Markey airs Green New Deal in town hall at NHS

  • Sen. Ed Markey talks during a public forum on the Green New Deal Sunday night, March 24, 2019, at the Northampton High School. Staff Photo/Andy Castillo—

  • Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., talks during a public forum on the Green New Deal, Sunday, at the Northampton High School. Staff Photo/Andy Castillo—

  • U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Worcester, speaks during a forum on the Green New Deal Sunday, March 24, 2019, at Northampton High School. Staff Photo/Andy Castillo—

  • U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Worcester, and U.S. Sen. Ed Markey, D-Massachusetts, speak during a forum on the Green New Deal Sunday, March 24, 2019, at Northampton High School. Staff Photo/Andy Castillo—

  • Richard Fein speaks during a public forum on the Green New Deal Sunday at Northampton High School. Staff Photo/Andy Castillo

Staff Writer
Published: 3/25/2019 12:16:12 AM

NORTHAMPTON — When President Franklin D. Roosevelt took office in the summer of 1933, America’s economy was paralyzed. Gross domestic product had fallen from $103.6 billion in 1929 to $66 billion in 1934. More than 20 percent of the nation’s population was unemployed. Shantytowns were commonplace.

In the face of this crisis, Roosevelt introduced the New Deal — a series of large-scale public building initiatives and financial reforms intended to put Americans back to work. Over the next decade, more than 800 projects were completed in Massachusetts of 15,000 nationwide — including Goodell Hall at the University of Massachusetts, Hatfield’s sewer system, and the Calvin Coolidge Bridge in Northampton.

More than 80 years later, Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., says lawmakers are facing a different kind of crisis — climate change. To fight back, Markey and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., have introduced a controversial resolution that’s modeled off Roosevelt’s “New Deal” called the Green New Deal.

“In the resolution, we use language that Franklin D. Roosevelt used in his second inaugural address,” Markey said. “We built it into the context of a 21st-century energy revolution in this country.”

Among other green energy goals, the resolution proposes ways to dramatically cut back on greenhouse gas emissions in 10 years by putting Americans to work on large-scale renewable energy projects across many sectors — infrastructure, transportation, energy, agriculture, construction and manufacturing.

On Sunday, Markey touted his vision alongside U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Worcester, a vocal supporter of the initiative, to a crowd of hundreds gathered in Northampton High School’s auditorium. During the two-hour-long town hall-style forum, dozens of audience members asked questions ranging from whether or not the proposal is feasible to the impact of green energy laws on family farming operations.

“Are we going to make sure that family farms get the technology and equipment to stay in business and feed the rest of us?” asked Phil Korman of Northampton, executive director of Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture in South Deerfield.

As a way to help pay for some proposals contained in the resolution, Steve “The Hippie” Fendell of Gill suggested reallocating military spending.

“For years, we’ve been saying the same thing. Slash the defense budget dramatically. Let’s do things that promote life and don’t kill,” Fendell said. Climate change, he continued, should be a priority “because it affects everything else.”

Michelle Tom, a junior at Lexington High School, shared a similar perspective. She drove two hours with her mom, Rose Xu, to attend Sunday’s forum.

“It’s so important. The Green New Deal would be so historic. It would be in my history books,” she said.

Throughout, Markey stressed the Green New Deal is a political movement — a resolution, not a bill — as opposed to a definitive legislative framework. Its primary intent, he noted, is to foster discussion around the impact of climate change.

“It’s a set of principles, not prescriptions. It’s meant to trigger a national debate, which has already happened,” Markey said.

As green energy becomes less expensive, he continued, “We have an economic case to make that it’s smarter to invest in renewable (energy). Once you change the policy, you unleash this incredible economic activity.”

According to the Green New Deal’s introductory paragraph, it was written in response to a global climate report given to the United Nations last year and the Fourth National Climate Assessment, which was delivered to Congress in November. The reports found “a changing climate is causing sea levels to rise and an increase in wildfires, severe storms, droughts, and other extreme weather events that threaten human life, healthy communities, and critical infrastructure,” among other things.

To that end, the Green New Deal calls on lawmakers to commit to a 10-year mobilization plan that would repair and upgrade old infrastructure; convert the nation’s power to clean energy sources; upgrade old buildings and build new ones; encourage growth in clean manufacturing; limit pollution in agricultural operations; overhaul transportation systems; restore natural ecosystems; and clean up existing hazardous waste and abandoned sites.

All of these goals are included in a larger mission of “making the United States the international leader on climate action,” the resolution notes.

“You can’t preach temperance from a barstool. You cannot tell other countries to do what you are not doing yourself,” Markey said. “The planet is running a fever. There are no emergency rooms for planets. We need to engage in preventative care.”

The discussion evoked a varied reaction from those in attendance. For some like Jeff Singleton, 71, of Montague, the Green New Deal seems like a pipe dream. Speaking during a time for public questions, Singleton told Markey and McGovern that while he agrees that climate change needs to be addressed, he doesn’t think the Green New Deal is fiscally responsible.

On the other end of the opinion spectrum, Thomas Witten, 23, of Amherst, said he’s not sure if the Green New Deal goes far enough. While he “fully supports” the resolution, climate change, he said, “is way too complicated and way too large” to tackle with one measure.

In addition to Markey and McGovern, other area public officials who either presented briefly or were in attendance included Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz, state Sens. Jo Comerford and Adam Hinds, state Reps. Lindsay Sabadosa, Natalie Blais, Daniel Carey and Mindy Domb, Northwestern District Attorney David Sullivan, Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse, Westfield Mayor Brian Sullivan, and North Adams Mayor Tom Bernard.

Andy Castillo can be reached at

The Green New Deal H.Res.109 by Andy Christian on Scribd


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