Op-Ed: The West Coast is burning, but Texas doesn’t have to

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What’s happening on the West Coast is terrifying: charred towns and neighborhoods, grieving families, hundreds of square miles of pristine habitat and recreational land devastated by fires. These photos hit home particularly hard for those in the Bastrop area who survived the wildfires of 2011. We know that, although the last few years of drought and wildfire activity have mostly impacted the West, it could be Texas’ turn again soon. 

Climate change is real. It’s happening now, all around us. Droughts in places like California and Texas are more dangerous these days because of greenhouse gases trapping heat in the earth’s atmosphere, raising average temperatures worldwide, and making it easier for forests to catch fire. 

Climate change is one of the significant challenges of this era. Unlike some career politicians, I don’t believe we should surrender to climate change without a fight. We don’t have to resign ourselves to the idea that Bastrop is doomed to burn again someday, just like parts of California and Oregon are burning now. It’s time to take action and say enough is enough.

Enough with Texas politicians in bed with oil companies. Enough with the deregulation of polluting industries and energy policies that put our communities at risk. Rep. Michael McCaul cheered as Trump pulled out of the Paris Climate Agreement. He voted against designating climate change a threat to National Security. This year, a report found that McCaul has as much as $19 million invested in oil and gas companies — likely more than any other House Representative in the country.

Building on the New Deal that pulled us out of the Great Depression under Franklin Delano Roosevelt, I’m running for Congress on the idea of a national mobilization to fight climate change, protect workers, remedy environmental pollution, and create millions of good paying jobs called a Green New Deal. This would help protect the neighborhoods and recreational lands around Bastrop in two ways. 

First, a Green New Deal would help slow and reverse the momentum of climate change by embracing renewable energy sources and climate diplomacy. Second, a Green New Deal would underwrite an explosion of new jobs in areas including community resiliency — meaning, for instance, forestry jobs like the ones that built Bastrop State Park under the New Deal and coastal restoration projects that would keep us safer from the twenty-first century’s mega-droughts and mega-storms ahead. 

We also need to make clear that preparing for a safer and more sustainable future does not mean leaving fossil fuel workers behind. The industry is already in crisis, with Texas losing over 39,000 direct oil and natural gas jobs in the first half of 2020. While Republicans like McCaul are bailing out CEOs with golden parachutes and leaving workers out to dry, we are committed to fighting for a “just transition” for impacted workers including wage guarantees, pension support, education, housing assistance, and a jobs guarantee.

FDR’s New Deal in the 1930s brought America out of crisis and put us in a position to win World War II and build a prosperous society in the generations after that. It was a bold, serious solution to a big challenge, and it worked.  At this moment, we need an equally ambitious plan to pull us out of our current crisis. When you send me to Washington to represent you, I promise to advocate for bold solutions to the climate crisis, and I won’t give up or get cozy with the oil barons. I’ll keep up the fight until we are no longer living at the mercy of ever-worsening natural disasters.

Mike Siegel is a progressive Democrat running for Congress in Texas’ 10th district. Learn more at https://siegelfortexas.org

Photo: KYLE GRILLOT/AFP via Getty Images

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