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McKibben writes: "A group of school students, at least one as young as seven, went to the senator's San Francisco office to ask her to support the Green New Deal climate legislation."

In an exchange that went viral, the senator from California demonstrated why climate change exemplifies an issue on which older people should listen to the young. (photo: Mark Peterson/Redux)
In an exchange that went viral, the senator from California demonstrated why climate change exemplifies an issue on which older people should listen to the young. (photo: Mark Peterson/Redux)

Dianne Feinstein Says No to the Green New Deal

By Bill McKibben, The New Yorker

24 February 19


ne imagines that Senator Dianne Feinstein would like a do-over of her colloquy with some young people on Friday afternoon. A group of school students, at least one as young as seven, went to the senator’s San Francisco office to ask her to support the Green New Deal climate legislation. In a video posted online by the Sunrise Movement, she tells them that the resolution isn’t a good one, because it can’t be paid for, and the Republicans in the Senate won’t support it. She adds that she is at work on her own resolution, which she thinks could pass. Then, when the group persists in supporting the Green New Deal, which was introduced by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Feinstein responds, “You know what’s interesting about this group? I’ve been doing this for thirty years. I know what I’m doing. You come in here and you say, ‘It has to be my way or the highway.’ I don’t respond to that. I’ve gotten elected, I just ran, I was elected by almost a million-vote plurality,” she continued. “And I know what I’m doing. So, you know, maybe people should listen a little bit.”

Well, maybe. But Feinstein was, in fact, demonstrating why climate change exemplifies an issue on which older people should listen to the young. Because—to put it bluntly—older generations will be dead before the worst of it hits. The kids whom Feinstein was talking to are going to be dealing with climate chaos for the rest of their lives, as any Californian who has lived through the past few years of drought, flood, and fire must recognize.

This means that youth carry the moral authority here, and, at the very least, should be treated with the solicitousness due a generation that older ones have managed to screw over. Feinstein’s condescension, though it’s less jarring in the video of the full encounter, which also shows gracious moments—including one when she offers a young person an internship—echoed that of Nancy Pelosi, from earlier this month, when the Speaker of the House talked about “the green dream, or whatever they call it. Nobody knows what it is, but they’re for it, right?”

This smugness stings—although, of course, it stings far less than the climate denialism emanating from the White House. But that’s not really the problem. The problem is that, even if you give Feinstein every benefit of the doubt, her response illustrates the fix we’re in. Later Friday evening, Feinstein’s aides released portions of her proposal, and on first view they appear to be warmed-over versions of Obama-era environmental policy: respect for the Paris climate accord, a commitment to a mid-century conversion to renewable energy.

It’s not that these things are wrong. It’s that they are insufficient, impossibly so. Not insufficient—and here’s the important point—to meet the demands of hopelessly idealistic youth but because of the point that the kids were trying to make, which is that the passage of time is changing the calculations around climate change.

Feinstein is, in fact, right: on most questions, a “my way or the highway” attitude doesn’t get you very far. If I’m a lawmaker and I think that the minimum wage should be thirty dollars an hour, and you’re one who thinks that eight dollars is generous, we’ll probably try to pass a law that sets the mark somewhere near fifteen dollars, and then argue about it again after the next election. There would be no point in holding out for what I can’t get. But, in the case of the environment, the opponent is not the Chamber of Commerce. The opponent is physics, and physics doesn’t negotiate. It’s not moved by appeals to centrist moderation, or explanations about the filibuster. And it has set a firm time limit. Scientists have told us what we must do and by when, and so legislators must do all they can to match those targets. The beauty of the Green New Deal legislation is not that it’s shiny or progressive or a poke in the eye to the oil companies. Its beauty is that it actually tries to meet the target that science has given us.

The irony is that, when Feinstein said she’s been “doing this for thirty years,” she described the precise time period during which we could have acted. James Hansen brought the climate question to widespread attention with his congressional testimony in 1988. If we’d moved thirty years ago, moderate steps of the kind that Feinstein proposes would have been enough to change our trajectory. But that didn’t get done, in large part because oil and gas companies that have successfully gamed our political system didn’t want it to get done. And the legislators didn’t do anywhere near enough to fight them. So now we’re on the precipice. Indeed, we’re over it. The fires that raged in California last fall were the fires of a hell on earth.

Given the failure of old-style politics on this issue, it is no surprise that youth are taking the initiative. Ocasio-Cortez is the youngest congresswoman in American history. The Green New Deal was hatched by the Sunrise Movement, which is composed of recent college graduates. And they are ancient compared with the sixteen-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, who was in Paris last week to watch thousands of French youths join her in spreading the Friday for Future strikes, in which students skip school to demonstrate for climate action.

“You didn’t vote for me,” Feinstein said to one of the young people in her office. Which was true, because the girl in question is sixteen. In our reigning political calculus, that makes her powerless—she can’t vote and she doesn’t have money to give. But that calculus must shift; the job of older people, at this late date, is to have the backs of the young. We have skills to bring to the task: Feinstein has amassed a career’s worth of legislative savvy, and she can put it to good use here; Ocasio-Cortez could doubtless use the help. But, having blown our chance at leading, it’s time for those of us of a certain age to follow, with all the grace that we can still muster.

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+32 # ktony 2019-02-24 10:04
DiFi is a despicable, long-time self-serving political hack. No kinder words come to mind.
+47 # Forbes 2019-02-24 10:44
Time to get rid of Feinstein - she is living in the past.
+7 # dquandle 2019-02-24 18:43
and destroying the future
+67 # chrisconno 2019-02-24 11:26
Senator Feinstein is what I would call a dinosaur. I am nearly 70 but I understand that I don't know all there is to know about climate, and I have a degree in environmental science. Who are her donors? We need to elect more young people who have forward vision and don't think Democratic Socialism is a bad thing.
+12 # economagic 2019-02-24 16:22
Amen, though my favored metaphor is "fossil fools."
+10 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2019-02-25 13:29
chris -- I've called her Diane Flintstone for a long time. Yes, she's just very much outdated. You are right about the forward vision. AOC has it. Sanders has it. So it is not about age. It is about mentality.
+10 # goodsensecynic 2019-02-25 14:18
I am 73. I am also a proud dinosaur, a crypto-Luddite, and a firm democratic socialist (though my degrees are in political science [3 of them], history and philosophy), I know just enough about ecology and climatology to know that Senator Feinstein is just flat-out wrong!

I don't know about electing more young people (wisdom is not necessarily age-related either way) and I am pretty skeptical about going "forward" (especially without a compass) and about "visions" (hallucinations ?) of any sort.

BUT, there are some pretty simple issues confronting citizens of your republic (and, by implication, the rest of us). Embracing the "New Green Deal" (or its predecessor, "The LEAP Manifesto" - largely authored by Naomi Klein and currently getting a rough ride in Canada's putative social democratic party, the NDP) seems to me to be the obvious and urgent first step toward some sort of redemption.

After that, we can work out other details.
+21 # Robbee 2019-02-24 12:49
Dianne Feinstein Says No to the Green New Deal
Bill McKibben, The New Yorker
24 February 19

- without any reason, d f rained on a children's crusade to save our planet!

d f said, in effect, "YOU SHOULDN'T EVEN TRY!" - in other words, d f is a "HATCHET MAN" a counter-product ive rep where a dem leader should be!


afterwards d f started to walk back her stone wall? releasing a statement thanking school kids for expressing their opinion ...

on climate change, d f represents the hardened blockage that must be cleared from dem leadership, before it can confront even aspirations, to a healthy planet, that an aspirational "green new deal" represents

what is important is not whether every single repuke, much less dickhead, fiercely opposes "green new deal" in congress, so it cannot get resolved as the accepted, new status quo of our nation, as d f says!

what is crucial is that every dem in congress knows, and says, WHY AND HOW dems aspire to a healthy planet!

d f's confrontation with students has gone viral!

now d f serves as a cautionary tale, to dems in congress, how NOT to respond to a children's crusade to save our planet! - dem leaders will not pattern d f's example!

so there is a huge! silver lining to d f's arthritic arrogance!

plus don't be surprised if d f walks her words back to a full-scale apology? stay tuned?
+8 # Caliban 2019-02-25 01:28
"Walks her words back to a full-scale apology"?

I hope you are right Robbee. Neither the Democratic Party nor a vulnerable planet needs her kind of "leadership" on matters of the environment.
+22 # ajzerkin 2019-02-24 12:54
Bill McKibben is right. I'm 73, and I do have to listen to the younger generations, on this issue in particular. I really applaud McKibben's tone here. He's not self-righteousl y condemning Sen. Feinstein categorically, as other commenters have, but rather making eminent good sense without mincing words. If Sen. Feinstein has a strategy for moving the issue with the sense of urgency it requires, she should offer it to AOC and her supporters and then listen. Perhaps there are some tweaks to AOC's legislation that would constitute short-term compromises to enlist enough moderate Republican votes in the Senate to get the rest of the agenda passed. While we can't accept halfway measures any longer, perhaps it doesn't have to be all or nothing this year either. The details matter, and symbolism, too, and I am not a subject matter expert, so I cannot be specific. I'm just urging collaboration and open-mindedness .
+28 # chapdrum 2019-02-24 12:59
Too bad that DeLeon didn't defeat her.
Anyone who's seen her lecture the kids in her office about her long tenure in office, and her large re-election victory margin, knows that she's overdue to go (just like Trump). Related: We also recall that she advised us to be patient with Trump.
Such nonsense.
+10 # lfeuille 2019-02-24 17:20
She really should resign. It'll be 6 more years before she has to run again and that's too long with this kind of attitude. Too bad this meeting with the kids did occur before the election. The video would have made a good ad for DeLeon.
+23 # jwb110 2019-02-24 13:21
Diane won because the people were smart enough to know that a Democratic plurality in the House was necessary. If she had been an Orangutan I would have had to vote for her. In much the same way I had to vote for Hilary. The entire DNC and their candidates have been out of touch with the potential of a new base of young people. I don't care that Diane has been doing this for thirty years, and neither do the young, but I think she has been doing it wrong for twenty of those thirty years.
I am not young. I just turned 70. I am looking at the battles that I fought 50 years ago right back where it started. Get all those old bitter men and women out of Congress elect some young people who don't smell of moth balls.
+14 # lfeuille 2019-02-24 17:23
She was running against another Democrat. It wouldn't have effected the Dem. majority if she had lost. California has a top two primary system. The top two vote getters go to the general election even if they are from the same party.
-4 # economagic 2019-02-24 18:37
As Jim Hightower said well over a decade ago, "If the gods had wanted us to vote, they would have given us candidates." I'm just shy of 73, so I turned 21 in 1967, and registered late that summer. The Viet Nam War was already raging, so I registered as "None of the above." While I have switched briefly twice to vote in an important primary (to no avail), I have seen no good reason to change. Now I live in an open primary state so it makes no difference. I vote Democratic, but since Kerry's shameful cave on the heels of Gore's tepid fight, I have voted Green for president. At this point in history the lesser evil theory can never result in anything but evil. The only way to break the duopoly is to organize and vote for a third party. That said, if T-Rump is running in 2020 I will probably vote for the Orangutan, not because I fear T-Rump, but because I'm pretty sure I know what the people behind him intend.
+3 # DongiC 2019-02-26 01:37
economagic, what has happened to you? I thought you too would have been electrified by Sanders' platform. I'm 85 and raring to go. Must be the spirits behind me. Orangutans deserve better!
+12 # goodsensecynic 2019-02-25 14:23
So how come those "bitter old men and women" got into Congress in the first place.

How come the Bee Gees beat the Beatles?

Whatever happened to "sex, drugs and rock-and-roll" ... or in my case, the Committee for Nuclear Disarmament, the Students for a Democratic Society or the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee?

Me? I still see through 23-year-old eyeballs, though the scene has changed a bit in the 50+ years since they glimpsed the back end of mounted policeman cleverly moving backward into an anti-Vietnam demonstration ... and so on.
+30 # DongiC 2019-02-24 14:11
I think Feinstein's reputation is a bit inflated. She had her chance to do something about the environment and she failed the test. Now she acts in a condescending manner as if that is enough to make up for her failure to solve this horrible problem. Get with it, Senator, and make way for the generation most affected by climate change. They realize they have to hurry.
+9 # janie1893 2019-02-24 14:35
It is too late. We are too far into the climate change event to stop it. We oldies have made our generation the wealthiest and greediest the planet has ever hosted. Dwindling future generations are left to cope with the catastrophic effects of our greed.
+33 # John Cosmo 2019-02-24 14:57
This is so frustratingly typical of the tired, old, out-of-touch and feckless Democratic leadership that is more concerned with maintaining the status quo than actually doing anything that would help our country and the majority of its citizens. This is the kind of Democratic response that enables people like Donald Trump.
-2 # lorenbliss 2019-02-24 17:54
If one studies Feinstein's record -- studies it analytically, as a (real/uncensore d) investigative reporter might – it becomes obvious her one true cause is forcible civilian disarmament.

Though Feinstein's purposes are typically concealed by her deft manipulations of Democratic (sic) Party rhetoric, it's clear she is intent on ensuring our terminal defenselessness in the face of ever-escalating violence by the ChristoNazis and their allies. She is thereby aiding and abetting the Nazi takeover of the United States even as we the people she claims to represent increasingly embrace socialism as the only alternative to extinction.

Obviously Feinstein hopes her allies in the mainstream media will minimize disclosure of the near-100-percen t alliance between the law enforcement and military machines and the Nazis themselves, particularly their burgeoning neo-Sturmabteil ung units.

Which means that even as the cops, the secret police and the soldiers are making sure the Nazis are allowed to keep their firearms, Feinstein and her fellow Democrats are devoting maximum energy to reducing all the rest of us to mandatory pacifism and compulsory victimhood.

(Exactly as if she were a willing agent of some Ruling Class plot to use the looming environmental apocalypse to facilitate the ultimate shock-doctrine reconstruction of human society into a global concentration camp.)
+6 # economagic 2019-02-24 18:39
+3 # economagic 2019-02-25 17:35
The above was intended as a reply to janie 1893 above. In recent months a lot of my replies seem to get shifted to the main thread. If I want to read nihilism and doom-saying I will go to Common Dreams--which I do for some good articles when I can stomach the inane responses.
+9 # dquandle 2019-02-24 18:41
Feinstein is utterly loathsome. She was rude and absolutely disgusting. She treated the kids like garbage, even in the video, pulling "rank" and citing her existence as the obscene 30 year proto-fascist tumor she has been in the senate. The kids don't vote or supply her filthy campaign coffers with filthy lucre, so she isn't beholden to them. Their lives will be horrendously endangered, and ruined, but she doesn't give a $hit, cuz she's rich now, and will be dead then. This was a despicable performance, by a despicable woman in a position of power, she never should have been given.
+9 # fredrad 2019-02-25 13:06
We all know the GND won't pass the Senate. That's absolutely no reason not to support its ideals and recognize its importance. Feinstein's attitude is destructive to say the least.
+6 # NAVYVET 2019-02-25 17:24
I'll be 83 in about 2 weeks, my granddaughter will be 16 in 1 week and my grandson 7 next August. I was involved as a writer, illustrator, editor, project manager and teacher in the environmental anti-pollution and pro-renewables activism of the lats 60s, 70s, into the 80s as far as we could get till we crashed into Reagan and his rich, smarmy Wall Street geckos. We worked hard, published much, taught and converted a lot of people into haters of pollution and corporate abuse of nature. Though I knew nothing about global scorching at the time, I did know quite a lot about how renewables (we called them "appropriate technology") and the need to improve them in efficiency and cost--which has been accomplished without much of the insane subsidies the fossileers still receive.

But government big shots like Feinstein, bureaucrats and especially private industry are as captive to the fossil fuel industry as any slave to a master. Until the elected ones are slam-dunked out of their gated eyries, they will continue to be tempted to stupidity or hypocrisy or greed by the endless temptation of $,$$$,$$$,$$$. So VOTE, get the worst of them out, then the dummy Centrists & shilly-shallier s, and replace them with smart, scared young idealists who know their futures are dubious. Read every dystopia you can--and believe that it will be worse, years earlier than predicted. I'm a grandmother and grandmothers everywhere are worried!
+4 # Montanan 2019-02-25 19:05
Feinstein's husband is an investment banker who, like so many corporate sharks with ties to Congress, has received a boatload of corporate welfare over the years. Feinstein is an anachronism who needs to go.
+2 # davehaze 2019-02-26 15:52
I'll say this succently and pick up all those fun negative red thumbs down I would rather have than compromise-to-d eath-and-drowni ng opinion: the Domocratic Party is your enemy.

And no that doesn't mean I have a hard on for trumpputinmccon nelpense.
0 # maindrains 2019-02-26 17:18
N0-one has mentioned the "But how will we pay for it" problem. (This is never asked when a war or increased spending for the military is proposed) but this will be the way those who do not want to do anything will frame their objection. Enter MMT (modern monetary theory). For an explanation start with U Tube;"Stephanie Kelton in London" and theres plenty more. We need to ditch neo lib capitalism and move on to an economics that works.

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