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Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.)

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) spoke at a pair of events in Copenhagen on Friday. (Photo: The Guardian/YouTube)

Applause at Global Summit as Ocasio-Cortez Calls Climate Crisis 'Consequence of Our Unsustainable Way of Life'

"Because it is unsustainable to organize our society as we have, centered on prioritizing personal gain and profit over any and all human or planetary considerations."

Jessica Corbett

Freshman Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez advocated for a Global Green New Deal to combat the climate crisis that humanity has created with an "unsustainable way of life" during a speech that closed out the C40 World Mayors Summit in Copenhagen on Friday.

"It is not a coincidence that the truth is controversial. None of this is a coincidence, because climate change is not a coincidence or a scientific anomaly."
—Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

The New York congresswoman took her first trip abroad as an elected official to deliver the closing keynote address at the event organized by mayors of major cities around the world who are committed to taking ambitious climate action.

Ocasio-Cortez's speech—described on social media as "rousing" and "awe-inspiring"—touched on costly and destructive extreme weather events, journalists' inadequate reporting on climate issues, politicians' unwillingness to pursue bold enough policies to meet the goals of the Paris agreement, and what actions and reforms she believes are necessary on a global scale.

"The climate crisis is already here," she said. "On this note I speak to you not as an elected official or public figure, but I speak to you as a human being—a woman whose dreams of motherhood now taste bittersweet because of what I know about our children's future, and that our actions are responsible for bringing their most dire possibilities into focus. I speak to you as a daughter and descendant of colonized peoples who have already begun to suffer."

Watch (Ocasio-Cortez's speech starts at 18:00):

"It is not a coincidence that these disasters get relatively little media coverage, and that even less of the coverage dares to mention climate change," said Ocasio-Cortez, referencing Hurricane Maria's devastation of Puerto Rico. "It is not a coincidence that the truth is controversial. None of this is a coincidence, because climate change is not a coincidence or a scientific anomaly. Climate change is a consequence. It is a consequence of our unsustainable way of life."

"Because it is unsustainable to organize our society as we have, centered on prioritizing personal gain and profit over any and all human or planetary considerations," she continued. "It is unsustainable to naively believe that building a wall can shield ourselves from humanity's collective destiny. It is unsustainable to promote amnesia around gross injustices and ignorance of our past—to abdicate responsibility, simply because it was our ancestors who committed them and not us."

"Our children bear responsibility for our inaction, despite the fact that they didn't make the choice," Ocasio-Cortez said. "And frankly, it is unsustainable to continue to believe that our system of runaway, unaccountable, lawbreaking pursuit of profit, whose inequality is so socially destabilizing that it is giving rise to authoritarians who burn our forests and challenge the democracies that listen to basic science, and to think that that has nothing to do with this."

The congresswoman's remarks were welcomed by members of the audience—including Daniel Zarrilli, chief climate policy adviser to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who shared some highlights from the speech on Twitter:

"She got a rockstar welcome in that audience," Nicholas Reece, a city councillor from Melbourne, Australia, told The Guardian. "There's just something about her which is really mobilizing and electrifying people around the world, particularly young people."

The Guardian reported that "from the moment she began speaking, the main hall at the summit became completely still, and when she finished, the ovation she received far exceeded that received by the veteran climate campaigner and former Vice President Al Gore, Denmark's prime minister, Mette Frederiksen; or the U.N. secretary general, António Guterres."

After speaking to the mayors, Ocasio-Cortez addressed the People's Climate March in Copenhagen, where she urged the activists to "make sure the politicians sweat a little bit" and specifically called out U.S. President Donald Trump and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who maintain a friendly relationship and have both garnered global condemnation for their environmental policies.

"We have to face the oil and coal industry, the CO2-emitting industry, Wall Street, Bolsonaro, Donald Trump," Ocasio-Cortez reportedly said, eliciting cheers from the crowd. "We can't and won't win by staying home."

"It is so incredible," said Ocasio-Cortez, "to see the thousands of people out here in the rain, under umbrellas, doing whatever it takes to fight for our future and ensure that we have a just and equitable planet for all people and our children."

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