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Albany Green Party Forum Discusses Green New Deal

Green New Deal forum at the Albany Public Library.
WAMC photo by Dave Lucas
Green New Deal forum at the Albany Public Library.

In February, New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey introduced a Green New Deal resolution: a set of proposed economic stimulus programs to address climate change and racial and social economic inequalities. Over the weekend, about 100 people attended a Green New Deal forum at the Albany Public Library.

The Green Party's Howie Hawkins is widely viewed as the first candidate for public office in the United States to promote a Green New Deal during his 2010 gubernatorial campaign in New York. At the forum, Hawkins painted an apocalyptic picture of the near future. He warned based on the amount of carbon being released into the atmosphere "we have six and a half years of carbon budget left" before temperatures rise and arctic ice melts.    "At which point, we're basically cooked, literally. What this crisis means is mass extinctions and eco-systems collapse, the end of agriculture that can feed the population we have, widespread poverty, social conflict and wars for what's left. And that's by 2050.  With ocean acidification and the destruction of vital plankton, which provide two-thirds of the oxygen in the atmosphere, we're facing basically suffocating to death by the year 2100, according to some scientists."

Green Education and Legal Fund Chair Mark Dunlea says the new push in Washington closely mirrors the concept borrowed from Greens in Europe circa 2007.   "The proposal that's been advanced by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Markey has a lot of similarities. It talks about a very rapid emergency mobilization to convert our economy to 100 percent clean energy by 2030, it also makes a second demand of implementing FDR's last economic bill of rights proposal, which is a guaranteed living wage job and universal health care and affordable housing."

Not everyone’s on board. On Friday the AFL-CIO, which represents 12.5 million workers and includes 55 labor unions, shot down the Green New Deal in a letter to the lawmakers. (Click on images to enlarge)

Other critics say the plan would be too expensive to implement.

Dave Publow is a farmer and activist now living in Troy. He says people really need to understand how global warming will affect their everyday existence. He warns of a farm-to-table disconnect and thinks the U.S. is not far away from having a breakdown in the food distribution system.    "When you have climate changes like this and you have radical weather events, whether it's drought or sudden freezes or weather extremes like that, you can have systemic crop failure. And people who wander into the supermarkets and they buy the things that they eat and they don't really appreciate where they come from or how vulnerable they are, it becomes an abstract issue. So we need to translate how this whole thing is going to impact every single person in this area on a day-to-day basis, and once that reality sinks in, then they may be able to translate it for their politicians a little bit better."

Dunlea points out that two New York Democrats, Congressmen Paul Tonko and Antonio Delgado, have not been supportive of the Green New Deal:   "The resolution that's been introduced in Congress on the Green New Deal actually has a lot of supporters in New York State. 13 members of the house from New York State have sponsored that bill, as well as Senator Gillibrand. Unfortunately, Congressman Tonko and Congressman Delgado are missing on that list.”

Tonko says he shares many of the principles outlined in the Green New Deal, while Delgado says he supports a Green New Deal that works for upstate New York. Delgado’s office says, “There is not a one size fits all solution. And Rep. Delgado is committed to a plan that dramatically reduces our reliance on carbon, while promoting the economic interests of upstate New York.”

Tonko’s office says while he share many of the Green New Deal’s principles, “as Chairman of the Subcommittee on Environment & Climate Change in the House, my task is to take big ideas like the ones laid out in the non-binding resolution and turn them into real policy tools with support throughout our caucus that can help us make the transition to a cleaner, safer and more sustainable economy.”

Advocates for the plan haven’t ruled put protests outside the Congressmen's local offices. Here are the Congressmen's responses:

Dunlea warns that not everything billed as part of the Green New Deal actually is... "A lot of people have begun to call everything they do that either has something to do with the climate or has something to do with economic rights a 'Green New Deal' program. And I think what we've seen particularly from Governor Cuomo is that he uses the Green New Deal, not to really embrace what we could call the program, but as a slogan to make the point that if we invest in renewable energy, we will create jobs. Now that's a good point, and we support that, but in and of itself, that's not the Green New Deal."

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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