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We Can’t Tackle the Migrant Crisis Without Fighting Climate Change

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Many Americans have rightfully been outraged at the inhumane conditions of migrant families detained at the border. Refugees have been packed tight into cages that don’t leave them room to lie down, denied basic amenities like showers and toothbrushes, and separated from their children.

Meanwhile, there was a record heatwave that gripped most of the United States. At face value, these issues may seem entirely unrelated. The reality is the crisis at the border is deeply connected to the climate crisis.

What the world’s scientists warned us about 30 years ago is emerging before our eyes. In Central America, prolonged and escalating droughts have choked the water supply and turned crops to dust. Famine, thirst, poverty and crime is creating a generation of climate refugees who uproot from their homes and loved ones. These refugees come to the United States, seeking refuge, stability and dignity.

Instead, they face guns, dogs and jails at our border. Make no mistake, this is what American climate policy looks like in the age of President Trump.

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Consumer Group Wins First Round in Lawsuit Against Ben & Jerry’s

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A federal judge has ruled against Ben & Jerry’s and allowed a lawsuit alleging that the company doesn’t live up to its environmentally friendly messaging to move forward.

The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) filed suit in Washington in July arguing that the Vermont-based ice cream maker misled consumers to think its product is more environmental friendly than it really is, in violation of consumer protection laws. On Monday, Judge Neal Kravitz foiled Ben & Jerry’s efforts to get the case dismissed.

The OCA argued that while Ben & Jerry’s frames itself as an environmental leader, in reality, the company’s products include ingredients sourced from inhumane dairy farms and include traces of glyphosate, a herbicide.

Ben & Jerry’s, which is owned by Unilever, had argued that no reasonable customer would conclude that the company’s advertising about “happy cows” meant that none of the cows lived on ordinary farms.

Kravitz found that the allegations raised by the association were “sufficient to advance a plausible claim that consumers would be misled by Ben & Jerry’s labeling and marketing regarding the sourcing of its ingredients.”

“A reasonable consumer could plausibly interpret Ben & Jerry’s labeling and marketing as affirmatively (and inaccurately) communicating that the company’s ice cream products are sourced exclusively from Caring Dairies and/or other humane source,” he wrote.

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‘Everyday People Like It When We Fight for Everyday People’

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“I inherently reject the paternalistic idea that some subjects are too complex for everyday people to engage. If we present compelling, solid info plus commonsense arguments, we can win,” the New York congresswoman wrote on Twitter

“I inherently reject the paternalistic idea that some subjects are too complex for everyday people to engage. If we present compelling, solid info plus commonsense arguments, we can win,” the New York congresswoman wrote on Twitter

Bolstering Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s (D-N.Y.) recent remark that “everyday people like it when we fight for everyday people,” a new analysis of social media data published on Sunday found that the freshman congresswoman received more Twitter engagement over the past month than any other Democrat in Congress—and it wasn’t even close.

According to numbers from CrowdTangle compiled by Axios, Ocasio-Cortez, who was sworn in less than two weeks ago, had 11.8 million total interactions on Twitter—retweets plus likes—between Dec. 11 and Jan. 11. The congressional Democrat with the second most Twitter interactions was Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), with 4.6 million.

“I inherently reject the paternalistic idea that some subjects are too complex for everyday people to engage,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted on Monday, explaining her messaging approach that has, in just a few months, driven previously obscure or marginalized solutions like the Green New Deal and a 70 percent top marginal tax rate into mainstream political discourse.

“When I meet everyday people, they are eager to learn more, ask great questions, and embrace nuance,” Ocasio-Cortez wrote. “If we present compelling, solid info plus commonsense arguments, we can win.”

Based on CrowdTangle’s figures, below is a Twitter engagement ranking among the congressional Democrats included in the new analysis, as well as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), former President Barack Obama, and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas). For Harris, Sanders, and Warren, the figure is the combined number of interactions on their personal and official accounts.

  • Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.): 11.8 million
  • Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.): 4.6 million
  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.): 2.6 million
  • Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.): 2.6 million
  • Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.): 2.4 million
  • Beto O’Rourke: 1.8 million
  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.): 1.4 million 

In addition to far surpassing her Democratic colleagues in Twitter engagement, Ocasio-Cortez is also receiving dramatically more social media interaction than America’s largest corporate media outlets.

As Neal Rothschild of Axios put it, “Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is absolutely dominating the national conversation on Twitter, generating more interactions than the five biggest news organizations combined over the last 30 days.”

Bolstering Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s (D-N.Y.) recent remark that “everyday people like it when we fight for everyday people,” a new analysis of social media data published on Sunday found that the freshman congresswoman received more Twitter engagement over the past month than any other Democrat in Congress—and it wasn’t even close.

According to numbers from CrowdTangle compiled by Axios, Ocasio-Cortez, who was sworn in less than two weeks ago, had 11.8 million total interactions on Twitter—retweets plus likes—between Dec. 11 and Jan. 11. The congressional Democrat with the second most Twitter interactions was Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), with 4.6 million.

“I inherently reject the paternalistic idea that some subjects are too complex for everyday people to engage,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted on Monday, explaining her messaging approach that has, in just a few months, driven previously obscure or marginalized solutions like the Green New Deal and a 70 percent top marginal tax rate into mainstream political discourse.

“When I meet everyday people, they are eager to learn more, ask great questions, and embrace nuance,” Ocasio-Cortez wrote. “If we present compelling, solid info plus commonsense arguments, we can win.

Since Ocasio-Cortez burst onto the political scene last year with her astonishing primary upset of powerful Wall Street-friendly Rep. Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.) last June, much analysis has been devoted to discovering why she has garnered such widespread appeal in such a short period of time.

While corporate Democrats have expressed confusion—and, in some cases, alarm—about the freshman congresswoman’s popularity, Nathan Robinson of Current Affairs argued on Monday that Ocasio-Cortez’s appeal lies in her straightforward and unabashed presentation of bold solutions that the public craves.

“She bluntly sticks up for progressive values, rather than timidly using conservative premises. She’s not always perfectly polished, but I feel as if she’s on my side and won’t back down, which is something millennial leftists really need right now,” Robinson wrote.

Lamenting the frequency with which politicians campaign on bold promises only to quickly backpedal once they take office, Robinson noted that Ocasio-Cortez “has been an inspiring exception to this. She made it clear that her loyalties weren’t with the Democratic leadership but with the protesters occupying the offices of the Democratic leadership.”

“My desperate, pleading hope is that instead of succumbing to the inevitable pressure from Congressional peers—moderate your rhetoric, ‘get serious,’ don’t criticize the party—she doubles down and keeps kicking ass,” Robinson concluded. “She’s already showing how we can successfully change the conversation: The Green New Deal, like Medicare for All, has gone from marginal to mainstream within a matter of months.”


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We can’t tackle the migrant crisis without fighting climate change

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Many Americans have rightfully been outraged at the inhumane conditions of migrant families detained at the border. Refugees have been packed tight into cages that don’t leave them room to lie down, denied basic amenities like showers and toothbrushes, and separated from their children.

Meanwhile, there was a record heatwave that gripped most of the United States. At face value, these issues may seem entirely unrelated. The reality is the crisis at the border is deeply connected to the climate crisis.

What the world’s scientists warned us about 30 years ago is emerging before our eyes. In Central America, prolonged and escalating droughts have choked the water supply and turned crops to dust. Famine, thirst, poverty and crime is creating a generation of climate refugees who uproot from their homes and loved ones. These refugees come to the United States, seeking refuge, stability and dignity.

Instead, they face guns, dogs and jails at our border. Make no mistake, this is what American climate policy looks like in the age of President Trump.

At the first debate among Democratic presidential hopefuls, not one candidate discussed how climate change is fueling the crisis at the Mexico border. That’s outrageous.

It’s simple. If crops don’t grow anymore in agricultural-based economies, people leave. Extreme temperature fluctuations, new pests and unpredictable rainfall are decimating crops across the American continent, leaving farming families with no income and often empty stomachs. Food insecurity, for example, is the main reason why migration from Guatemala has spiked in recent years. 

We will not fundamentally address immigration in this country until we recognize how a warming climate is destabilizing entire nations, especially agrarian countries like Guatemala. Half of the Guatemalan workforce is in the agricultural sector. You read that right — half. For a sense of scale, farmers and ranchers make up just 2 percent of the population in America. 

For agrarian families that depend on growing the food they eat, it only takes a few months of volatile climate patterns to drive people to starvation. Droughts recently have been crippling even the most well-established commercial farms, which often provide can back-up work for independent farmers. After years of drought and erratic climate changes, entire villages are collapsing with no food, no jobs — and no hope for the future. 

Climate change is not just hurting crops, it’s killing people. Farmers in El Salvador are dying of chronic kidney disease caused by dehydration after working in record temperatures. These are the same fields they worked comfortably just decades ago. With this in mind, how can you not feel the despair and urgency of this crisis?

Of course, people are fleeing their homes. They are starving, burning and dying in places they no longer recognize.

And this is just the beginning. A conservative estimate by the World Bank says by mid-century, climate-forced migration will reach 100 times the number that has fled from Syria in recent years. That’s just 30 years away. 

Presidential candidates have yet to fully communicate, and potentially fully grasp, the connection between the migration crisis and a warming planet. Even the candidates who are vocal supporters of a Green New Deal failed to connect the dots. 

The Green New Deal is not a solo policy, it is a governing mindset to transform the underlying values running our economy so that instead of caging children who come here fleeing disaster and economic hardships, we can wage war on the climate emergency, poverty and injustice at home and abroad. The Green New Deal is about saying that no person should be disposable so a few CEOs can make a buck.  

When America is at our best, we are welcoming, compassionate and fair. That is the America we should build. As warming triggers more climate-fueled migration, we will be challenged again and again to rise above the racially charged behavior of our current administration and lend a hand to the down-trodden stranger at our borders. The decisions we make today will shape our choices in the future as climate change disrupts more and more communities around the globe.

Instead of addressing the underlying cause of migration, the Trump administration is cutting aid, locking up children and allowing families to drown at the border. That is wrong and cruel.  

Both our immigration policy and our climate policy in this country are out of step with our values as Americans. The next president has a moral duty to right these wrongs. This will require pulling out all the stops to fight climate change and rebuild the values that have made America a place where people fleeing crises can seek sanctuary and opportunity, not greet more terror and violence.

Any candidate’s plan to address climate change must embody the same values when we address migration, treating every single person with the inherent dignity and respect they deserve. 

We have a choice as Americans in this moment: to allow a politics of hate and division to fester, or to pursue a politics of compassion, neighborliness and the preservation of dignity for all. 

It’s an easy choice for me. The fight to avert climate change must be a global one, rooted in empathy for the future all of us depend on.

Varshini Prakash is the executive director and a co-founder of Sunrise, a movement of young people stop climate change and create millions of good jobs in the process. The movement is best known for a November 2018 sit-in at Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office, which helped put the Green New Deal in the national spotlight. Prakash recently was Sen. Ed Markey’s (D-Mass.) guest to the State of the 2019 Union address and was named one of Grist’s 2018 50 “Fixers.”

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