Student workers host UC Green New Deal Town Hall on campus

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UC Berkeley students and community members representing workers unions and environmental organizations gathered for the UC Green New Deal Town Hall on Monday to discuss a greener path forward for the UC system.

The UC Student-Workers Union arranged the event in collaboration with Academic Researchers United, Students for Climate Action, Young Democratic Socialists of America, environmental professional fraternity Epsilon Eta and Fossil Free Cal, among others. The town hall centered around the role the UC system and its workers may play in a potential state or national Green New Deal, including fighting for the privatization of campus services, retraining workers and funding new technological research.

“I am very heartened to see the number of people out this evening,” said David Eifler, panelist and UC-AFT Local 1474 co-chair. “Berkeley is very influential — not only in the state of California — but throughout the United States and the world. So, we have a mission and we need to take it on.”

Yevgeniy Melguy, event facilitator and UC Berkeley linguistics graduate student, pointed out early in the event that the UC system holds influence on policy as the largest employer, land owner and researcher in the state.

After introductions, Melguy presented a summary of the proposed UC Green New Deal and the congressional Green New Deal brought forth by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-Bronx, which prompted audience snaps and applause.

Breakout group discussions for attendees followed a moderated panel discussion with community organizers. Panelists touched on recent environmental measures taken on campus, including the university’s fossil fuel divestment. Earlier this year, the UC system also joined thousands of other institutions in declaring a climate emergency and committing to address the crisis.

These actions come following a 2018 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, report that outlines the likely scenario that the Earth will warm by 1.5 degrees celsius by as early as the year 2030. In order to avoid the potential impacts and associated risks involved with this increase, the report argues, global carbon emissions must drop drastically in less than two decades. Both the United States and California are not currently on track to meet this goal.

Panelist Dante Gonzales, who represented undergraduate environmental organizations Students of Color Environmental Collective and the Student Environmental Resource Center on campus, discussed the importance of recognizing the communities who are already affected by climate change.

“If you are not aware of where your Black, indigenous, queer students are on campus you are failing as an organizer,” Gonzales said. “POC communities, queer and trans communities — we have empowered ourselves to stay alive in systems that are working against us.”

Rachel Barber is the lead student life reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @rachelbarber_.