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Climate activists in Grand Rapids urge Democrats to support Green New Deal

Protesters standing with signs
Bryce Huffman
Michigan Radio
Protesters standing with signs in Ah-Nab-Awen Park in Grand Rapids

More than 150 protesters gathered in downtown Grand Rapids as part of a national climate strike Friday.

They want Senator Gary Peters and other Democrats to commit to the Green New Deal.

Wesley Watson, the West Michigan Regional Organizing Manager with NextGen America and one of the protesters in Grand Rapids, says elected officials need to ask themselves two important questions.

“How can we prevent a climate crisis from happening, and how can we focus more on renewable energy?” Watson said.

The group of climate activists also want the U.S. to use 100% renewable energy by 2030.

Scientists from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a report saying if countries don’t take swift action to reduce greenhouse emissions by 2030, there will be irreversible loss of fragile ecosystems.

Watson says despite his feeling that most climate activists are white educated people, the climate crisis affects communities of color the most.

“You can see it affecting communities of color like Flint, Detroit and in Grand Rapids already because of problems with infrastructure,” he said.

Senator Peters joined most other democrats in voting "present" when the Green New Deal went before the Senate.

Senator Peters’ spokesperson said in a statement that his climate change efforts help Michigan workers and strengthen our economy.

“Senator Peters did not vote for the Green New Deal when it came to a vote on the Senate floor. His focus is on commonsense efforts that effectively address climate change and protect the Great Lakes in a manner that will benefit Michigan workers and strengthen our economy and national security,” the statement read.

Peters’ spokesperson did not specify what parts of the Green New Deal he doesn’t support.

Jocelyn Barnes, with the Sunrise Movement’s Grand Rapids chapter, says Peters and other elected officials need to act now.

“People don’t have the urgency that’s necessary in order for us to really create change. We’ve only got like nine years to do something before it’s too late,” Barnes said.

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Bryce Huffman was Michigan Radio’s West Michigan Reporter and host of Same Same Different. He is currently a reporter for Bridge Detroit.
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