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As Millions in Texas Lack Safe Water, Activists Rally for Green New Deal

Youth leaders with the Sunrise Movement rallied at Texas’ capitol in response to the state’s cascading crises.

Volunteers prepare to hand out water during a water distribution event at the Fountain Life Center on February 20, 2021, in Houston, Texas.

While millions of Texans on Monday continued living without safe drinking water and many faced storm damage and massive electricity bills, youth leaders with the Sunrise Movement rallied at the state capitol in Austin, using the current conditions across the Lone Star State to bolster their demand for a Green New Deal.

“Texas is the perfect example of what happens when our politicians cater to fossil fuel executives instead of the young people who have been shouting from the rooftops for years, warning of an impending climate emergency like this,” said Sunrise leader Chante Davis in a statement ahead of the rally.

The Houston teenager’s family moved to Texas in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

“I’ve survived three once-in-a lifetime storms in my 17 years of life,” Davis said. “We need change, and the Green New Deal is the obvious, urgent solution. As our communities come together to fill the void of our government, our leaders must invest in us to provide jobs that directly address the crises we face.”

The group has been a key proponent of the Green New Deal resolution introduced in 2019 by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.).

Last week’s deadly winter weather, which experts have linked to human-caused climate change, led to major power outages across Texas — the only state that mostly relies on its own electricity grid. Some Republicans, including Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, tried to blame renewable energy and warn of the not-yet-implemented Green New Deal, but the outages were largely tied to fossil fuel and nuclear facilities. Though much of the state now has power again, Texans are still dealing with water and food issues.

Concerns are also mounting over the hundreds of thousands of pounds of pollutants — including benzene, carbon monoxide, hydrogen sulfide, and sulfur dioxide — that Texas oil refineries released while scrambling to shut down during the storm.

Climate campaigners within and beyond Texas have responded to the state’s cascading crises by ramping up their calls for a Green New Deal, which would create millions of jobs by transitioning the nation to 100% clean power while launching a WWII-style mobilization to build “resiliency against climate change-related disasters.”

In a petition open for signatures from Texas residents, Sunrise lays out four key demands — including the resignation of Abbott and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who came under fire last week for fleeing to Cancún for a vacation as his constituents endured the fallout from the storm during the coronavirus pandemic:

  • Direct, Immediate Relief: We need cancelled utility bills, direct cash assistance of $2,000/month, a rent freeze, and specific support for our most marginalized community members.
  • A 100% Renewable, Resilient Energy System and Good Jobs to Build It: A public, well-regulated power system to make our state and country more resilient to future disasters and create good union jobs for our communities.
  • Joe Biden must come to Texas. Where Texas’ leaders have failed us, the president of the United States has an opportunity to lead. He must come to Texas and help the suffering, and use this moment to take urgent action on the climate crisis and build the resilient power system of the future.
  • The resignation of Greg Abbott and Ted Cruz. Gov. Abbott and Sen. Cruz have neglected their duty as public servants in the midst of this humanitarian crisis and must step down immediately. They are unfit to serve.

Journalist and environmentalist Naomi Klein on Monday noted Cruz’s attempted defense of the trip in a tweet promoting the Sunrise rally:

Klein — author of This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate and other books — argued in a Sunday column for the New York Times that Republicans “fear” the Green New Deal because it offers a viable alternative to “the collapse of a 40-year experiment in free-market fundamentalism” that Texans are now enduring.

“The horrors currently unfolding in Texas expose both the reality of the climate crisis and the extreme vulnerability of fossil fuel infrastructure in the face of that crisis,” Klein wrote. “So of course the Green New Deal finds itself under fierce attack. Because for the first time in a long time, Republicans face the very thing that they claim to revere but never actually wanted: competition — in the battle of ideas.”

In a statement last week calling on Abbott resign over his handling of the storm and his lies about the power outages on Fox News, Sunrise digital director Paris Moran declared that “we deserve a government that addresses our basic needs and protects all of us in moments of crisis.”

“Despite the lies you’ll hear from Gov. Abbott on Fox News, that’s truly what the Green New Deal is all about,” said Moran, whose family in Texas lost electricity, had food go bad, and lacked consistent running water. “We must come together and rebuild an era of prosperity through the Decade of the Green New Deal.”

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