South Africa

Earth Day in NYC

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez mobilising to save the planet and its people

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez mobilising to save the planet and its people
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez waves as she greets supporters of the New Green Deal at an Earth Day celebration in New York's Astoria Park in Queens on Saturday 24 April (Photo: An Wentzel)

At an Earth Day celebration in New York on Saturday, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez insists a Green New Deal must include jobs, healthcare and housing.

At its core, the Green New Deal pushed by Representative Ocasio-Cortez and others is a plan of national mobilisation. The plan would see the US fight the climate crisis and make specific strides which would save the climate and champion marginalised Americans and immigrants.

The resolution sets a goal of zero carbon emissions for the US, in the space of a decade. This goal is attached to and part of securing jobs – “20 million union jobs” – as well as affordable housing and healthcare for all Americans. 

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is welcomed with loud, excited cheers and people flock around her as she makes her way to a little clearing in the park to address the families who came out to celebrate Earth Day on Saturday 24 April.

“For those of you who may not know, the Green New Deal is a sweeping revolution – yes it’s revolutionary – it is a sweeping resolution that seeks to decarbonise our economy and peg that timeline, not to political convenience, not to when fossil fuel companies say that we should peg it, but to when the science says we should peg it.”

The crowd gathered near the Robert F Kennedy bridge in Astoria Park in Queens, New York on this sunny, warm Saturday is culturally and racially diverse. Many have brought their young children along. All listen keenly.

Elias and his mother Jessica were also part of the crowd – he had received homework help directly from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as part of the Homework Helpers programme she launched to help children with their school work during the pandemic. Earth Day celebration in Astoria Park, Queens, New York on Saturday 24 April. (Photo: An Wentzel)

Ocasio-Cortez is energetic, urgent and compelling. She speaks quickly and clearly, never still, her hands moving almost as fast as her lips – at least the hand that is not holding the microphone.

At an Earth Day event in Astoria Park in Queens, New York, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez talks about solving affordable housing, jobs, transport and healthcare as part of the solution in solving the climate crisis. Saturday 24 April 2021. (Photo: An Wentzel)

The event is a family afternoon in the park to celebrate Earth Day which was Tuesday 20 April, the same day on which US lawmakers led by Senator Ed Markey and Representative Ocasio-Cortez ‘formally revived their push for a Green New Deal’.

Ocasio-Cortez was running about 10 minutes late on Saturday, testament to the fact that New York traffic is returning to near prepandemic levels as summer takes hold and more people can be outdoors and are inoculated. People waited patiently for her to arrive, talking, listening to music, even reading.

Green New Deal supporters wait patiently, one of the crowd reads a Zadie Smith novel to pass the time before Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez arrives at an Earth Day celebration in Queens, New York. (Photo: An Wentzel)

Ocasio is staying true to her commitment made a few years ago when she and Senator Ed Markey introduced a framework of solutions for a Green New Deal which aimed to slash carbon emissions across industries nationwide while boosting the economy and creating jobs.

Supporters of the Green New Deal wait for Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to arrive to address them at a family day celebration of Earth Day in Astoria Park in Queens, New York, near the Robert F Kennedy Bridge. (Saturday 24 April, Astoria Park, Queens, New York. (Photo: An Wentzel)

The resolution wants a carbon neutral US in 10 years – while not leaving behind marginalised communities including the poor, minority groups like Native Americans and the disabled. 

Republicans against the Green New Deal say it will cause the economy to shed jobs rather than grow jobs, while analysts and climate crisis experts feel that the 10-year timeline is not achievable.

On Saturday, Ocasio-Cortez said of the resolution that “it addresses the systemic societal causes that keep us from getting there … we are going to prioritise them and put them first (marginalised communities)”.

Ocasio-Cortez finished her attendance with a meet and greet and selfies with the crowd, “but please kids first.”

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez meets supporters and children after speaking at an Earth Day celebration in Astoria Park in Queens, New York on Saturday 24 April. (Photo: An Wentzel)

Green New Deal support is growing and Ocasio-Cortez’s message is that it can work and that “it will be an all hands on deck approach and we refuse to leave any community behind in the process.” 

Mainly, she says:

“We are doing it not just to create a more sustainable way of life, but to create a more sustainable society that we can pass along to our kids. Because that’s ultimately what this climate crisis is all about.” DM

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