A day after thousands of young people took to the streets of Denver and cities across the world to demand action on climate change, hundreds gathered in Boulder to chart a path forward for their movement — and to give a rock-star welcome to one of its best-known leaders.
“I appreciate all of that love,” Representative Joe Neguse, a Democrat from Boulder, told the cheering crowd inside an auditorium at Boulder High School today, September 21. “Although I know you didn’t come here to see me.”
Sure enough, the cheers got louder when, a few minutes later, Neguse introduced the star of the event: Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democrat from New York, who has risen to fame as one of the leaders of a new generation of progressive lawmakers in Congress, and as a lead sponsor of the Green New Deal, a sweeping proposal to transition the American economy to clean energy.
“Joe and I both represent two very different frontline communities that will change in a positive direction with the Green New Deal,” Ocasio-Cortez told the crowd. “Colorado, I think, represents a frontline for how we’re going to show that this is not just about ending one era but beginning another — creating the biggest opportunity and investing the most in economic mobility that we have seen, hopefully, in the last century.”
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Neguse, a co-sponsor of the Green New Deal, is one of fifteen members of the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, a special panel convened by Democratic leadership after pressure from Ocasio-Cortez and others earlier this year. Prior to being sworn in for her first term in Congress, Ocasio-Cortez joined members of the Sunrise Movement, a youth-led climate-activist group, in a sit-in at the offices of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, demanding stronger action on climate change.
Michele Weindling, an organizer with the Colorado chapter of the Sunrise Movement, began today's event by celebrating the success of the September 20 climate strikes, which drew an estimated five million people to demonstrations held in nearly 3,000 cities around the world.
“Yesterday, over 7,000 people showed up amplified and ready to strike for our future,” Weindling said of the climate strike rally at the Colorado State Capitol. “Colorado got to see what we’re made of, and we are just getting started.”
Neguse is the only member of Colorado’s congressional delegation to have endorsed the Green New Deal. Former governor John Hickenlooper, a former presidential hopeful and current frontrunner for the Democratic nomination for Senate, has criticized the proposal as too broad and ambitious, though he has also repeatedly misrepresented the specifics of what the resolution proposes.
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“The Green New Deal has been demonized quite a bit,” Neguse said. “There’s a lot of misinformation about it. At its core, it’s a very simple proposition, the idea that we would transition to 100 percent renewable energy by leveraging the skill and ingenuity of the American workforce.”
U.N. scientists warned in a landmark report released last year that the world must cut greenhouse gas emissions nearly in half by 2030 in order to avert the worst impacts of climate change. But global emissions continue to rise, leading progressives to argue that sweeping, aggressive proposals like the Green New Deal are the only way to achieve the necessary emissions cuts.
"It is not impossible, it is not pie-in-the-sky, it is the most realistic response to the existential climate crisis that faces humanity," Ocasio-Cortez said. “Anything less than a solution on the scale of the crisis is a form of climate denial."
“I don’t think there is a more important issue facing us as a country, as a society, as a planet, than the threat of climate change,” said Neguse. “It’s an existential threat to our way of life, and it’s going to take systemic, decisive action to ultimately save the planet that we all share.”