On August 19, residents of Sarasota joined activists from Florida Student Power Network, Central Florida Jobs With Justice, and Party for Socialism and Liberation in an action outside of Sarasota Ford, with a melting clock ice sculpture to demonstrate the urgency of passing the $3.5 trillion reconciliation package that just passed the U.S. Senate.
Event organizers urged members of Congress to pass the full economic recovery plan that invests in climate justice, new jobs and the care economy. The event was one of over 70 around the country urging support for the reconciliation bill with climate protections and care provisions, saying the bipartisan infrastructure deal alone is not enough.
“We need representatives that will stand up to the fossil fuel industry and to companies that pollute our waterways and risk our communities’ health. We can’t trust Representative Buchanan when his pockets are lined by those industries. He takes money from major utility companies, oil and gas companies, Exxon Mobile and Chevron, Mosaic (the phosphate mining company) and Big Sugar. Vern Buchanan is the fourth wealthiest member of Congress in our country. Always follow the money with these politicians,” said event organizer Mary-Elizabeth Estrada, a member of Florida Student Power Network.
“We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to tackle the most pressing challenges our community faces through big and bold investments in the infrastructure and jobs plan. For every dollar we invest in our communities, we create more jobs, update and expand essential infrastructure and make sure that everyone has access to basic necessities and services,” said Estrada.
“In Florida, the climate crisis is affecting our community, particularly communities of color and the working class, in a real way,” said Misha Robson, an organizer with Jobs With Justice. “We experience heat stress, increasing storms and environmental concerns like red tide which worsen each year. We have supported the THRIVE Act and now the reconciliation budget and infrastructure bill because it is time to address the climate change issues that affect us in a bold and proactive way.”
The action also brought out Reid Morgan, an environmental activist who has been raising awareness about the Piney Point toxic waste disaster in Manatee County. Reed explained that the spewing of phosphate mining chemicals into Tampa Bay wiped out half the gains of a 15-year sea grass recovery project, and that a repeat of April’s disaster is on the way.
“Over five years ago, the holding company for Piney Point, HRK Holdings, let the Scott administration know that being a shell company they didn’t have the money to do the repairs necessary to Piney Point and they said there’s going to be an overflow breakout scenario in the indefinite but not too far future. The Scott administration ignored that, the DeSantis administration ignored that. So, lo and behold, with the Piney Point disaster this last spring, no one should really be surprised. And when you hear the Republicans or the administration say it was unforeseen, that is an absolute falsehood,” added Morgan.
Local activist Lisa King also spoke about the urgency of addressing the interrelated environmental and social crises: “I’m here because I’m seeing the effects of climate change now. I’m here because we don’t have any more time to waste. I’m here because we have to do something, stand up, fight back, take back our planet. I’m here calling on you, Vern Buchanan, to support the reconciliation budget — no cuts to climate, no cuts to care jobs and the care economy.”