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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Jill Stein and the Planet

Air Date: Week of

Jill Stein, the 2016 Green Party Presidential Nominee, at a September speaking engagement at Pennsylvania State University. (Photo: Penn State, Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Dr. Jill Stein is the 2016 Green Party nominee for President of the United States. In a wide-ranging interview with host Steve Curwood they discuss her “Green New Deal” to avert a climate emergency, her plans to scale back military spending, and why she participated in protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline that led to a warrant for her arrest.


CURWOOD: From the Jennifer and Ted Stanley Studios at the University of Massachusetts Boston and PRI, this is Living on Earth. I’m Steve Curwood. As the US national elections draw near, we are taking a look at the environmental records and plans of the presidential candidates, starting this week with Dr. Jill Stein of the Green Party. Pollsters report Dr. Stein currently attracts only about three percent of the vote. But though she has little or no chance to win, in a tight race her sliver of support could be the margin of defeat or victory for a major party candidate. Democrat Al Gore likely would have won in 2000 without the Green Party’s Ralph Nader on the ballot in Florida or New Hampshire. So, for insight into why the pollsters tell us some three million or more Americans could vote for Dr. Stein, she joined us for an interview in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Welcome to the program.

STEIN: Great to be with you, Steve.

CURWOOD: Let's start with talking about what the Green Party actually is. Many folks are kind of fuzzy about it. So tell me: What are your party’s core values, and why was it created?

STEIN: So, our focus really is on a party of justice for a world of justice. We put people, planet and peace over profit, and we recognize that people, planet, and peace all depend on each other. You can't get one without the other. You could say that we are the party of environmental justice, worker justice, racial justice, women's, LGBTQ justice, immigrant justice and sustainability, which is essentially justice for future generations. We are the one political party that does not take money from lobbying interests, from corporate interests and we do not have a SuperPAC, so you could say that we are the one campaign that actually has the liberty to stand up for what the American people are clamoring for. And we call for in a nutshell: an emergency jobs program to solve the emergency of climate change, to bring them together in a Green New Deal, like the New Deal that got us on the Great Depression.

CURWOOD: Now, let me ask you about your Green New Deal. How many jobs would you create, how long would this take, why is this plan an emergency and how do you plan to accomplish all this?

STEIN: We plan to accomplish all of this because we must accomplish all this. The Green New Deal declares that climate emergency, which is very real, every month now is setting a new world record for the month of that name in terms of heat, record storms, the fires up and down the west coast, the flooding in the southeast and sea level rise predictions now -- with Jim Hanson who hasn't been wrong yet, saying most recently that we can expect 10 feet and more of sea level rise as soon as 2060 is the date he put it at -- so it is an emergency and we must solve it.

America’s Green Party has its origins in a meeting of about 60 people that took place in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1984. (Photo: Scott Campbell, Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

When Pearl Harbor was bombed at the outset of the second World War, it took us six months only to transform our economy, to a wartime footing because we recognized a national emergency. Right now we have a global emergency that actually makes Pearl Harbor look like small potatoes because we're not talking about one harbor, we're talking about all harbors, all coastal population centers that we will lose in a catastrophic hit to civilization that it will be very hard to survive. So we’re talking, not centuries away, we're talking in all likelihood this century and potentially within decades. So it is time to mobilize. We call for eliminating fossil fuels by 2030, which is what the science actually says we must do if we are to hold temperature rise to less than 1.5 degrees Centigrade such that we can survive. If we do that, we'd get so much healthier, in fact, that we'd save enough money to pay the costs of the green new deal within a decade or so. So this is a win-win. The other win, I might add, is that it makes the wars for oil obsolete, which also allows us to put our dollars then into true security here at home.

CURWOOD: What motivated you to join the Dakota Access Pipeline demonstrations a few months ago?

STEIN: Yes, I went there because the battle that's being fought there is a symbol. It is a microcosm of the global battles that are being fought. So this was a fight for human rights, for the rights of the indigenous people to protect their sacred sites and their historic gravesites which were being viciously attacked by the Dakota Access Pipeline company in the middle of the night a weekend in the most underhanded and nefarious kind of way. It was really outrageous. And then, as the indigenous people stood up the next day to say this is an outrage, they were attacked with a vicious attack dogs and with pepper spray simply for asserting their democratic rights, their civil rights, our First Amendment rights to protest for redress of grievances. It turns out it wasn't all that long afterwards that the President, in fact, chimed in to say, “yes, we should stop this” and then the courts chimed in to say, “yes, in fact this permit is illegitimate because the native people are supposed to give informed consent.” They have not been informed and they did not consent.

CURWOOD: So I understand there is a warrant for your arrest.

STEIN: That's right, there is! And it's kind of funny they didn't decide to issue that warrant until I was on the airplane. Maybe they did not want me in their custody. I wonder, and I did not go there intending to participate in civil disobedience. I was just going to lend support and bear witness. But when I saw the incredible hardships and pain that they were enduring you know, a part of their historic legacy for hundreds of years and their courage stand up in the face of that, I felt I could not say no when several of the protesters came to me and asked me first to lockdown, and I was not prepared to lockdown. You don't want to do a lockdown, which is a dangerous thing, unless you've really given it thought. I said no and when they came back with a can of spray paint, asking me to spray not a piece of construction equipment, but a piece of destruction equipment that had just mowed down their historic graveside, I felt there was no way I could conscience not standing up with them. So what I wrote on the blade of this piece of destruction equipment and on which any writing is going to be scraped off within a matter of days if not hours, just by the trauma of its work, I wrote on that what I hoped would bring the strong support of my campaign, which was to say, "I approve this message."

CURWOOD: What are your plans in terms of dealing with this warrant? Are you going to go back to North Dakota and deal with this?

STEIN: Yes, when you undertake civil disobedience, you sign up for what the process is going to entail. And our attorneys have been trying to communicate with the authorities there, but I think they're pretty busy, so they've not gotten back to us yet, so we're trying to work that through. It may involve a visit, and we'll see what's required.

CURWOOD: Dr. Stein, there's been a lot of mutual support recently between the Black Lives Matter Movement and certain environmental campaigns. How are the goals of averting a climate disaster and institutionalized racism related?

Stein also received the Green Party’s nomination for president in 2012 and attended the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations that took place that year in downtown Manhattan. (Photo: Michael Fleshman, Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0)

STEIN: Very much related. In fact, I got my start fighting environmental racism here in Massachusetts working to close down the polluting medical waste incinerators in Lawrence and Lowell, a whole cluster of incinerators in one of the poorest and black and brown communities in New England, actually. You know, when we stand together and we stand strong, we win, and we've won many of those battles. Right now, you know, who is more on the firing line of climate justice than the communities of color in this country and around the world. The white community is not aware of the incredible price that's been paid by the African-American community, so we call for a real discussion on race. My running mate is an African-American who comes from an oppressed community and is very outspoken about this and really speaks in a whole different language which I think is really important. Our politics needs to speak many dialects to bring in many voters. Four out of 10 voters are predicted not to vote given politics as usual.

CURWOOD: Why do you want to cut at least half of all military spending?

STEIN: OK, so number one it's not making us safer. It's about half of your income tax right now that's actually going to the military, and it is more than half of our discretionary budget. We actually call for a new kind of offensive in the Middle East, a peace offensive which begins with a weapons embargo since we are supplying the majority of weapons which actually get into the hands of all parties, all combatants in the Middle East. We can get this started and work to bring along the Russians and the Chinese, but the Russians in particular are also struggling with the consequences of terrorism, the failed nature of these wars and with climate change for that matter, Russia having injured several droughts and reductions in their grain supply and so on, and they are massively impacted by their fossil fuels and the pollution and all that.

So we would like to lead the way, actually, in redirecting our massive dollars from competing for fossil fuels to instead actually phasing out fossil fuels to encourage the Russians and the Chinese because they too are bearing the burden here. Why don't we all just put those dollars into making fossil fuels obsolete and making the wars and the competition obsolete as well? Because why do we, the US, have approximately 800,000 bases in over 100 countries around the world? We are protecting our access to fossil fuel supplies and the roots of transportation. We are the only country in the world that does this. If you add up all the other foreign bases in all the other countries around the world it comes out to about 30.

CURWOOD: So, in getting ready for this interview Dr. Stein, a number of people commented on the Greens, "Oh the Greens are great, but she can't get elected," and what's worse -- and you get this question all the time -- it could be a spoiler situation."

STEIN: So what I can tell you is that in Florida where I know the numbers pretty well, any of the independent progressive parties could have make the difference. So are we done saying that there can be no independent political parties, that are we have are Democrats and Republicans? Or is it just the Greens that we’re saying, "You guys get out of the way because you are the environmental party, so you're too powerful. We have to silence an independent party."

CURWOOD: So, what's your solution?

STEIN: Well, here's an obvious solution. We can enact ranked choice voting right now and eliminate any splitting of the vote, any spoiling of the vote. By the way, the parties of abolition at the time of the movement to abolish slavery, they were also called spoiler parties because they were disrupting the system. So sometimes the system is so corrupt and so deadly that it needs to be spoiled if we're going to get out of here alive, and I would encourage people to actually look at the record. Because while there are differences between the Democratic and Republican parties, unfortunately, those differences are not enough to save your job. The Democrats are leading the charge for the TransPacific Partnership, NAFTA on steroids, that will send more jobs overseas.

CURWOOD: (interrupting) But wait a second. There are going to be people listening to this and say – remember in those battleground states where things are really tight, a few percentage points could make the difference between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

STEIN: So, let me be clear. I will feel horrible if Donald Trump gets elected and I will feel horrible if Hillary Clinton gets elected. I think that banning Muslims from the country is not worse than bombing Muslims which Hillary Clinton has been very busy doing. I think that Donald Trump doesn't tell us what he's going to do in Syria, one can only imagine, but with Hillary Clinton we don't have to imagine because she wants to start an air war with Russia, a nuclear armed power over Syria. And we can see how well that turned out in Libya. So we're not going to get out of here alive with Hillary Clinton in the presidency if she gets her way, and by the way she's likely to have a much more complaint Congress than Donald Trump would. The Republicans are the party of hate and fear, but the Democrats are the party of deportation, detention, and night raids.

So there are differences, but the differences are not enough to save your life, not enough to save your job, and not enough to save the planet because under all of the above the Obama policy has actually been far more damaging to the environment. Yes, we got more renewable energy, but nature does not care about and renewable energy. Nature and the climate really care about how much CO2 and methane are going out there. So the bottom line...you know, we're told we're powerless. In fact, there're 43 million young people who were locked into student loan debt right now. That is actually a winning number in a three-way presidential race. So, we're only running low in the polls because the corporate media refuses to cover us. We've had less time than anyone, basically three seconds of primetime network coverage is how much we've gotten, yet we are up there in the polls where non-corporate parties have never been before because there is so much hunger.

Steve Curwood and Jill Stein in Cambridge, Massachusetts. (Photo: Jaime Kaiser)

Remember in this race it's not like Bush–Nader-Gore because the public has rejected these candidates. They're the most disliked and distrusted ever in our history. Even the majority of Donald's supporters don't support him they just can't accept Hillary, and the majority of Hillary supporters don't actually support her. They're actually viciously against Donald Trump. What's wrong with this picture? Democracy is not the question of who we hate and fear the most. It needs an affirmative direction. It needs a moral compass. If we don't provide a moral compass, we have a moral vacuum and it is the predatory political parties funded by the big banks, the fossil fuel giants and the war profiteers who will continue to rule the day. We need to put our feet down in the words of Alice Walker, "The biggest way people give up power is by not knowing we have it to start with." We haven't. It's time to use it because to fail to use it now means we continue down this road. When is it going to get better exactly? When are we going to have an election in which we can risk standing up if we can't do it now because the Democrats and Republicans are marching further to the right in each election.

CURWOOD: Dr. Jill Stein is the Green Party candidate for president. Thank you so much for taking the time with me today.

STEIN: It's been really great talking with you, Steve, and thanks for all your wonderful work.



Jill Stein’s campaign platform

Green Party of the United States website

Charges brought against Stein for Dakota Access Graffiti

More thoughts from Stein about ranked-choice voting

Jill Stein was escorted from the first Presidential debate


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