How do we make the Green New Deal real? By holding town hall meetings led, centered and organized by the people – discussions so honest that you’re not the same person when you leave. These are the kinds of discussions we need to be having as a community – and some of us have been talking honestly about this for a long time. Need inspiration? Let women of color lead the way.
We held a town hall like this last week at the Jamaica Plain Forum in Boston featuring Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley and local activist Rev. Mariama White-Hammond. These two fierce leaders are pushing for a cultural shift towards community and equity, values that will return us to harmony during our battle for survival from the environmental emergency upon us.
Right now, we see the disharmony play out before our eyes. It’s been just over a month since Cyclone Idai hit Mozambique, killing several hundred people, leveling hundreds of thousands of homes, and destroyed the main source of food – all in a country where more than half the population lives under the poverty line.
Compare the reaction to that of the fire at Notre Dame Cathedral, where billionaires offered up hundreds of millions in dollars even though there was no death toll. The Catholic Church is one of the world’s wealthiest entities, but French billionaire François-Henri Pinault still instantly pledged more than $100 million to the reconstruction effort. Had Cyclone Idai hit the UK or France, we’d likely see similar donations pour in for repairs and rescues.
We cannot allow this type of dramatic inequality to shape our response to the ecological crisis. Fortunately, as Congresswoman Pressley put it, moving towards climate justice offers us a chance to address these disparities head on. “The aspects of the Green New Deal that I am most focused on are equity and economic justice,” she said at the forum. “This is not just an opportunity to fix the past to the first New Deal, but also to transform the economy.”
That’s crucial, because politicians divorce equity from climate legislation all too often, Rev. White-Hammond pointed out. “Time and time again the environmental legislation that has passed in [Massachusetts] has stripped every single equitable provision almost every single time.”