Youth Climate Activists Demanding Green New Deal Arrested for Sit-In at McConnell's Office
By Jessica Corbett
Hundreds of Kentucky high school students and climate campaigners with the youth-led Sunrise Movement descended on the Capitol Hill office of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Monday to deliver 100,000 petition signatures and stage a sit-in to make clear to lawmakers that young people want a Green New Deal for their communities and futures.
For calling on McConnell to heed public demands for federal lawmakers to pass policies that will phase out fossil fuels and combat the global climate crisis while also creating green jobs and a more just economy, more than 40 demonstrators were arrested:
BREAKING: arrests happening now outside #OilMoneyMitch's DC office https://t.co/S4AyB73aZY— Sunrise Movement 🌅 (@Sunrise Movement 🌅)1551112701.0
KY youth w/ @sunrisemvmt came to ask #OilMoneyMitch to #LookUsInTheEyes and tell us that the $1.9 million he took f… https://t.co/7fhl5gDGEV— Dyanna Jaye 🌅 (@Dyanna Jaye 🌅)1551113319.0
As recent polling shows more than 80 percent of Americans back key elements of the Green New Deal put forth by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), the mobilization to increase pressure on McConnell comes after the majority leader announced last week that he plans to rush a floor vote on the resolution, which critics denounced as a ploy to fuel divisions in the Democratic Party.
"Kentucky youth traveled here today because their state needs a Green New Deal. Mitch McConnell's Green New Deal vote is a political stunt to score some points for his wealthy donors," Sunrise Movement Executive Director Varshini Prakash said in a statement. "We're here to warn him and all senators: if you refuse to back the Green New Deal, young people will remember next time you ask for our votes."
Demonstrators who carried signs that read "Oil & gas $ or our lives?," "Green New Deal," and "Mitch, Look us in the eyes" as well as supporters posted updates on social media from Monday's demonstration with the hashtags #OilMoneyMitch and #LookUsInTheEyes:
Young Kentuckians with @sunrisemvmt were just kicked out of #OilMoneyMitch's senate office because he won't… https://t.co/ky11O8tonV— matthew miles goodrich (@matthew miles goodrich)1551112496.0
🚨 Stand with the young folks risking arrest in Washington, DC today to stand up to #OilMoneyMitch & fight for the j… https://t.co/V2YalElhZM— 350 dot org (@350 dot org)1551113261.0
Singing in #OilMoneyMitch's DC office: which side are you on? Ask all of Congress to stand with our generation by… https://t.co/w5UUEd8aqc— Sunrise Movement 🌅 (@Sunrise Movement 🌅)1551112467.0
"I am here because people in my community don't have jobs, are starving and turning to opioids and dying," 15-year-old Lily Gardner of Lexington, Kentucky said in a statement. "Mitch McConnell refuses to do anything about. His own constituents—high schoolers—have traveled here to meet with him. All we want is for him to put our lives above the interests of his campaign donors."
Both from McConnell's office and outside the Capitol Building, the youth demonstrators shared why they felt compelled to visit their senator in Washington, DC—with some pointing to warnings from a recent U.N. report that the international community has just about 12 years to pursue "rapid, far-reaching, and unprecedented" systemic changes needed to avert climate catastrophe:
“The Green New Deal is for my brother who has asthma and everyone in Louisville who suffers from pollution.” - Jenny https://t.co/XErswwC1N4— Sunrise Movement 🌅 (@Sunrise Movement 🌅)1551113982.0
“I’m here for my family—because people back home in Kentucky have had to put up with this crisis for far too long.”… https://t.co/lcQ0xy5k2r— Sunrise Movement 🌅 (@Sunrise Movement 🌅)1551114191.0
Erin, a young Kentuckian: “We have just 12 years to address this crisis” https://t.co/kROmNV8d04— Sunrise Movement 🌅 (@Sunrise Movement 🌅)1551111197.0
Young Kentuckians w @sunrisemvmtlou.... 🏛️ visited #OilMoneyMitch's office in KY multiple times last week ⛺️ camped… https://t.co/jBrwcHRD8k— matthew miles goodrich (@matthew miles goodrich)1551113524.0
Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), who is among the scores of
co-sponsors of the Green New Deal resolution, voiced support for the sit-in at McConnell's office on Monday, urging the youth climate activists to "keep fighting."
.@senatemajldr claims that a #GreenNewDeal is unattainable, as if he suddenly cares about climate. Instead of his o… https://t.co/jzJmGaAwCI— Senator Jeff Merkley (@Senator Jeff Merkley)1551113235.0
Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.
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By D. André Green II
One of nature's epic events is underway: Monarch butterflies' fall migration. Departing from all across the United States and Canada, the butterflies travel up to 2,500 miles to cluster at the same locations in Mexico or along the Pacific Coast where their great-grandparents spent the previous winter.
Millions of People Care About Monarchs<p>I will never forget the sights and sounds the first time I visited monarchs' overwintering sites in Mexico. Our guide pointed in the distance to what looked like hanging branches covered with dead leaves. But then I saw the leaves flash orange every so often, revealing what were actually thousands of tightly packed butterflies. The monarchs made their most striking sounds in the Sun, when they burst from the trees in massive fluttering plumes or landed on the ground in the tussle of mating.</p><p>Decades of educational outreach by teachers, researchers and hobbyists has cultivated a generation of monarch admirers who want to help preserve this phenomenon. This global network has helped restore not only monarchs' summer breeding habitat by planting milkweed, but also general pollinator habitat by planting nectaring flowers across North America.</p><p>Scientists have calculated that restoring the monarch population to a stable level of about 120 million butterflies will require <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/icad.12198" target="_blank">planting 1.6 billion new milkweed stems</a>. And they need them fast. This is too large a target to achieve through grassroots efforts alone. A <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/CCAA.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">new plan</a>, announced in the spring of 2020, is designed to help fill the gap.</p>
Pros and Cons of Regulation<p>The top-down strategy for saving monarchs gained energy in 2014, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service <a href="https://www.fws.gov/southeast/pdf/petition/monarch.pdf" target="_blank">proposed</a> listing them as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. A decision is expected in December 2020.</p><p>Listing a species as endangered or threatened <a href="https://www.fws.gov/endangered/esa-library/pdf/listing.pdf" target="_blank">triggers restrictions</a> on "taking" (hunting, collecting or killing), transporting or selling it, and on activities that negatively affect its habitat. Listing monarchs would impose restrictions on landowners in areas where monarchs are found, over vast swaths of land in the U.S.</p><p>In my opinion, this is not a reason to avoid a listing. However, a "threatened" listing might inadvertently threaten one of the best conservation tools that we have: public education.</p><p>It would severely restrict common practices, such as rearing monarchs in classrooms and back yards, as well as scientific research. Anyone who wants to take monarchs and milkweed for these purposes would have to apply for special permits. But these efforts have had a multigenerational educational impact, and they should be protected. Few public campaigns have been more successful at raising awareness of conservation issues.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="91165203d4ec0efc30e4632a00fdf57d"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/KilPRvjbMrA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The Rescue Attempt<p>To preempt the need for this kind of regulation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved a <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/pdfs/Monarch%20CCAA-CCA%20Public%20Comment%20Documents/Monarch-Nationwide_CCAA-CCA_Draft.pdf" target="_blank">Nationwide Candidate Conservation Agreement for Monarch Butterflies</a>. Under this plan, "rights-of-way" landowners – energy and transportation companies and private owners – commit to restoring and creating millions of acres of pollinator habitat that have been decimated by land development and herbicide use in the past half-century.</p><p>The agreement was spearheaded by the <a href="http://rightofway.erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank">Rights-of-Way Habitat Working Group</a>, a collaboration between the University of Illinois Chicago's <a href="https://erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Energy Resources Center</a>, the Fish and Wildlife Service and over 40 organizations from the energy and transportation sectors. These sectors control "rights-of-way" corridors such as lands near power lines, oil pipelines, railroad tracks and interstates, all valuable to monarch habitat restoration.</p><p>Under the plan, partners voluntarily agree to commit a percentage of their land to host protected monarch habitat. In exchange, general operations on their land that might directly harm monarchs or destroy milkweed will not be subject to the enhanced regulation of the Endangered Species Act – protection that would last for 25 years if monarchs are listed as threatened. The agreement is expected to create up to 2.3 million acres of new protected habitat, which ideally would avoid the need for a "threatened" listing.</p>
A Model for Collaboration<p>This agreement could be one of the few specific interventions that is big enough to allow researchers to quantify its impact on the size of the monarch population. Even if the agreement produces only 20% of its 2.3 million acre goal, this would still yield nearly half a million acres of new protected habitat. This would provide a powerful test of the role of declining breeding and nectaring habitat compared to other challenges to monarchs, such as climate change or pollution.</p><p>Scientists hope that data from this agreement will be made publicly available, like projects in the <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/MCD.html" target="_blank">Monarch Conservation Database</a>, which has tracked smaller on-the-ground conservation efforts since 2014. With this information we can continue to develop powerful new models with better accuracy for determining how different habitat factors, such as the number of milkweed stems or nectaring flowers on a landscape scale, affect the monarch population.</p><p>North America's monarch butterfly migration is one of the most awe-inspiring feats in the natural world. If this rescue plan succeeds, it could become a model for bridging different interests to achieve a common conservation goal.</p>
The annual Ig Nobel prizes were awarded Thursday by the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research for scientific experiments that seem somewhat absurd, but are also thought-provoking. This was the 30th year the awards have been presented, but the first time they were not presented at Harvard University. Instead, they were delivered in a 75-minute pre-recorded ceremony.