Are Democratic Party Leaders Shying Away From a Green New Deal?
Congressional Democratic leaders have tapped Florida Representative Kathy Castor to chair a renewed climate change committee, the congresswoman confirmed to E&E News Thursday, dampening the hopes of activists and progressive Democrats that the committee would focus on drafting a Green New Deal to provide jobs while transitioning to 100 percent renewable energy in 10 years.
Castor is not one of the 43 House members who have pledged to back a select committee to draft the deal and to reject campaign donations from fossil fuel companies, according to the most recent tally from the Sunrise Movement, which has emerged as a key grassroots backer of the idea.
"I think they have some terrific ideas," Castor told E&E News when asked about the Green New Deal. "But that's not going to be our sole focus."
I’ve devoted my life in public service to standing up to corporate polluters, climate deniers & special interests.… https://t.co/10SrCv5GCR— US Rep Kathy Castor (@US Rep Kathy Castor)1545357688.0
Castor's selection seems to return House Democrats to the plan for a generic climate change committee that the party's House Leader Nancy Pelosi first floated after the Democrats won control of the House in the midterm election and before activists from the Sunrise Movement and Justice Democrats staged a sit-in in her office a month ago and launched the Green New Deal into the national discourse, the Huffington Post reported.
Castor also waffled on the idea that committee members should have to pledge not to take money from fossil fuel interests.
"I don't think you can do that under the First Amendment, really," she told E&E News, echoing Exxon Mobil Corp.'s court defense of its funding of climate-denying think tanks, the Huffington Post pointed out.
Castor has received more than $73,000 from the energy and natural resources sector during her 12 years in Congress.
"I honestly thought the Democratic Party leaders would see this opportunity," Justice Democrats communications director Waleed Shahid told the Huffington Post. "It's infuriating to see a fellow Democrat basically parrot the talking points of the Koch Brothers when it comes to the very common-sense idea that any politician who accepts donations from the fossil-fuel corporations should not be allowed to legislate on climate change."
However, activists aren't planning to give up. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the newly-elected New York Congresswoman who has led the push for the Green New Deal committee, was defiant in a tweet responding to Castor's remarks on fossil fuel funding.
"Loading a climate committee w/ fossil fuel [money] is akin to letting foxes in the henhouse," she wrote. "We shouldn't be afraid to lead."
We don’t have time to sit on our hands as our planet burns. For young people, climate change is bigger than electi… https://t.co/bcKMfDXDvD— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez)1545348957.0
Sunrise Movement leaders also said they were not willing to give up.
"Nancy Pelosi has the power to determine whether or not the Select Committee for a Green New Deal lives or dies," Sunrise Movement Political Director Evan Weber told the Huffington Post. "Sunrise Movement's position is and will continue to be that it's not over until she makes it clear that it's over."
Castor herself told E&E News that her position on the committee was not "official" and that the mission and shape of the committee was still being formed. She is also not inflexible in her positions on fossil fuel money. When pushed by the Huffington Post, she said her freedom-of-speech comment was "inartful" but that she did not know if she would have the power as chairwoman to block potential members based on the donations they accepted and that it was an issue that could be discussed in caucus. She did say she would consider pledging to refuse future fossil fuel donations.
Castor is not without environmental bona fides. She has a 93 percent lifetime environmental voting score from the League of Conservation voters and an 86 percent voting score for the past year. She also represents a state disproportionately impacted by climate change.
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) released a statement backing her appointment, and Democratic California Representative Jared Huffman, who does back a Green New Deal, told E&E News he thought Castor would be a "terrific" chair.
"I think she brings a lot of thoughtfulness to the position, and she's experienced, so I can't disagree with that," Huffman said.
At first glance, you wouldn't think avocados and almonds could harm bees; but a closer look at how these popular crops are produced reveals their potentially detrimental effect on pollinators.
Migratory beekeeping involves trucking millions of bees across the U.S. to pollinate different crops, including avocados and almonds. Timothy Paule II / Pexels / CC0<p>According to <a href="https://www.fromthegrapevine.com/israeli-kitchen/beekeeping-how-to-keep-bees" target="_blank">From the Grapevine</a>, American avocados also fully depend on bees' pollination to produce fruit, so farmers have turned to migratory beekeeping as well to fill the void left by wild populations.</p><p>U.S. farmers have become reliant upon the practice, but migratory beekeeping has been called exploitative and harmful to bees. <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2019/05/10/health/avocado-almond-vegan-partner/index.html" target="_blank">CNN</a> reported that commercial beekeeping may injure or kill bees and that transporting them to pollinate crops appears to negatively affect their health and lifespan. Because the honeybees are forced to gather pollen and nectar from a single, monoculture crop — the one they've been brought in to pollinate — they are deprived of their normal diet, which is more diverse and nourishing as it's comprised of a variety of pollens and nectars, Scientific American reported.</p><p>Scientific American added how getting shuttled from crop to crop and field to field across the country boomerangs the bees between feast and famine, especially once the blooms they were brought in to fertilize end.</p><p>Plus, the artificial mass influx of bees guarantees spreading viruses, mites and fungi between the insects as they collide in midair and crawl over each other in their hives, Scientific American reported. According to CNN, some researchers argue that this explains why so many bees die each winter, and even why entire hives suddenly die off in a phenomenon called colony collapse disorder.</p>
Avocado and almond crops depend on bees for proper pollination. FRANK MERIÑO / Pexels / CC0<p>Salazar and other Columbian beekeepers described "scooping up piles of dead bees" year after year since the avocado and citrus booms began, according to Phys.org. Many have opted to salvage what partial colonies survive and move away from agricultural areas.</p><p>The future of pollinators and the crops they help create is uncertain. According to the United Nations, nearly half of insect pollinators, particularly bees and butterflies, risk global extinction, Phys.org reported. Their decline already has cascading consequences for the economy and beyond. Roughly 1.4 billion jobs and three-quarters of all crops around the world depend on bees and other pollinators for free fertilization services worth billions of dollars, Phys.org noted. Losing wild and native bees could <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/wild-bees-crop-shortage-2646849232.html" target="_self">trigger food security issues</a>.</p><p>Salazar, the beekeeper, warned Phys.org, "The bee is a bioindicator. If bees are dying, what other insects beneficial to the environment... are dying?"</p>
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