AOC: Green New Deal Must Repair 'Historic Oppression' of Indigenous People

In a Thursday news conference, New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said addressing environmental justice for marginalized people is critical in the fight to combat climate change.

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Feb 7 2019, 8:15pm

Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images.

In a Thursday news conference, New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez made it clear that righting the historical wrongs committed against indigenous communities and other marginalized groups is at the heart of her plan to curb climate change.

"There is no justice and there is no combating climate change without addressing what has happened to indigenous communities," she told reporters. "That means that there is no fixing our economy without addressing the racial wealth gap."

The comments were part of Ocasio-Cortez's unveiling of a legislative package known as the Green New Deal, which would bind the federal government to an agreement to achieve net-zero gas emissions and invest in sustainable infrastructure to mounting threats of climate change. The deal promises to create "millions of good, high-wage jobs" in the process.

The legislation itself—drawn up by Ocasio-Cortez and Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey—also includes language that speaks to the social inequalities Ocasio-Cortez alluded to in her comments to the press.

"It is the duty of the Federal Government to create a Green New Deal ... to promote justice and equity by stopping current, preventing future, and repairing historic oppression of indigenous communities, communities of color, migrant communities, deindustrialized communities, depopulated rural communities, the poor, low income workers, women, the elderly, the unhoused, people with disabilities, and youth," reads a clause on pages four and five of the bill.

Ocasio-Cortez threw her weight behind a Green New Deal as a congresswoman-elect, joining Sunrise Movement protesters occupying now-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's offices in the days following her November election win.

The move drew speculation that Ocasio-Cortez, a rising star in the Democratic Party, had overplayed her hand. But the congresswoman's legislation has already drawn support from over 20 House Democrats as well as Senators Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren—all of whom have announced bids for the presidency, a sign that Green New Deal support could be a 2020 litmus test.

On Thursday, Pelosi also announced the panel of eight Democrats who will serve on a new climate change committee, though the caucus does not include Ocasio-Cortez. And though Pelosi acknowledged the "enthusiasm" surrounding the Green New Deal, she didn't expressly endorse it.

“It will be one of several or maybe many suggestions that we receive,” Pelosi told POLITICO. “The green dream, or whatever they call it—nobody knows what it is, but they’re for it, right?”

Ocasio-Cortez, however, says the Green New Deal is exactly the kind of ambitious legislation lawmakers should be getting behind.

"Even the solutions that we have considered big and bold are nowhere near the scale of the actual problem that climate change presents to us," Ocasio-Cortez told NPR Thursday morning before the legislation's roll out.

"It could be part of a larger solution, but no one has actually scoped out what that larger solution would entail," she continued. "And so that's really what we're trying to accomplish with the Green New Deal."

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