Green New Deal Tour & Town Hall stops in Meadville


Students and community members gather in Unitarian Universalist Church for the Green New Deal town hall Monday night.

“My name is Merryn Spence and I love this Earth,” said Merryn Spence, ’19. “I love living on this Earth, and that is why I care about the Green New Deal.”

Spence, along with Makayla Alicea, ’21, one of the co-chairs of the Erie Green New Deal Coalition, held a town hall on Monday, Sept. 9 in the Unitarian Universalist Church on Chestnut St. to discuss the growing climate crisis and the Green New Deal.

Spence began the conversation by asking attendants the last fun thing they did outside, followed by a land acknowledgment led by Tiffany Onyeiwu, a student at Meadville Area Senior High School.

“I am here today because I believe in a green new future, and I believe that we as a community can all work together to accomplish that,” Onyeiwu said.

Onyeiwu said indigenous peoples practice the honoring of their guests as well as their hosts while visiting other countries and communities, and wanted to honor the land where the Green New Deal town hall was being held.

After a moment of silence, Spence and Alicea played, “A Message from the Future,” a short film created by U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the creator of the GND framework.

Alicea and Spence welcomed keynote speaker Patricia DeMarco to present “A Vision for Our Sustainable Future.”

DeMarco is a Pittsburgh native who earned her doctorate in biology from the University of Pittsburgh prior to spending over 30 years working in energy and environmental policy.

DeMarco has served various roles throughout her career, including commissioner of the Regulatory Commission of Alaska and director of the Rachel Carson Institute at Chatham University.

DeMarco published a book titled “Pathways to A Sustainable Future: A Global Perspective from Pittsburgh” in 2017, and has since been elected At Large Member for the Forest Hills Borough Council.

“I am really happy to be here tonight to talk to you a little bit,” DeMarco said. “How wonderful it is to have young congress people putting a new vision for the future out there.”

DeMarco explained that although Ocasio-Cortez’s GND has been heavily criticized, it is still helping aid the climate crisis.

“(The GND) is a way to start thinking about changing the way things are to the way they need to be,” DeMarco said. “We need to recognize that the Earth is our life support system.” 

DeMarco named fossil fuel combustion, resource extraction, hyper-consumption and the growing population as the main contributors to the climate crisis. 

“The problem is that we have only one Earth,” DeMarco said. “If everyone on the planet lived the way we do in our country, it would take five and a half planets to satisfy that need.” 

While there are varying definitions of sustainability, DeMarco used the one from the Brundtland Commission, which defines sustainability as meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations. 

“It is the future generations we need to focus on,” DeMarco said. “If we continue on this path, my granddaughter will not have the expectation of having a healthy planet for her grandchildren.” 

DeMarco cited her granddaughter Leah as her motivation.

DeMarco said taking care of workers through protecting pensions and benefits, and re-investing in communities are two essential pillars to ending the climate crisis.  

“We have to get passed this narrow, short-term thinking,” DeMarco said.

DeMarco also advocated for regenerative agriculture, green chemistry and a circular economy. 

“You hear that we have to change everything,” DeMarco said. “You do not change everything at once. You take it to pieces and look at each part.” 

DeMarco concluded her presentation by stating, “Everybody can do something, but we cannot sit by ourselves and wait for somebody else to solve the problem.” 

Following DeMarco’s presentation, there were five breakout sessions — economics, energy, policy, waste and recycling, and youth and activism. 

Candidate for Meadville City Council Larry McKnight chose to attend the session focused on youth and activism. 

“I am excited to be a part of this,” McKnight said. “My goal is to see new parks.” 

McKnight also mentioned that he wanted to see ecology and environmental sciences become a larger part of middle and high school education. 

Others who attended the youth and activism breakout session recommended making the climate crisis more prevalent on social media, service projects such as community gardens and days dedicated to picking up litter throughout the city. 

Members of the session also emphasized the importance of voting and encouraging others to vote. Onyeiwu mentioned that she posted the link to register to vote in her Instagram biography to make it easy for others to access. 

“Your vote does count,” McKnight said. “Make your voice heard.”