About 160 people gathered in a UMass Boston auditorium on Monday to hear US Sen. Ed Markey discuss proposed “Green New Deal” legislation that he has championed along with US Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY).
Markey had stopped by the IBEW Local 103 union hall on Freeport Street earlier in the day to help the union launch a new $1 million investment into “green technology and green job training.”
The proposal by Markey and Ocasio-Cortez sets a bold vision of transitioning to 100 percent clean, renewable and zero-emission energy and the upgrading of all US buildings and infrastructure for energy efficiency within 10 years.
In his remarks at UMass, the senator directed aim at President Trump, saying that if he “gets a second term, it’s almost like a death sentence for the planet.” He added, “In eight weeks, the Green New Deal has caused the debate on climate change that we have not had in ten years” while noting that all 2020 presidential candidates will be asked about their plans for climate change.
Katherine Newman, interim UMass Boston chancellor, introduced Markey and David Cash, dean of the John W. McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies moderated a discussion and a question-and-answer period.
Markey said he is optimistic about clean energy, as Bureau of Labor statistics show that solar panel installer and wind turbine service technician are the fastest growing jobs in 12 states right now. He said the ridicule and claims that the Green New Deal is too costly came from the Koch brothers, whose fossil fuel business is threatened by dealing with the threat of climate change.
“The pollution of our planet is matched only by the pollution of our political process,” said Markey. “And that is what ultimately is stopping us from implementing all these changes.” He asserted that the goals in the Green New Deal initiative can be achieved with new technology. Increasing fuel efficiency in cars “is not a mission to the moon,” he said. “This is auto mechanics.”
Responding to a question from Cash , Markey said workers in the fossil fuel industry must be provided with health care benefits and job training to move on to the booming renewable energy industry.
When asked how people can persuade climate change deniers, Markey answered that Pope Francis and science are “on our side.”
UMass Boston students and faculty members who talked to the Reporter were positive about what Markey said. “I think this talk is very important in spreading awareness about what is happening in our environment,” said Keidon London, a freshman from Connecticut. “I think there are a lot of people who are misinformed about what’s going on, and Senator Markey was able to open that bridge and help people understand how the Green New Deal works.”
Alyssa Drake, a senior in political science, said Markey “did an excellent job communicating the challenges that this country is facing and touched on a lot of issues that will come up in the 2020 election.”
Douglas Zook, who teaches global ecology, said “the positives are clear,” but added that more emphasis could be put on “respect for nature,” such as supporting forests.
Rita Kiki Edozie, a political science professor, said she’s a big supporter of Markey’s proposal, but wished the talk had focused more on the actual implementation of the policies, the concerns of the working class, and the global impact of the Green New Deal.
“A great start to a great discussion. We need to have him back or maybe we need to have AOC,” said Edozie, referring to Ocasio-Cortez.
In his visit to the IBEW hall, Markey toured the campus with City Councillor-at-Large Michelle Wu and the union local’s business manager and financial secretary, Lou Antonellis, who called the new, $1 million dollar investment in its property the next step in the union’s commitment to a sustainable future.
Investments include more than $800,000 in cutting-edge renewable energy technology and more than 250,000 hours of corresponding green job training for the union’s apprentices this year.
“In addition to preserving our resources and reducing emissions, job training is a crucial investment we need to make right now,” Antonellis said. “We believe we owe it to our members, and to our communities, to train a workforce that is ready to meet the growing demand for renewable energy.”