'This Is an Emergency. We Need the Democrats to Act Like It': Outrage as DNC Says It Won't Host a 2020 Debate on Climate Crisis
By Jake Johnson
Sparking a torrent of backlash from Democratic White House contenders, environmental organizations, and youth climate leaders, the Democratic National Committee announced Wednesday that it will not host a climate-specific presidential primary debate and will punish candidates who attend a debate hosted by any other organization.
News of the DNC's decision was made public by 2020 presidential candidate and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, who was the first Democratic contender to call for a debate focused solely on the climate crisis.
"Today, my team received a call from the Democratic National Committee letting us know that they will not host a climate debate," Inslee said in a statement. "Further, they explained that if we participated in anyone else's climate debate, we will not be invited to future debates. This is deeply disappointing."
Inslee said he will pressure the DNC leadership to change its mind, arguing that the climate emergency "merits a full discussion of our plans" rather than the "short exchange of talking points" typical of past presidential debates.
"The DNC is silencing the voices of Democratic activists, many of our progressive partner organizations, and nearly half of the Democratic presidential field, who want to debate the existential crisis of our time," Inslee said. "The next president must make defeating this crisis the top priority of the nation. And I will continue to do everything I humanly can to ensure the climate crisis is at the top of the national agenda."
Democratic voters say that climate change is their top issue; the Democratic National Committee must listen to the grassroots of the party.— Jay Inslee (@JayInslee) June 5, 2019
U.S. Youth Climate Strike, whose petition calling on the DNC to host a climate debate has garnered over 53,000 signatures, vowed to "fight back" against the committee's refusal to give the planetary crisis the national spotlight it deserves.
"Disappointed to learn DNC will not honor the rallying cries of their own base, and will not only not host a climate debate, but will also ban any candidate who participates in one from participating in DNC debates," the group tweeted. "Again and again, the establishment and adults have failed us. We need policy now."
Brandy Doyle, campaign manager for Credo Action, said in a statement Wednesday that the decision shows that DNC chairman "Tom Perez doesn't seem to care much about the climate crisis."
"[B]ut many of the Democratic candidates and a vast majority of Democratic primary voters do," Doyle said. "This move is a slap in the face to the hundreds of thousands of activists and all of the candidates calling on the DNC to hold a dedicated climate debate."
"It isn't too late for Tom Perez and other leaders at the DNC to come to their senses," Doyle added. "They'll find out soon enough that it is going to take a lot more than a quiet phone call to one campaign to silence the growing demands for a climate debate."
In what appeared to be an attempt to quell the backlash coming his way, Perez posted a series of tweets just after midnight assuring enraged presidential candidates and climate campaigners that he has "personally told media partners seeking to host a 2020 primary debate how important it is for climate change to be debated during each and every debate."
"The DNC will not be holding entire debates on a single issue area — we want to make sure voters have the ability to hear from candidates on all the issues," said Perez. "You have my word that I will do everything I can to make sure our candidates are able to debate all of the critical issues during this primary."
Grassroots activists who have been working tirelessly to push serious climate discussion into the national political conversation have good reason to be skeptical of Perez's insistence that the DNC's corporate media partners will give the climate crisis the necessary amount of focus.
In a report published in April, Public Citizen found that corporate media networks have systematically failed to devote sufficient time to the climate crisis, which activists argue should — given the existential threat it poses — dominate the headlines on a daily basis.
The youth-led Sunrise Movement, which is planning a massive action outside of the second DNC debate in Detroit next month, urged all 2020 Democratic presidential candidates to "speak out against" the DNC's "disastrous decision" and pressure the committee to reverse course.
"This is an outrage. Almost every major candidate has supported the call for a climate debate, but the DNC won't even let the American people hear their plans for one of the greatest challenges of our time," Sunrise tweeted. "This is an emergency. We need the Democrats to act like it."
We hope that all candidates, especially those who joined us in calling for a #ClimateDebate, will speak out against this disastrous decision and demand @DNC reconsider.— Sunrise Movement 🌅 (@sunrisemvmt) June 5, 2019
Cc: @CoryBooker @ewarren @BernieSanders @JulianCastro @SenGillibrand @PeteButtigieg @amyklobuchar @JoeBiden https://t.co/3gJkL31NIc
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) quickly heeded Sunrise's call, tweeting late Wednesday that "Gov. Inslee is exactly right."
"Climate change is the biggest challenge we face," Warren wrote. "Every candidate running for president should have a serious set of policies to address it, and should be eager to defend those proposals in a debate."
Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.
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It's going to be back-to-school time soon, but will children go into the classrooms?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) thinks so, but only as long as safety measures are in place.
Keeping Schools Safe<p>What will safer schools look like?</p><p>In a <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2766822" target="_blank">JAMA article</a> published last month, <a href="https://www.jhsph.edu/faculty/directory/profile/1781/joshua-m-sharfstein" target="_blank">Dr. Joshua Sharfstein</a>, a pediatrician and professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, outlined suggestions — many of which are similar to AAP's.</p><p>Remote learning protocols must stay in place, especially as some schools stagger home and in-building learning. If another shutdown needs to occur, children will rely on distance learning completely, so it must be easy to switch to, he said.</p><p>He suggested giving parents a daily checklist to document their child's health. Kids should be screened quickly on arrival and be given hygiene supplies. Maintenance staff should use appropriate PPE and have regular cleaning schedules. A notification system should be in place if a case is identified, Sharfstein recommended.</p><p><a href="https://www.albany.edu/rockefeller/faculty/erika-martin" target="_blank">Erika Martin</a>, PhD, an associate professor of public administration and policy at University at Albany, said nutrition assistance and health services should be included. She called for tutoring programs with virtual options as well as technology access.</p>
Supporting Staff<p>Teachers and staff will be affected by safeguarding measures, noted <a href="https://directory.sph.umn.edu/bio/sph-a-z/rachel-widome" target="_blank">Rachel Widome</a>, PhD, an associate professor of epidemiology and community health at University of Minnesota.</p><p>"In order for all of the in-school precautions to work well, we'll be asking a lot of teachers and staff," Widome told Healthline. In addition to their usual workload, they'll now be asked to monitor mask-wearing, ensure children are keeping distance, and be aware of any symptoms.</p><p>Along with Sharfstein, Widome called for an increase in financial support. More employees will likely be required so teachers and staff members can keep up with the added demands.</p>
Should Kids Go Back?<p>While these guidelines may help get some schools to reopen, many people don't think children should go back to school over fears they could contract the disease and spread it to other vulnerable family members like grandparents, infant siblings, or their parents.</p><p>In a <a href="https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2020/07/08/peds.2020-004879" target="_blank">Pediatrics</a> commentary, <a href="https://www.md.com/doctor/william-raszka-md" target="_blank">Dr. William V. Raszka, Jr.</a>, an infectious disease specialist at The University of Vermont Medical Center, argued that schools should open because school-aged children are far less important drivers of COVID-19 than adults.</p><p>But he says the risk and benefit is not equal among all students ages 5 to 18.</p><p>"Elementary schools are arguably higher priority for face-to-face schooling, since younger children are at lower risk for infection and transmission, and since parental supervision of younger children's distance learning may be particularly challenging," added Sorensen, who penned a <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/channels/health-forum/fullarticle/2767411" target="_blank">June article in JAMA</a> with reopening tips. "That means middle and high schools are more likely to emphasize distance learning."</p><p>Specific student populations, such as special education students and students with disabilities, would also benefit greatly from more time spent in face-to-face environments, Sorensen said.</p>
What Parents Can Do<p>Parents should ask for and receive frequent updates from schools about plans for the fall. They should also be informed about plans if and when COVID infections are identified, Sharfstein said.</p><p>"I'd like to see parents investing now, during the summer, in doing things that can slow and stop the spread of the virus in their communities," Widome said.</p><p>"Now is a good time for kids to practice wearing masks and get used to them as they may be wearing them for longer stretches if school starts up in person," Widome suggested.</p><p>She recommends parents try different mask designs and materials to see what children are more comfortable wearing.</p><p>"If you are using cloth face coverings, it's good to have extras on hand," Widome added.</p><p>Parents should model healthy behavior at home and while out in public — another thing that could affect how well children adapt to reopening practices, Sorensen said.</p><p>"Children may want to know more about face coverings," added <a href="https://www.linkedin.com/in/leescott/" target="_blank">Lee Scott</a>, chairwoman of the Educational Advisory Board at <a href="https://www.goddardschool.com/" target="_blank">The Goddard School</a>. "Dramatic play, such as creating or wearing a face covering, may help some children adjust to this concept." Schools can also show children photos of what faculty members look like in their masks so the students are familiar with that appearance.</p><p>Johns Hopkins University recently released its eSchool+ Initiative, a slew of resources surrounding education during the pandemic. These include a <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/reopening-checklist/" target="_blank">checklist for administrators</a>, report on <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/ethics-of-reopening/" target="_blank">ethical considerations</a>, and a tracker of <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/reopening-policy-tracker/" target="_blank">state and local reopening plans</a>.</p>
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