|Activists Press Neal to Support Green New Deal|
|By Stephen Dravis, iBerkshires Staff|
02:25AM / Thursday, February 14, 2019
|About half the crowd at Wednesday's rally at U.S. Rep. Neal's office in Pittsfield were students from Mount Greylock Regional School.
Mount Greylock students, from left, Maddy Art, Catherine McPartland and Karen Magnusdottir McComish spoke with a member of Rep. Richard Neal's staff.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Two dozen protesters Wednesday demonstrated outside the Pittsfield office of U.S. Rep. Richard Neal to encourage him to sign on as a co-sponsor of the Green New Deal
Three of the activists — all students at Mount Greylock Regional School in Williamstown — went inside to make their case to a member of Neal's staff.
"A 2013 report predicts that by 2100, the climate here will be like that in South Carolina," junior Maddy Art said. "And also, my grandpa works in [Williams College's] Hopkins Forest. He's a forest biologist, and he's been researching the biodiversity for decades. He uses data that goes back to 1935. He's already seen a rise in invasive species, particularly deer ticks. There were never deer ticks before 2000, and now they're prevalent.
"We want the beauty and experience of living in Western Mass to be the same for generations to come."
And they and millions of others believe that the Green New Deal is a place to start making that happen.
The initiative, a resolution in the House of Representatives, is a statement of principles rather than actionable legislation. It calls for the United States to cut its carbon emissions to the lowest level possible and work to reduce greenhouse gases from the atmosphere among other environmental ends. It also addresses progressive causes like a living wage and racial injustice.
Wednesday's demonstration, organized by the Boston chapter of the non-profit Sunrise Movement, focused on the Springfield Democrat because he is the last member of Massachusetts' congressional delegation who has not committed to supporting the Green New Deal. The state's U.S. Sen. Edward Markey is a co-author of the resolution with New York's U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
The three students said they tried to get an answer from Neal staffer Matthew Russett, but the district aide demurred.
"We tried to ask, but he's not really privy to the D.C.-policy end of things," senior Catherine McPartland said. "He more reports feelings within the district. He didn't exactly know what Rep. Neal's hesitation was. He did say Neal has in the past been willing to support some aspects of it, but he didn't specify which aspects of it."
"He also made a point that Representative Neal has been supportive of environmental legislation in the past," senior Karen Magnusdottir McComish added. "He told us that, from the perspective of constituent support, he would send information down to D.C. about our visit and our concerns about how climate change is affecting the district specifically. And then when he hears back from the D.C. office, he's going to let us know."
The trio went into the office with Williamstown activist Anne O'Connor, who organized a meeting at First Congregational Church in Williamstown recently for residents interested in supporting the objectives of Sunrise. O'Connor said the three high school girls were strong advocates with the congressman's staff.
"We definitely stressed the importance of national and even international legislation because climate catastrophes do not respect borders at all, and it will affect everybody," McPartland said. "So it's necessary that a national, aggressive policy is in place."
Art, who noted that she is not quite old enough to vote yet, added that today's high schoolers don't have the time to wait until they are in positions of power to push for the large-scale changes needed to address climate change.
"Another thing we talked about in the meeting was the individual efforts that we ourselves have taken along these lines," McComish said. "Maddy became a vegetarian for environmental reasons. I talked a little bit about our environmental club at school and how our administration was incredibly receptive and supportive of making our school as sustainable as possible in the new school building.
"We have been taking little actions, but the only way to make impactful change is something like the Green New Deal, and Representative Neal has the power to do that."
In addition to expressing their concern for climate change on a broad scale, the three also talked about more local impacts — like climate change that threatens the ski industry and industrial pollution linked to cancer incidence linked to PFOA exposure in nearby Hoosick Falls, N.Y.
They also picked up on the Green New Deal's appeal from an economic standpoint.
"We talked about it from different perspectives," McPartland said. "We talked about industry here — Sprague Electric and GE [leaving] and their effect on this region — and how the Green New Deal is especially effective because it has language and a plan for job transitioning."
McComish acknowledged that the Green New Deal, sponsored principally by freshman Ocasio-Cortez, is ambitious but said that is part of the appeal.
"Some of the criticism about the Green New Deal has been about its ambition and its timeframe," she said. "But that's something that excites us because it's an issue that is so urgent. Something needs to happen now. The only way that we will reverse some of the damage is with radical change."
The trio said Neal's staff promised to get back to them about his decision on whether to support the sweeping resolution.
Sunrise Boston plans a similar demonstration at Neal's Springfield office on Feb. 26 if he remains on the fence about the resolution.
"We're not hoping to go to the Springfield office," McPartland said. "We're not hoping to annoy him. We really do want him to sign on to this. We're supportive of it, and we think the whole district would be.
"We're willing to annoy him but not dead set on it."