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Bernie Sanders: a word on the climate crisis


Global temperatures increasing. Oceans rising. Flooding throughout the Midwest. These are just a few climate change emergencies discussed last Saturday. 

Drake University’s Bell Center was the site for a Climate Crisis Summit hosted and organized by Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign.

The audience came together for a summit that not only was to support Sanders’ bid for the presidency, but to educate and rally around a shared concern for the future. 

The summit opened with welcome speeches by Meskwaki tribal member and anti-pipeline activist, Donnielle Wanatee and Bernie 2020 campaign organizer, Courtney Smith before the event’s presentation, Unite Behind the Science.

Climate scientist and activist, Peter Kalmus, presented statistics showing the direction climate change is heading throughout the world.

“All the trends are going in the same direction, but they should be flat,” Kalmus said. “The real emergency is in the details… This is not the new normal. It’s going to get worse and worse.”

Kalmus shared a future affected by climate change and how it will affect those who live in Iowa and throughout the world.

“We are facing a climate emergency,” Kalmus said. “This is a clear and present danger to human civilization. We have to get this right, nothing else matters.”

After Kalmus’ presentation, a panel, Confronting Our Climate Crisis, was moderated by Bernie 2020 Iowa Co-Chair and Chairperson, Stacey Walker.

Seven panelists discussed their issues and platforms while showing support for Sanders because he has the plans that are needed to help mitigate the climate crisis. The panel consisted of leaders in local and regional activism and businesses. The Q&A session was followed by a break where guests were provided a meal and beverages before the next keynote speakers began.

Iowa State Rep. Jeff Kurtz introduced international climate activist and author, Naomi Klein who reiterated the climate change issues the planet is facing. Klein discussed how the Green New Deal can help address the issues beyond climate change.

“If we are going to change the building blocks of society, then why rebuild with the same inequalities that scare our society? We need a green new deal for everyone,” Klein said to a round of applause. “This is a holistic vision in a time of overlapping and intersecting crises… First, we save the planet, then we deal with racism, then we deal with economic inequality… this is a plan for the next economy now.”

Klein stirred the crowd with her passion and support of Sanders for president. The audience cheered and clapped, standing up in ovation before the next guest was introduced.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez came out on stage to an excited and enthusiastic audience cheering her on. 

Ocasio-Cortez gave an impassioned speech about the need for change and how it is not the time to waiver or believe that all hope is lost.

“I refuse and reject and absolutely will not accept the choice of leaving a planet that is diminished and dying to the next generation. And because we refuse to choose that, then what we have no choice but to act,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “Because all of us…are being impacted by the climate crisis. Every single one of us.”

Ocasio-Cortez laid out the history behind the oil and gas companies lobbying for protections to their industries despite knowing how these fuel sources would impact the planet.

“That is exactly why we have to acknowledge the climate crisis is not an accident… it is not a coincidence; it is a consequence. And that is why we have to connect the dots when it comes to the climate crisis,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “Do you really believe that if oil and gas were not some of the most profitable things in the world, we would be burning our planet to our destruction?”

Ocasio-Cortez continued to elaborate on the Green New Deal and discussed changes it could bring to the United States, both financially with new jobs and improvements in addressing emission reduction.

“This movement is real; this movement is growing. Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise,” Ocasio-Cortez said. 

Ocasio-Cortez introduced Sanders to an eager and loud audience who walked out waving to a standing ovation.

Sanders continued to reiterate the immediacy of the climate crisis and how the reason for the summit was more than just a town hall for his candidacy. 

“People do understand the reality of climate change and the danger climate change poses and the need for unprecedented, bold action to address this crisis,” Sanders said. 

Sanders told the audience that these changes will not be easy and major action will be needed to transform our planet and mitigate the dangers of climate change.

“We have a moral responsibility to make certain that the climate that we leave our children and grandchildren is a planet that is healthy and habitable,” Sanders said. “That is not a choice, that is what we have got to do.”

Sanders laid out his Green New Deal proposal. He acknowledged the cost would be high but said there is no alternative to not save the planet and we must listen to science. 

“What the scientists are telling us, is that great cities… all over the world would be under water by the end of the century if we do not get our act together,” Sanders said. “…The leadership of the United States of America should not be denying that reality, we should be bringing the entire world together to address it.”

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