AURORA – Protesters gathered around U.S. Rep. Bill Foster’s, D-Naperville, office to pressure him to support a climate change and economic inequality proposal called the Green New Deal on June 22.
Local leaders of the Progressives of Kane County, Fox Valley Sierra Club, Northern Illinois Jobs with Justice and students from the Sunrise Movement joined forces with the goal of creating change and supporting the climate change legislation, which is sponsored by U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-New York, and U.S. Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass.
Alison Squires, chairwoman of the Progressives of Kane County, said she thinks it’s important for representatives to take the most aggressive policy available to fix the climate crisis “because Democrats that deny the climate emergency are just as bad as Republicans that deny climate change.”
Dr. Don Wuebbles, a climate scientist and one of the featured speakers, said there is no debate about the science behind climate change.
“Something we should be debating about is the solutions,” he said. “Our climate is changing. It’s changing extremely rapidly. ... Because it’s changing so rapidly, it’s very difficult for humans and for nature to adapt to those changes. That’s why it is so urgent. It will have so many impacts.”
Wuebbles said the climate crisis is evident.
“Severe weather is becoming more intense,” he said. “We’re getting more heat waves, so more multiple days of extreme heat. … Here in the Midwest, we’re seeing more precipitation than we’ve had in the past, particularly in winter and spring, and drier summers overall. More of that precipitation, when it comes anywhere in the world, is essentially coming as a larger event.”
Wuebbles is currently co-leading a special report assessing the science of climate change as a prelude to the fourth U.S. National Climate Assessment. He said President Donald Trump has called the range of plans that they’re considering as unrealistic.
“We really need to both mitigate and adapt because that is what we’re faced with,” Wuebbles said. “There are many things we can do as individuals. Probably the most important single thing is to make sure that our representatives are well aware of the importance of this issue, so they start doing something about it at the local, state and national levels. How you vote makes a big difference.”
Dr. Vince Gaddis, a professor at Benedictine University and another featured speaker, said it’s important to know the nation’s history to understand why the Green New Deal is necessary.
“When the New Deal was instituted in the 1930s, capitalism was in crisis, and a new vision for the economic future was being created,” he said. “The New Deal was rooted really in a moral decision. … That moral decision was that the dignity of work must be protected and capitalism had to be restrained in order to protect that dignity. Fast forward until now, the Earth is in crisis much as a result of unrestrained capitalism. So, we need a new deal—A Green New Deal—with a strong moral foundation upon which we can build a sustainable future.”
Gaddis questioned the argument that some have about the costs of combating the climate crisis.
“It’s the wrong question,” he said. “The question is what is the cost of doing nothing? What is the cost of apathy? What is the cost of politics as usual? The cost is extinction.”
Prior to the rally, a delegation met with Foster to make their case known in-person.
Mavis Bates, a member of the Fox Valley Sierra Club and one of the featured speakers, said the meeting went great.
“Bill is very aware of climate change,” she said. “He understands all the signs of climate change.”
The Fox Valley Sierra Club is among the area groups lobbying for the Green New Deal.
“The frustration comes in because Bill, in his wisdom, has a more global vision,” Bates said. “The first thing he says is, ‘We can do this in the U.S. and we should, but what we really have to worry about is China and India.’ That’s true, but we did push back a little bit and say, ‘Well, Bill—we still have to do this in the U.S.”
Bates said that lobbying Foster was important, because of his professional background and experience.
“He’s our scientist,” she said. “We want him to lead the charge.”
During the rally, demonstrators held signs that read, “Change needs to happen now” and “Sea levels are rising, so are we.”
The demonstration drew several honks from passersby as well.
Mates lauded Foster for his thoughts on how the nation can utilize technology to combat the climate crisis.
“We’ll keep working with Bill,” she said. “We’re not going away. We want this to be the decade of the Green New Deal. We know we have to save the planet. We owe it to our children to save the planet. We know we have the technology; we know it’s scary; we know it’s big; we know people are thinking we’re going too fast. People think we’re not practical, but we have the technology and we just have to keep our vision.”
Bates said she knows that there is not much time to address the climate crisis.
“We need plans and actions that are on the same scale as the emergency [and] the crisis that we’re facing,” she said. “Let’s do it. … America is a fantastic country. We have the ability; we have the money. We just have to make sure [we’re] putting our investments in the best investments.”