Guest Column: Stand with sixth graders for the Green New Deal

  • Sen. Edward Markey, D- Mass., speaks at a rally for Green New Deal, Tuesday, March 26, 2019, outside the Capitol in Washington. The Green New Deal calls for the U.S. to shift away from fossil fuels such as oil and coal and replace them with renewable sources such as wind and solar power. AP PHOTO/Matthew Daly

Published: 5/15/2019 10:47:30 AM

“...tell them
that we don’t want to leave
we’ve never wanted to leave
and that we
are nothing without our islands”

— Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner

This passage from a poem entitled “Tell Them” is about the effects of global warming on the Marshall Islands. It talks about how rising sea levels are threatening homes, towns, and cemeteries. The Green New Deal would eliminate that threat and would limit sea levels’ rising.

We are students of Deborah Sawicki’s sixth grade class at Fort River Elementary School in Amherst and we, along with other students, have voted to support the Green New Deal in our civic literacy unit. Organizers-in-Residence Stephanie Jo Kent and Lindsey Peterson are helping students take action in campaigns on the state, national, and international level. After a lengthy discussion to establish our values, the organizers gave the students a list of campaigns. Students had many choices, but the Green New Deal came out on top.

The Green New Deal was greatly influenced by Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, which was passed to end the Great Depression. It was an effective bill supplying citizens with jobs and improving infrastructure. The Green New Deal is similarly a comprehensive plan, but to combat climate change. It aims to do this by reaching 50 percent renewable energy by 2030 and 100 percent renewable energy by 2050. And although that might sound like a long time, it’s not. We need to start now to reach this goal.

There are many consequences if we do not fight against global warming. It will cause more than $500 billion in lost annual economic output in the United States by the year 2100. Fisheries, trade, transportation, and agriculture will be harmed, according to Climate Hot Map.

Wildfires will burn twice as much forest area than in previous years. That would mean about three and a half percent of California burned each year. This would put our planet in smoke and flames just because we didn’t pay attention to climate change.

Also, there would be mass migration from areas most affected, such as New York City, New Orleans, and much of Florida. Increases in natural disasters because of climate change in these areas will displace many people from their homes. Providence, Rhode Island could be the Island of Providence in the near future.

Another consequence is that Earth will lose 99 percent of the ocean’s most beautiful animal, coral reefs. The tropical ocean would lose all of its color and coral reefs, which are already rare, could become scarce.

More than 350 million people all over the world will be exposed to deadly heat stress by 2050. Humans become heat stressed when they absorb more heat than is tolerable. If our core body temperature rises a couple of degrees above 98.6°F, deadly heat stroke can occur. Global warming is making the temperature rise, and eventually, the temperature will rise those few degrees. Heat stroke will become prevalent resulting in the loss of many lives.

There would be a great risk of damage to $1 trillion of public infrastructure and coastal real estate in the United States. Again, lots of people could have homes in ruins resulting in no place to live. Shelters would be overpopulated and we would lose lives.

Students helping the Green New Deal are brainstorming strategies and putting these strategies into action. There are four groups working to support the Green New Deal in our class. One group wants to put solar panels in the new Amherst Regional High School parking lot, since it’s going to be redone in the near future. There’s also a group working on establishing Sunday as a No-Car Day in downtown Amherst to limit car emissions while encouraging healthy biking, walking and running. Finally, a group is writing a proposal to the state’s Transportation Bond Committee to include bike lanes along all roads. Also, some students did a local strike for climate at the East Street Common on May 3 which used up one hour of academic time. We want to prove how much we care about the climate.

This problem was not created overnight, and it will take a long time to fix. But we need to start NOW. We young people want to have a clean, healthy Earth for the long journey ahead of us. We want a clean planet for our kids and their kids. We want climate change to be a myth for the future generations. Global warming is becoming more and more dangerous. Help your children and grandchildren eliminate climate change. Support the Green New Deal. Stand with us.

Noah Ferris, Spencer McDonald, and Felix Goeckel are sixth graders at Fort River Elementary School.

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