on President Donald Trump’s desk, that isn’t stopping Massachusetts Democratic lawmakers from making the climate change resolution’s case to the public.

In a town hall event at Northampton High School on Sunday evening, Sen. Ed Markey, D-MA, was joined by Rep. Jim McGovern, D-MA, where they fielded questions from constituents on how the Green New Deal might alter the country’s political, economic and environmental landscapes.

As a non-binding resolution, the Green New Deal sets goals for measures that would create positive economic impact while also cutting overall carbon emissions.

“This issue is, without question, the number one national security, health, environment, economic and moral issue for us,” Markey said about climate change. “We have to deal with this issue. The planet is running a fever. There are no emergency rooms for [the] planet so we have to engage in preventative care.”

Markey and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-NY, both introduced the resolution in their respective chambers on Feb. 7, and have since received 90 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives and11 co-sponsors in the Senate. But since Republicans hold a majority in the Senate, current chances of the legislation’s success are slim to none.

In response to a question about the financial feasibility of the Green New Deal, Markey explained that investing in renewable resources would allow for creation of many blue-collared jobs. According to him, around three to four million more jobs could be created by increased focus in solar and wind energy.

“Once you change the policy, you unleash this incredible economic activity. You create jobs, you save money and then, economically, utilities and consumers just start to buy the products,” Markey said.

Both McGovern and Markey agreed the odds were stacked against the resolution passing the Senate while Republicans remained in control. But they remained optimistic as they believed the Green New Deal started a serious conversation about climate change.

“This is something that I think there’s great enthusiasm about,” McGovern said. “People get this. And, by the way, it’s not just the so-called ‘intellectuals’ or people who talk about big things. Farmers get it. Young people get it… this climate change is this generation’s Vietnam.”

McGovern explained that the Green New Deal is committed to addressing inequity in underrepresented social groups.

“This [is saying] that everybody matters. Not just the wealthy, and not just the millionaires and billionaires,” McGovern said in response to a question regarding how lawmakers would consider these issues in future legislation.

“But every community, especially those communities that have been neglected and have been exploited because they are poor or because they are communities of color,” he added.

Markey explained that, because “unfettered capitalism actually winds up being immoral,” the United States instead needs “capitalism with a conscience.” Instead of giving tax breaks to oil and gas companies, these same tax breaks should be given to solar and wind businesses.

Republican willingness to spend money on a border wall while simultaneously lambasting Democrats for proposing the expansion of social programs was hypocritical, he said.

“That’s why they’re going to lose this debate, because they are supporters of socialism on stilts. But it’s just backing the biggest, most powerful, richest forces already in our society against the 99 percent who are ready to revolt,” Markey said.

Climate change is not just an environmental issue, but also one of national security, McGovern said. A lot of the conflict around the globe is a result of scarcity of resources such as clean drinking water, he explained.

“I would rather be investing in cleaner, greener technologies or ways to help people transform to better farming techniques all around the world than investing in nuclear weapons, or modernizing our nuclear weapons,” McGovern said.

Easthampton resident Tom LeBlanc, who attended the town hall, said that he came to the event because he was looking for a status update on how his elected officials were responding to climate change.

“It’s important that they get people behind them, and that they use this to start a movement,” LeBlanc said of lawmakers in support of the Green New Deal. “It’s important to get people to get active and to do something.”

Michael Connors can be reached at mpconnors@umass.edu or followed on Twitter @mikepconnors.