At Town Hall, Activists Make a San Antonio Case For the Green New Deal

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Steven Marquardt, Sunrise Movement fellow-Chico, CA hub coordinator, speaks during the Sunrise Movement's Green New Deal Town Hall.

Edward A. Ornelas for the Rivard Report

Steven Marquardt, a Sunrise Movement organizer, speaks during the Green New Deal town hall.

A vision to limit the worst effects of climate change and remake the U.S. economy got its first public hearing in San Antonio on Saturday at an event on the West Side.

About 75 people attended a Green New Deal town hall on Saturday at the Guadalupe Theater, where organizers sought to build support for the initiative and San Antonio’s own Climate Action and Adaptation Plan.

The event was part of a series of local events across the country put on by the Sunrise Movement, a youth-led political action group that’s provided grassroots force behind the Green New Deal. The group drew national attention last November when it helped organize a sit-in at the office of Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to urge support for the climate and jobs initiative.

Steven Marquardt, a Sunrise Movement organizer based in Chico, California, started with a personal story about how the devastation wrought by the Camp Fire, the deadliest in the U.S. in 100 years, propelled him into climate organizing.

“We’ve grown this movement from the ground, and we’re going to continue doing it because that’s what this crisis calls for,” Marquardt said.

“Just eight months ago, our politicians were not talking about climate change the way they are now,” he said. He pointed to the Green New Deal resolution in the U.S. House of Representatives that was introduced by U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) and now has nearly 100 sponsors.

That resolution calls for Congress to take massive action to shift the U.S. economy away from fossil fuels, coupled with a federal jobs guarantee to cope with economic stagnation and inequality.

For the first time, climate is also a major issue in a presidential race, with Democratic candidates Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden, Julián Castro, Beto O’Rourke, and Jay Inslee having released their own climate plans.

Much of the criticism of the Green New Deal has centered around its vague language and aspirational dreams about a radical shift in American society.

At Saturday’s event, Briauna Barrera, a San Antonio-based climate justice organizer with progressive and consumer advocacy group Public Citizen, broke down the elements of the Green New Deal, which she called a “framework.”

“It’s not one specific policy, it’s a framework that calls for systemic change,” Barrera said. The Green New Deal also applies to the resolutions themselves introduced by Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Massachusetts) in the Senate.

On a concrete level, Barrera said, the Green New Deal is also a call for a House select committee that would “be charged with developing a detailed national industrial economic mobilization plan for the transition of the United States economy to become climate neutral.”

“Probably most importantly, the Green New Deal is a vehicle for organizing our neighborhoods, our workplaces, our schools, and our cities for a better future,” Barrera said.

Briauna Barrera, Organizer for Public Citizen

Edward A. Ornelas for the Rivard Report

Briauna Barrera, an organizer for Public Citizen, speaks at a town hall focusing on the Green New Deal.

Saturday’s event drew attendees beyond San Antonio’s established environmentalist community. One of the speakers, Alejandra Lopez, a second-grade teacher in the San Antonio Independent School District and member of the San Antonio Alliance of Teachers and Support Personnel, drew a connection between the climate and the classroom.

“The Green New Deal is essentially a reconnection with the idea of a public good – something that is there for everyone and not just the profit of a few,” Lopez said. “The wonderful thing about public education is it is one of the last remaining public goods in our social sphere.”

The town hall’s other supporters included MOVE Texas, the San Antonio chapter of Democratic Socialists of America, the Sierra Club, the Texas Organizing Project, the Bexar County Green Party, and Moms Clean Air Force.

Houston native Raven Douglas, MOVE Texas’ deputy director, talked about how the intense flooding left by Hurricane Harvey in 2017 left friends and family members displaced and in debt.

“Reading the seemingly daily inundating and apocalyptic reports can have a paralyzing effect,” Douglas said. “It is easy to slip into feeling inert in the face of such a daunting historical task. It is a tall order to completely overhaul our political economy.”

Several of the speakers focused on environmentalists’ tendency to push people only toward individual action – recycling, reducing energy and water use, and other voluntary choices. Instead, they urged the need for people to organize as schools, churches, community groups, and municipalities to combat the influence of the fossil fuel industry on the political system.

At the event, Jessica Cisneros, a Laredo immigration attorney who is challenging U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar for the Democratic nomination to the 28th District, signed a pledge not to take more than $200 from any fossil fuel company, executive, or lobbyist.

“I’m really happy to be having these conversations because today, we’re talking about why we should and how we can,” Cisneros said. “Porque si se puede – we can.”

Jessica Cisneros, candidate for US Congress TX-28 addresses the audience.

Edward A. Ornelas for the Rivard Report

Jessica Cisneros, an immigration attorney who is mounting a primary challenge against U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, addresses the audience.

Many of the speakers also urged adults who may have grown complacent to listen to young people. Alyssa Martinez, 14, a local student starting high school in August, talked about a lesson she had learned from her father about taking action the face of despair.

“If it was a mistake, you fix it,” Martinez said. “Don’t sit and pout about it because it won’t get the job done.”

10 thoughts on “At Town Hall, Activists Make a San Antonio Case For the Green New Deal

  1. The green new deal is bunk!!! I’m for clean water and air as the next. Let’s save the life of the unborn. Now that’s a cause!!

    • It isnt going to matter about unborn or born if we don’t do more to clean up and save the environment. I find it completely hypocritical for those folks who constantly scream about the unborn whilst children who are here RIGHT NOW go to bed hungry, are trafficked for sex and slavery, and are thrown in cages by our own government. A woman’s body is her own and only she gets to decide if she wants to be pregnant and all that goes with it.

    • You should go to the next event and ask them. While you’re there, take a seat and listen to ideas and beliefs that challenge your own.

  2. This Green new deal is a bunch of BS!! Nothing is wrong with the planet! All these fools are making money on something that is not true. Look at Al Gore, and Leonardo DiCaprio! ENOUGH SAID

    • “Nothing is wrong with the planet!” he screeched as he took shelter from an ever more powerful storm, produced by a changing climate and rising temperatures.

  3. The Green New Deal is a social justice document with the guise of an environmental plan. Read it.

    No talk about how you will actually create enough renewable resources for everyone to function as we do today… with what money and by what methodologies (creating green energy does require oil and gas to manufacture and implement by the way it won’t just appear) just that it will happen…ahem…magically.

    Oh yeah and AOC’s concentration camps statements are really helping to build her credibility for anything else she says.

    The fact that RR posted this says a lot. More liberal propaganda from your local nonpartisan news source!

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