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'The Civil Rights Movement of Our Time': Climate Action Advocates and Progressive Leaders Join Sanders for Latest Town Hall

"Instead of spending well over a trillion dollars on weapons of destruction to figure out how we kill each other, think about making that investment in transforming our energy system. Think about how we can bring the entire world together in common cause."

Julia Conley

With the corporate news media devoting only a tiny fraction of its coverage of California's recent wildfires to the climate crisis, which set the stage for the historically destructive blazes, hundreds of thousands of Americans on Monday night turned to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and a panel of climate experts and activists for a discussion on the stark reality of the crisis and bold proposals to help avert further catastrophe.

In his latest town hall sponsored by progressive media companies including NowThis News and The Young Turks, Sanders and his panelists made the case for the Green New Deal and a sustainable economy, outlined bipartisan efforts that have so far succeeded in shifting toward renewable energy, and spoke of the climate crisis as a top issue that young voters, people of color, and low-income communities must unite to defeat as they decide who will lead the country in 2020.

"We are living in a moment in history that has never existed," Sanders said. "Instead of spending well over a trillion dollars on weapons of destruction to figure out how we kill each other, think about making that investment in transforming our energy system. Think about how we can bring the entire world together in common cause."

"This is going to be the Great Society, the moon shot, the civil rights movement of our generation," Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) added. "That is the scale of the ambition that this movement is going to require."

Dr. Brenda Ekwurzel, head of the Union for Concerned Scientists (UCS), stressed that Americans are already facing the effects of the climate crisis, with California's wildfires burning through more than three million acres, increasingly powerful hurricanes causing more than $200 billion in damage, and the country's first known climate refugees being forced to flee parts of Louisana.  

"You have a diaspora in the country moving to other states," Ekwurzel said. "They may be temporary, they may be long term. These people are on the move, creatures are on the move, adapting to climate change. But it doesn't have to be that bad." founder Bill McKibben, activists Shailene Woodley and Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, and Republican Mayor Dale Ross of Georgetown, Texas, who has embraced renewable energy, were also among the panelists.

The town hall came as Ocasio-Cortez and other progressive politicians have been fighting to form a House Select Committee whose mandate would include proposing a Green New Deal. The proposal would shift the U.S. to a renewable energy economy by 2035, working toward zero carbon emissions by 2050—and creating at least 10 million jobs in order to build the new infrastructure. So far, grassroots pressure from the youth-led Sunrise Movement has forced 18 representatives to endorse the Green New Deal.

"The core of a Green New Deal is simple: leave no person behind," said Ocasio-Cortez. "We cannot move forward into our future until every single American is part of that future."

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