By Christianna Silva
More than 100 young climate activists rallied in front of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office on Monday over his opposition to the Green New Deal, resulting in almost 50 young people being arrested on Capitol Hill, according to CNN.
The Green New Deal is a 10-year climate change initiative, sponsored by Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts, that has been gaining steam among progressives since last November. The goals of the reform include transitioning the country to 100 percent renewable energy in the next decade, upgrading infrastructure to make it energy-efficient and creating new green jobs to replace coal industry jobs. According to House Leader Nancy Pelosi, climate change is, “the existential threat of our time.”
Earlier this month, Senator McConnell announced that he would bring the deal to the floor for a vote earlier than anticipated, which could force vulnerable Democrats to publicly reject the progressive legislation since many Democrats have expressed doubt on the plan's efficacy. For his own part, McConnell has been a staunch denier of climate change – in 2014, he said, “for everybody who thinks [the planet is] warming, I can find somebody who thinks it isn't.”
Lily Gardner, a 15-year-old student, told MTV News that she joined the protest Monday because she grew up in Eastern Kentucky, which she describes as “coal country.” According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, that industry is a direct contributor to climate change, which is largely caused by an abundance of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, due to burning fossil fuels like coal, oil, and gas. “I think that when I was younger it was really easy to point to coal as ... a purveyor of hope, and instead it was much more like a purveyor of pain,” she added.” None of the benefits seem to outweigh all of the costs and the carnage on our land.”
Lily, a member of the nonpartisan youth environmental advocacy group Sunrise Movement, traveled to Washington, D.C. in order to make climate change a priority in the U.S. and stop fossil fuel companies from making political donations. She views the Green New Deal as “the opportunity for a future [in which] kids are not going to feel like they need to move out of the place that they call their home, to have a future and to even just survive. ”
This demonstration comes shortly after students from the Sunrise Movement met with
California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who has shown relatively little support of the Green New Deal, and pleaded her to reconsider. The group posted a video of their encounter, in which Feinstein told a 16-year-old, “Well, you didn’t vote for me,” and added, “I know what I’m doing. So you know, maybe people should listen a little bit.”
Backlash to the video was swift, and Feinstein later issued a statement in response: “Unfortunately, it was a brief meeting but I want the children to know they were heard loud and clear. I have been and remain committed to doing everything I can to enact real, meaningful climate change legislation.”
Destine Grigsby, a 17-year-old from Louisville Kentucky and a member of the Sunrise Movement, says she thinks Feinstein's insistence on alternative legislation is simply not good enough.
“We need drastic changes,” Destine told MTV News. “Not only to see a livable future but to see a good future and one that we want, not just one that we take.”
Last week, she joined other young Kentuckians in paying a visit to McConnell’s Louisville office last week but were turned away. Destine told MTV News that the Green New Deal is “the only solution to climate change.”
For Monday’s protest, members of the Sunrise Movement wore black and yellow shirts announcing their support for the Green New Deal and aimed to deliver a petition with 100,000 signatures from like-minded people across the country. “It’s the only way that we’re going to remake our economy in a way that we’re actually going to see a livable future,” Destine told MTV News shortly before she and several of her peers gathered inside McConnell’s office and in the hallway.
"We also wanted to ask if we could deliver some stories to him if we could ... tell him why we're here and why we support the Green New Deal," she added.
The senator refused to meet with the protestors on Monday, but McConnell's communications director Robert Steurer told CNN, "As with all Kentuckians visiting D.C., we welcomed them to the office today."
Shortly after the students gave speeches, Capitol Police issued warnings and began arresting protestors for unlawfully demonstrating and obstructing the building, Capitol Police Spokesperson Eva Malecki confirmed to CNN. Following the arrests of 42 people, The crowd then gathered on the Capitol lawn and continued protesting and chanting.
Despite the arrests, it doesn’t appear that the Sunrise Movement activists will stop demanding action from their elected officials any time soon. Climate change is the greatest threat to humanity today, according to a report released by the United Nations’ scientific panel on climate change. The report noted that by the year 2040, the world will face dire conditions due to global warming.