Progressive Dems hold climate panel, address barriers to change

This article is part of a series on the Democratic National Convention.

PHILADELPHIA – Unofficially, it was the March for a Clean Energy Revolution that kicked off a week of marches coinciding with the Democratic National Convention. Over 10,000 people showed up to march in the streets and demand a renewable energy future. 

Given the street heat surrounding the issue, what has prevented us as a society from committing to collective action? The Progressive Democrats of America held a panel about finding the courage to fight Climate Change.

Climate activist Russell Green, a former executive VP of Cheesecake Factory and Margaret Klein-Salamon, an Ivy League-educated former psychologist, facilitated the panel. These two found a way to dramatically reorient their lives, but are under no illusions that the average person can do the same.

“After Pearl Harbor,” said Klein-Salamon, “the country unified around the fight because we realized that if we don’t win, nothing else matters.”

It’s true. All hands were on deck after the Japanese raid on Pearl Harbor. But that attack took place over hours, not generations. As she then illustrated, human’s aren’t evolutionarily prepared for generation-long threats.

“We deny, we compartmentalize, we say, ‘the climate crisis is happening, but what does that have to do with me,'” she said, “What happens when we take it in and let it change us… I’ve had a pretty good life, but it wouldn’t be good for long if civilization collapses.”

Klein-Saloman is the founder of Climate Action and is a believer that gradualism isn’t enough.

“Gradualism is hegemonic in climate advocacy. Making sure we can cut emissions without harming business. Well, 50 percent emissions reduction by 2050 won’t cut it.”

The panel also explored the effect of art on opening people to the world of climate action. Xiuhtezcatl Martinez is a 16-years old “eco rap” artist who says he’s been a fighter for the environment since he was six years old.

“To me, it’s all about disconnection. Racism is disconnection from each other and the reason we let the world deteriorate is because we’ve lost our connection to the earth,” said Martinez. “It’s more than boots on the ground, its more than Bernie or Hillary, but about the world we’ll leave the next generation.”

Check out the performances by Xiuhtezcatl Martinez’s here.

Josh Fox is an environmental filmmaker and the director of Gasland. He held the environmental movement accountable with a reminder of the intersectional realities.

Fox told the room, “The climate movement is too old and too white… I’m not saying we shouldn’t work in our communities, but we need to talk about race, about breaking out of our silos because we can’t afford to be careful.

“We have to reach out and be uncomfortable.”

Fox’s main issue is the issue of fracking, a banning of which did not make the final draft of the Democratic Party’s platform.

Fox also pushed for practicality rather than idealism going into 2016 election saying, “It’s not about Bernie or Hillary, but Bernie and Hillary… the Clinton campaign has to find a way to absorb the Sanders voters.”

“We can’t walk out,” Fox said, “we have to walk in… we have to march in the street and have a thousand people walk out of the convention, then we need to go right back in.”

Photo: Climate march in New York City.  |  John Minchillo/Climate Action Network (CC)


Patrick J. Foote
Patrick J. Foote

Patrick Foote writes occasionally for People's World. At the University of Central Florida, he worked with the Student Labor Action Project organizing around the intersection of student and worker issues. He would go on to work in the labor movement in such organizations as Central Florida Jobs with Justice, AFSCME Council 79, and OUR Walmart.