Bernie Sanders on Monday organized a town hall meeting on climate change to packed rooms at the Hart Senate Office Building in Washington, an early indicator of what could become a central tenant of a presidential campaign as news swirls of the Vermont senator's 2020 ambitions.
Sanders brought together a star-studded panel, which included Representative-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Academy Award nominee Shailene Woodley, CNN host Van Jones and 350.org founder Bill McKibben.
The Vermont Senator opened up the discussion by saying, “Tonight we are dealing with what the scientific community tells us is the greatest crisis facing our planet and facing humanity – and that is climate change."
The event hosted by Sanders, who has long been an advocate for climate change, signals what could become a focal issue of a possible 2020 platform. In fact, the Associated Press reported that some gathered at the Sanders Institute over the weekend "spoke openly about a 2020 White House bid as if it was almost a foregone conclusion."
Sanders continued to thanks “progressive news sites” like the The Guardian, The Intercept, NowThis and Young Turks for joining in livestreaming the event. “This event is not sponsored by Exon Mobile,” Sanders said to the audiences' laughter and applause. “Nor is it sponsored or paid for by the Koch Brothers, who have made most of their fortune in the fossil fuel industry.”
The town hall discussion was focused on transitioning the economy from fossil fuel dependency to 100 percent renewable energy. “This is going to be the Great Society, the moon shot, the civil rights movement of our generation,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “That is the scale of the ambition that this movement is going to require.”
“It is unsurprising that any bold proposal we have is meant with a response to incite fear, to incite fear of loss, to incite fear of others, to incite fear of our future,” she said in response to Republican claims that moving to renewable energy industries would hurt the economy. “The only way we are going to get out of this situation is choosing to be courageous. First of all, it’s just plain wrong – the idea that we’re going to lose economic activity . . . It’s inevitable that we are going to create jobs with renewable energy.”
Sanders made it clear that "it is the young people who are at the forefront of the movement." Ocasio-Cortez has taken on that role by joining the youth environmental activist group Sunrise to protest outside Nancy Pelosi’s office for a stronger New Green Deal plan and policies, indicating a radical shift in political proceedings in the nation’s capital. There has been growing grassroots support for the deal, which drastically wants to increase renewable energy infrastructure.
Also on the panel was Earth Guardians Youth Director Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, 18. Martinez represented the next generation in the continued fight to improve his own community in Colorado, who are on the front lines of the turmoil caused by climate change:
The fossil fuel industry is not only contaminating our water, polluting our air, making our communities sick. But it is polluting our politics, and it has been for a very long time . . . We have seen, historically, it has been risky for politicians to stand up to the fossil fuel industry. Young people are very different. But, yes, we are the future. And, yes, we are at stake of what is to come. We are also here now. And I think that gives us the perspective of pushing the agenda so it is not risky to stand up to the fossil fuel power.