‘Let’s solve this’: WU students discuss Green New Deal

Pranaya Pahwa | Contributing Writer

Students, faculty and St. Louis residents discussed and debated the future of American politics, the United States and the planet in the basement of Simon Hall yesterday evening.

But the climate conversation, sponsored by the Washington University Climate Change Program, started in the past.

Emma Waltman moderates the climate conversation on the Green New Deal Wednesday. The discussion, hosted by the Wash- ington University Climate Change Program, featured a panel of University faculty, staff and students from different disciplines.Grace Bruton | Student Life

Emma Waltman moderates the climate conversation on the Green New Deal Wednesday. The discussion, hosted by the Wash- ington University Climate Change Program, featured a panel of University faculty, staff and students from different disciplines.

Environmental Studies lecturer Scott Krummenacher started the event, a conversation on the Green New Deal, by discussing President Roosevelt’s New Deal in the 1930s. Krummenacher noted that the “original New Deal was a response to a crisis” – a crisis that was “urgent, salient, and global in nature.” The parallels between the Green New Deal and the New Deal, Krummenacher contended, are neither unintentional, as the nomenclature reveals, nor unfounded.

Elai Rettig, a lecturer in the Jewish, Islamic, and Middle Eastern Studies Department, fast-forwarded the conversation 80 years to the Green New Deal. The Deal, proposed by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-NY, and Senator Edward J. Markey, D-MA, is a non-binding resolution that outlines a plan for an economic and climate revolution in the United States.

It attempts to not only substantially reduce carbon emissions, but also to create high-paying jobs and establish clean air, clean water and healthy food as basic human rights. Representative Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Markey contend that their plan addresses the threat of climate catastrophe, rising income inequality, racial discrimination and poverty.

To label this plan “ambitious,” Rettig argues, is to “understate the scope and magnitude of the resolution.” According to Rettig, the Green New Deal is nothing less than “unprecedented in human history.”

With the historical context presented by Krummenacher and the text of the Green New Deal as explored by Rettig in mind, a panel of students, professors and community climate advocates addressed a wide variety of questions about United States politics, climate change and, of course, the Green New Deal.

At the beginning of the evening, Krummenacher conducted an informal poll and asked the room whether they supported, did not support or were undecided on the Green New Deal.

Only one person articulated opposition to the Green New Deal.

No one in the room, it should be stated, was a United States senator. On March 25, 2018, the Senate voted 57 – 0, resoundingly against the Green New Deal.

The panelists were not discouraged. Professor Bill Lowry of the Political Science Department labelled the vote a “stunt.”

“Nothing this ambitious could ever pass right when it was introduced,” Sociology Professor Tim Bartley said.

Rettig went as far as to suggest that the Green New Deal was “not designed to pass, but to start a conversation.”

That conversation was alive and well in the basement of Simon. Panelists put numbers on the chalkboard, passed around the text of the Green New Deal and presented books, websites and articles that the audience should explore for further research.

At the end of the event, panelists concentrated on how Washington University and Washington University students should respond to the Green New Deal. Lowry explained that, to make climate change a salient issue and the Green New Deal a reality, we need people “to start talking about it.”

Professor Michael Wysession, from the Earth and Planetary Sciences Department, proposed that Washington University students and the entire nation needs a new mindset – “a mindset that says let’s solve this.”

The Washington University Climate Change Program wants to make that mindset more widespread on campus.

Junior Sara Mesiano, a member of the Washington University Climate Change Program, was one of the students responsible for organizing Wednesday’s climate conversation.

“We thought it would be a great opportunity to get students engaged and talk about climate change,” Mesiano said about creating the event.

Mesiano continued, stating that the goal of the Climate Change Program is to “foster an interdisciplinary approach to climate change solutions” and encourage more climate change activism on campus and in the St. Louis community.

Junior Grace Tedder, who co-founded Sunrise STL, a local chapter of the Sunrise Movement, a national organization in favor of the Green New Deal, is a climate activist. On Wednesday, she spoke on the panel about a need for action on climate change.

“We do not have time to debate whether or not we should act,” Tedder said.

Tedder supports the Green New Deal because she believes it is “the only plan that recognizes the magnitude and scale of the climate crisis.”

“It is necessary that Washington University students tell politicians that the climate crisis we face is incredibly serious and will impact all of us. Our planet is heating up to the point of complete destruction. This is the biggest fight of our lives,” Tedder said.

Audiences attended the climate conversation for perspective and Pointer’s Pizza served on reusable plates. The panelists, like Tedder, made sure that audiences left with a call to action.

The conversation on Wednesday was pleasant, funny and informative, but also desperate. Anthropology Associate Professor Bret Gustafson best articulated that desperation when he reminded the audience, “Science tells us we have 12 years to act. Science tells us we need radical change now,” Gustafson said. “Change will come from you. You should be asking what you can do and should be doing right

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