A new video of Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) talking to a classroom full of middle schoolers about the threat of climate change is a stark contrast to a video currently making its way around social media.
Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California) went viral Friday for her condescending attitude toward a group of middle schoolers and other students asking her to co-sign the Green New Deal. The students, who were with the Sunrise Movement, are asking lawmakers to support the proposal to overhaul the economy by making large investments in revamping infrastructure as a way of transitioning away from fossil fuels.
This is a fight for our generation's survival. Her reaction is why young people desperately want new leadership in Congress. pic.twitter.com/0zAkaxruMI
— Sunrise Movement 🌅 (@sunrisemvmt) February 22, 2019
Sen. Feinstein handled the encounter poorly, drawing criticism for not even pretending to hear out a few earnest middle schoolers asking her to support the policy.
like, how fucking easy would it have been for Feinstein to be like “I’ll take it under advisement! Until then I’m so proud of you all for fighting for what you believe in”
— Natalie Shure (@nataliesurely) February 23, 2019
A lot of people are dragging Diane Feinstein but when children come into my office I also calmly tell them to prepare for an early, excruciating death by toxic air and famine.
— Bess Kalb (@bessbell) February 23, 2019
Man, Feinstein was really a dick to those kids
— Andy Richter (@AndyRichter) February 23, 2019
However, one encounter the account @People4Bernie tweeted Friday night showed a completely different approach to talking to middle schoolers about environmental policy. In the video, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), who announced this week he’s running for president in 2020 as a Democrat, is seen talking to students about how a rapidly warming climate can endanger the planet.
The video was taken in 1987, when Sanders was the mayor of Burlington, Vermont, and long before climate change was a mainstream topic in the news cycle. Sanders asked the classroom whether or not they thought it was significant that the ozone layer was eroding and that the global temperature may rise a few degrees as a result. Throughout the video, he calls on middle schoolers to answer open-ended questions, and praises their knowledge.
“It doesn’t seem significant, but if it gets any warmer the polar ice caps could melt,” one student said in response.
“Precisely,” Sanders said. “If you don’t think that raising the temperature a few degrees is an enormous consequence, you’re very wrong… The types of rays that come down from the sun could make us vulnerable to disease, it will have an impact on the polar [ice] caps in melting them, and it gets back to the point that [the previous student] made, in that everything relates to everything else.”
“The environment is a very very fragile system of inter-relationships, and if one thing is disrupted it will have an effect on everything else,” he continued. “If pollution has an effect on water, what does it obviously mean?”
“That we’re gonna dehydrate,” a student said after raising their hand.
“Now obviously, you can’t live without fresh water,” Sanders responded. “And as you know… in many areas of the country, the availability of fresh drinking water is a major, major problem.”
Watch the video here:
— People for Bernie (@People4Bernie) February 23, 2019
Both Sanders and Feinstein were re-elected to the U.S. Senate in November. However, only one of those senators has sky-high popularity with the young people who will see the full results of climate change long after they’re gone. According to an October 2018 Gallup poll, Sanders had a 59 percent approval rating among Americans aged 18-34.
Carl Gibson is a politics contributor for Grit Post. His work has previously been published in The Guardian, The Washington Post, The Houston Chronicle, Al-Jazeera America, and NPR, among others. Follow him on Twitter @crgibs or send him an email at carl at gritpost dot com.