The excitement and energy in the room was almost palpable. About 50 people from all around the Hampton Roads area – nearly standing room only – attended a special March 20 2019 Sierra Club York River Group program on “The Green New Deal.” A distinguished panel described bold new and ongoing efforts to combat climate change, climate injustice, and moneyed corporate interests.
Glen Besa (former Director of the VA Chapter of the Sierra Club) served as moderator. First, Lee Williams, co-chair of the Virginia Green New Deal, introduced the program. Motivated by the urgency of reversing the effects of imminent climate change and the need for maintaining a clean and healthy environment for all, the Green New Deal is a plan to create thousands of good jobs while addressing climate change and restoring Virginia’s environment. See the website: https://www.greennewdealva.com. The group is in the process of building coalition partners and gaining endorsements from government officials and candidates.
Briggs Burton and Hannah Ferster, members of the exciting new Sunrise Movement, spoke about its origins and goals. They are working to build “an army of young people to stop climate change and create millions of good jobs in the process.” They are calling for new leaders and new directions with a push for the progressive policies necessary to combat the corrupting influence of fossil fuel corporations. The Sunrise Movement is a national movement with many hubs throughout the country. One local hub in Hampton Roads is at the College of William & Mary. They recently joined in the Global Youth Climate Strike, in unity with other young people worldwide. They are encouraging youth to become more politically active, and to support candidates who will commit to working toward a green future.
Eileen Woll is the Offshore Energy Program Director of the Sierra Club VA Chapter. She spoke about how offshore wind energy can play a large role in the Green New Deal. Virginia is uniquely positioned and well equipped to develop and sustain clean offshore wind energy, but Dominion Energy is dragging its feet and so far has refused to commit to a definitive plan. Our Virginia legislators so far have also failed to aggressively push wind energy forward; we need to elect bold new representatives (and send home the climate change deniers) to help make this happen.
Finally, David Jenkins (Newport News City Council) addressed ideas that at the city level can draw us closer toward a healthy, greener future. Our poorest communities are always heaviest hit by climate injustice. This can be changed, but daring new political leaders who are independent of the influence of corporate money are needed!
Everyone should be fighting for a clean and healthy environment as well as a sustainable future, but unfortunately the drive for short-term profits combined with short-term thinking has corrupted many corporations and the politicians they support. We shouldn’t have to fight so hard for the basic rights to a healthy environment for our children and grandchildren, but it HAS come to this. The Green New Deal offers a practical way forward.