10 Reasons Bernie Sanders Is 'Rockin' in the Free World'
It's hard not to #FeelTheBern these days, that is the Bernie Sanders energy that is storming the nation. Just last week Sanders had the largest turnout of any presidential candidate so far in this primary race with nearly 10,000 people attending his speech in Madison, Wisconsin.
Clearly people are finding it refreshing to actually believe the campaign promises being touted by a candidate. A self-described democratic socialist, Sanders, 73, is a U.S. Senator for Vermont and has been in Congress for more than 22 years. He has a 95 percent lifetime score for voting in favor of protecting the environment and is a longtime supporter of immediate action on climate change.
I had the chance to see Sen. Sanders in Denver, Colorado on June 20 where he spoke to a crowd of more than 5,000 people at the University of Denver.
This event was just days after Donald Trump announced his run for president while playing Neil Young's classic tune "Rockin' in the Free World." The next day, Young released a statement saying, "Yesterday my song 'Rockin’ in the Free World' was used in a announcement for a U.S. presidential candidate without my permission ... Music is a universal language. So I am glad that so many people with varying beliefs get enjoyment from my music, even if they don’t share my beliefs. But had I been asked to allow my music to be used for a candidate—I would have said no."
However, Young, a Canadian citizen, "is a supporter of Bernie Sanders for president of the United States of America," according to Rolling Stone. So no wonder why Neil Young's songs were blasting from speakers in the Hamilton Gymnasium at the Richie Center in Denver and, "Rockin' in the Free World" was featured as Sanders entered and exited the stage. It was truly epic, especially for those that are longtime fans of Young, like I am.
The crowd finally settled down after a very warm welcome. Sanders began by saying, "This campaign is not about me. It's not about Hillary Clinton. It's not about Jeb Bush. It's not about any other candidate. This campaign is about you, your kids and your parents. It is about creating a political movement of millions of people who stand up and loudly and proudly proclaim that this nation and our government belongs to all of us and not just a handful of billionaires."
Sanders went on to talk about democracy. He said, "Democracy is not about the last election in which 63 percent of the American people and 80 percent of young people did not vote. That's not democracy. Democracy is when people from one end of this country to the other, stand up and say that there is nothing that a great nation can not accomplish."
"This country today, in my view," Sanders continued, "faces more serious problems in any time since the great depression, and if you add to that the planetary crisis of climate change it may well be that today, in our time, we face more challenges than anytime in the modern history of this country."
Sanders then dug deep on many issues, including income inequality—which he calls the greatest moral, economic and political issue of our time—health care, outrageous costs for a college education, unemployment rates, low minimum wage, gender inequality, LGBT rights, paid sick leave and the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement.
Next he tackled what he calls "one of the worst decisions in the history of our country." He said, "By a 5 to 4 decision, the Supreme court said to the wealthiest people in our country, 'okay guys, you already own much of America, we are now going to give you the opportunity to own the United States government.' And people like the Koch brothers ... they said 'hey that's great' ... and what Citizens United allowed is for these people to spend billions of dollars to buy candidates to make the rich richer and everyone else poorer."
He explained, "This issue of campaign finance reform is so important because it impacts every other issue of concern."
And that is why the one campaign promise Sanders has made so far is that he will have a litmus test for his nominees for the Supreme Court and, as Sanders said, "that litmus test is that anybody I nominate will make it clear to this country that they will rehear Citizens United and vote to overturn it."
"The Koch brothers alone—second wealthiest family in America, an extremely rightwing family," Sanders continued, "will spend more money on this election cycle than either the Democratic or Republican parties ... This is not democracy. You are looking at an oligarchy form of government.”
And, as everyone expected, Sanders then launched into his pledge to fight climate change. "We have the moral responsibilities to make sure that the climate that we leave to our kids and grandkids is habitable. The debate is over, maybe with the exception of Fox television. Other than that scientists have almost unanimously agreed that A, climate change is real, B, it is caused by human activity with the emission of carbon, and C, it is already causing devastating problems here in our country and around the world."
"And they have said that while the problems are very serious right now," Sanders continued, "they will only get much much worse if we don't seize a short window of opportunity to transform our energy system away from fossil fuels and toward renewable energy."
"If we continue business as usual, if we do not transform our energy system that, by the end of this century, the planet Earth will be between 5 and 10 degrees Fahrenheit warmer. What that will mean is more and more drought, more flooding, more extreme weather, more acidification of the ocean, more rising sea level. It will also be a huge national security issue for the entire world."
Sanders then blessed Pope Francis "for speaking out in a way that nobody in Congress would ever speak out about what money and inequality is doing to people all over the world, and now he's speaking out on climate change."
He finished by saying, "If we stand together. If we do not let people divide us by race, by whether we were born in America or born in Mexico, whether we are gay or whether we are straight ... we can create the political revolution that this country needs."
And then, "Rockin' in the Free World" enveloped the gymnasium.
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"These are not just wildfires, they are climate fires," Jay Inslee, Governor of Washington State, said as he stood amid the charred remains of the town of Malden west of Seattle earlier this month. "This is not an act of God," he added. "This has happened because we have changed the climate of the state of Washington in dramatic ways."
'These Aren't Wildfires'<p>Sam Ricketts, who led climate policy and strategy for Governor Jay Inslee's 2020 presidential campaign, tweeted on September 11 that "These aren't wildfires. These are #climatefires, driven by fossil fuel pollution."</p><p>"The rate and the strength and the devastation wrought by these disasters are fueled by climate change," Ricketts told DW of fires that have burnt well over 5 million acres across California, Oregon, Washington State, and into neighboring Idaho. </p><p>In a two-day period in early September, Ricketts notes that more of Washington State burned than in almost any entire fire season until now, apart from 2015. </p><p>California, meanwhile, was a tinderbox after its hottest summer on record, with temperatures in Death Valley reaching nearly 130 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the U.S. National Weather Service. It has been reported as the hottest temperature ever measured on Earth.</p>
<div id="29ad9" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8346fe7350e1371d400097cd48bf45a2"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1306969603180879872" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Drought-parched wetlands in South America have been burning for weeks. https://t.co/pjAKdFcKPg #Pantanal https://t.co/ImN2C5vwcp</div> — NASA Earth (@NASA Earth)<a href="https://twitter.com/NASAEarth/statuses/1306969603180879872">1600440810.0</a></blockquote></div><p>As evidenced by Australia's apocalyptic Black Summer of 2019-2020, fires are burning bigger and for longer, with new records set year-on-year. Right now, Brazil's vast and highly biodiverse Pantanal wetlands are suffering from catastrophic fires.</p>
#climatefires Started in Australia<p>Governor Inslee this month invoked the phrase climate fires for arguably the first time in the U.S., according to Ricketts.</p><p>But the term was also used as fires burnt out of control in Australia in late 2019. In the face of a 2000km (more than 1,200 miles) fire front, and government officials and media who <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/trump-climate-change-denial-emissions-environment-germany-fake-heartland-seibt/a-52688933" target="_blank">played down the link to climate change</a>, Greens Party Senator Sarah Hanson-Young and a friend decided that reference to bushfires was inadequate. </p><p>"We both just said, we've got to start calling them climate fires, that's what they are," the Australian Senator told DW.</p><p>Hanson-Young says scientists have been warning for decades that these would be the effects of global heating. "We've been told these kinds of extreme weather events and destruction is what climate change would look like, and it's right here on our doorstep," she said from her home state of South Australia — where by early September fire warnings had already been issued.</p><p>"Calling them climate fires was making it absolutely crystal clear. It is essential that there's no ambiguity," she said </p><p>Having deliberately invoked the term, Hanson-Young soon started to push it on social media via a #climatefires hashtag. </p>
How to Talk About the Urgency of Global Heating<p>The need to use more explicit language when talking about extreme weather events linked to climate change is part of a broader push to express the urgency of global heating. In 2019, activist Greta Thunberg tweeted that the term "climate change" did not reflect the seriousness of the situation. </p><p>"Can we all now please stop saying 'climate change' and instead call it what it is: climate breakdown, climate crisis, climate emergency, ecological breakdown, ecological crisis and ecological emergency?" she wrote. </p><p>"Climate change has for a long time been talked about as something that is a danger in the future," said Hansen-Young. "But the consequences are already here. When people hear the word crisis, they understand that something has to happen, that action has to be taken."</p><p><span></span>Some terms are now used in public policy, with state and national governments, and indeed the EU Parliament, declaring an official climate emergency in the last year. </p>
Words That Reflect the Science<p>But while the West Coast governors all fervently link the fires to an unfolding climate crisis, U.S. President Donald Trump continues to avoid any reference to climate. In a briefing about the fires, he responded to overtures by Wade Crowfoot, California's Natural Resources Secretary, to work with the states on the climate crisis by stating: "It'll start getting cooler. You just watch." Crowfoot replied by saying that scientists disagreed. Trump rejoined with "I don't think science knows, actually." </p><p>It was reminiscent of the anti-science approach to the coronavirus pandemic within the Trump administration, <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/donald-trump-admits-playing-down-coronavirus-risks/a-54874350" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">at least publicly</a>. Fossil fuel companies are also benefiting from his disavowal of climate science, with the Trump administration having <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/opinion-trumps-paris-climate-accord-exit-isnt-really-a-problem/a-51124958" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">pulled out of the Paris Agreement</a> and reopened fossil fuel infrastructure like the Keystone XL pipeline. </p><p>But the science community has responded, with Scientific American magazine endorsing Trump's Democratic presidential challenger Joe Biden, the first presidential endorsement in its 175-year history. </p><p>Hanson-Young says the use of explicit language like climate fires has also been important in Australia due to the climate denialism of politicians and the press, especially in publications owned by Rupert Murdoch. As fires burnt out much of Australia's southeast coast, they were commonly blamed on arson — a tactic also recently used in the U.S.</p>
Climate Rhetoric Could Help Decide Election<p>The language of climate has begun to influence the U.S. presidential election campaign, with Democratic nominee Joe Biden labelling President Trump a "climate arsonist."</p><p>Biden is touting a robust climate plan that includes a 2050 zero emissions target and a return to the Paris Agreement. Though lacking the ambition of The New Green Deal, it has been front and center of his policy platform in recent days, at a time when five hurricanes are battering the U.S. Gulf Coast while smoke blanketing the West Coast spreads all the way to the East. </p><p>People are experiencing the climate crisis in a visceral way and almost universally relate to the language of an emergency, says Ricketts. "They know something is wrong."</p>
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