Senator Bernie Sanders campaign trail stops in Moreno Valley

_DSC8433 copySenator Bernie Sanders stops in Moreno Valley Ca for a campaign rally on Dec. 20. He speaks about the Green New Deal and other reforms he plans to make if elected president.  (Photo: Angel Pena | Viewpoints)

By Erik Galicia

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT.) stopped by Moreno Valley on Dec. 20 to discuss his plans to address scientists’ warnings that Earth risks irreparable damage if a 45% reduction in carbon emissions is not achieved by 2030.

Most attendees were eager to hear Sanders’ Green New Deal proposals and filled the Marinaj Banquets and Events Hall with chants demanding climate reform.

“What do we want? Climate justice! When do we want it? Now! If we don’t get it, shut it down!”

Different versions of a Green New Deal have been proposed all over the world in recent years to address climate change. The most recent proposal in the United States, drafted by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY.) and Sen. Edward J. Markey (D-MA), failed to pass in the Republican-controlled senate earlier this year. 

Sanders claimed to have the “strongest, most comprehensive” climate change proposal of all the presidential candidates and rang the alarm on the worsening of the refugee crisis that climate change is expected to cause.

“Most importantly, (the Green New Deal) recognizes the existential crisis that we are in,” Sanders said. “What scientists are telling us now is (that) they have underestimated the degree and severity in which climate change is ravaging … the entire planet.”

Sanders explained that the rapid melting of polar ice caps will result in cities and some small, low altitude countries ending up under water as global sea levels rise. He also mentioned how California’s droughts negatively impact food production and how the acidification of the oceans is killing fish, which many communities across the world depend on as a food source.

“What climate change means … if we don’t get our act together, (is) hundreds of millions of people becoming climate refugees,” Sanders said. “Being forced to migrate from their own communities because they can’t find drinking water or land to grow their crops. And when hundreds of millions of people migrate, you have massive international security issues and the likelihood of world war.”

The senator said that unlike President Donald Trump, he will work with grassroots movements all over the world to demand global actions be taken by governments to address climate change.

“Instead of spending $1.8 trillion a year collectively on weapons of destruction designed to kill each other, maybe we pull our resources and we fight our common enemy, which is climate change,” he said about the global unity that is required to deal with the climate crisis.

Sanders has proposed making a complete shift from fossil fuels to clean and renewable energy. He claims that the activities required of this monumental shift will create up to 20 million jobs. His campaign’s website states that the Green New Deal must “ensure a just transition for communities and workers,” which the plan can potentially end up displacing and putting out of work. 

Because he plans to “fully electrify and decarbonize” the transportation sector, his proposal includes $2.09 trillion in grants to aid families and small businesses in the purchase of electric vehicles. It also includes $681 billion for a vehicle trade-in program. But Sanders’ proposal does not provide details on help for tradesmen, such as mechanics, that may see their fields become obsolete.

According to Sanders, the Green New Deal will pay for itself over a period of 15 years. His proposed funding mechanism includes making the fossil fuel industry pay, reducing military spending and collecting new income tax revenue from the expected 20 million new jobs.

“Aside from other aspects of Trump’s stupidity, when it comes to climate change, what he is doing is not just a great disservice to our country but to the entire world,” Sanders said. “I don’t understand … how anybody can deny the reality of climate change and then look their kids or their grandchildren in the eye.”

Sanders’ speech was preceded by climate change activists who urged the need for mobilization and spoke on the impact that the crisis is already having on communities.

“I look at my siblings and I ponder at what the world will look like 60 years from now,” said Rayleen Arevalo, a Riverside City College student and Friends of Bernie Sanders member. “Your power as a student is with other students. Only you can mobilize your school.”

Water chemist Gracie Torres, a member of the board of directors of Riverside’s Western Municipal Water District, criticized the construction of warehouses, water quality and the failing infrastructure of the Inland Empire.

“Our own health is affected because corporations are putting profit first instead of people first,” Torres said. “Last year the Inland Empire was ravaged by wildfires and torn apart by extreme storms. That proves to us that we don’t have the infrastructure right now to combat climate change.”

According to the activists, Latinx and African-American communities are the most polluted in the nation because corporations are able to target them so easily.

Sanders also touched on several other issues, including immigration, education and the criminal justice system.

He vowed to restore legal status to DACA recipients through executive order on his first day in office if elected. The senator reiterated his plan to cancel student debt and make public colleges and universities tuition-free by taxing Wall Street speculation. 

“Wall Street doesn’t like that,” Sanders said. “But to hell with Wall Street. Congress, against my vote, bailed them out 11 years ago. It’s time for them to help the working class out.”

Sanders also proposed abolishing private prisons and cash bail. He promised to legalize marijuana and work to expunge the records of those with marijuana convictions, while ensuring that control of the cannabis industry is not taken over by a few large corporations.

The senator is the first 2020 presidential candidate to hold an event in Moreno Valley. Although the event was announced as a town hall, Sanders did not take questions from the audience. 

“The whole thing was awesome,” said attendee Raul Rodriguez, an immigrant who recently became a naturalized citizen after 25 years in the United States. “Hopefully what he promises he actually brings to the table. Politicians make promises all the time and don’t deliver.”

Rodriguez will be voting for the first time in next year’s elections.