By Rick Patelunas and Bob Gatty
“Now is the time to save the one planet we all have,” Sen. Bernie Sanders said in Myrtle Beach August 29.
On the first of three stops in the Grand Strand-Pee Dee area, presidential candidate Bernie Sanders addressed a crowd of hundreds at Chapin Park in Myrtle Beach, declaring that failure is not an option when combating climate change.
Mal Hyman, two-time Democratic Congressional candidate for South Carolina’s 7th Congressional District and longtime environmentalist who started the Hartsville Earth Day festival, opened the Climate Change Town Hall noting that a Pentagon report in 2004 called climate change a greater threat to national security than terrorism.
That, in fact, was echoed by Sanders, who said “Let me respectfully disagree with our old genius president” who ignores climate change, adding that the ultimate result of earth warming inevitably will result in now fertile land becoming arid and drinking water “gone.”
“When people don’t have food and water, they go to other areas to live and that is a recipe for international crisis,” Sanders said, citing a risk of war as a result.
Former first female “company man” on an offshore oil rig and one of the organizers of SODA – Stop Offshore Drilling in the Atlantic, Peg Howell, explained that the tourist industry in Horry and Georgetown counties generates $7 billion of revenue and 83,000 jobs.
The best economic impact the oil industry has to support its desire to drill off the Atlantic coast is just 1:27th of those amounts, she said. More important, once oil is discovered and drilling begins it doesn’t stop, and the damage is permanent.
Howell also stressed that that the US doesn’t need more drilling as it is the largest oil producer in the world, larger than Russia and Saudi Arabia, and is now an oil exporter.
Bernie’s National Co-Chairperson, Ohio State Sen. Nina Turner introduced him with her usual spirit and enthusiasm. Sanders called her the soul of his campaign, the intellect of the campaign, the energy of the campaign, and the reason Sanders will win in South Carolina.
Climate change was the primary subject of the Town Hall, which was all the more important with Hurricane Dorian gaining strength in the Caribbean as it moved to the southeast coast of the US.
“Almost unimaginable greed” of the fossil fuel industry is blocking progress on combatting climate change, Sanders declared, saying that as president he would make it clear to that industry that their profits are not as important as saving the planet. “We have a moral obligation to make sure the planet we leave our children and grandchildren is healthy,” he said.
The Senator reminded everyone that last year Hurricane Florence dumped six-month’s worth of rain on the Carolinas in just a few days, making it the wettest tropical system to ever strike the east coast. National Geographic reported that the results were 50 percent worse than they would have been without global warming.
Sanders discussed his Green New Deal proposal and its $16 trillion cost. He conceded that yes, as his opponents point out, it is expensive, but the cost of doing nothing is much more at an estimated at $65 trillion.
The cost of his environmental plan, he said, would be covered by “eliminating subsidies and making the oil companies pay their fair share of taxes. Under our administration, those tax breaks, those subsidies are over.”
“We can listen to the ignorance of Donald Trump and his supporters who tell us that climate change isn’t real or if it is we can’t do anything about it,” he said, or we can “listen to the scientists and do what has to be done.”
Noting that South Carolinians pay the highest electric bills in the nation, he said the state, blessed with sunshine, “should be leading the country in solar energy.”
Sanders also replied to President Trump’s explanation that climate change is a hoax. Much to the delight of the crowd, Bernie declared, “Donald Trump is a hoax.”
On other Issues
The Senator also discussed his plans to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour, fight for equal work for equal pay, make it easier to join unions, raise teacher pay to $60,000 a year, eliminate student debt, make public college education free and to work for Medicare for All.
Similar to his Green New Deal proposal, opponents are calling Medicare for All too expensive, Sanders noted and that in his 2016 campaign, his universal healthcare coverage was labeled as extremist, too far too the left.
Now, most of the Democratic candidates for President are proposing some form of universal health care. The senator argued that if big banks can be bailed out to the tune of trillions of dollars, if pharmaceutical companies can realize hundreds of million dollars of profits, Medicare for All is affordable.
Outside Chapin Park, Trump supporters paraded with their MAGA hats and flags, yelling and yelping negative comments. There were maybe 20 Trump supporters and their taunts fell on deaf ears.
Inside Chapin Park, the comments ranged from supportive to engaged enthusiasm. In particular, the focus on climate change and its impact on the Grand Strand seemed to hit home with the local crowd.
“We love Bernie,” said Bob Sadlemire, of Myrtle Beach, who proudly sat in the front row, center, with his wife, Carol. “We love everything he’s talking about, everything he does. We love him.” Sadlemire complained that security confiscated his handmade sign, which said, “We love Bernie.”
If Sanders does not win the Democratic nomination, Sadlemire said he and Carol would support the Democratic nominee. “We’ve got our choice of Bernie on down to Tulsi,” he said. “Anyone could do a better job than Trump. My dachshund would do a better job than Trump.”
Amanda Grefski, of Myrtle Beach, said she attended the event “because Democrats have to support other Democrats. Whoever is the nominee, I will be behind 100 percent. It is imperative that we vote Donald Trump out. I’m here to hear what Democrats have to say and support fellow Democrats.”
Even a woman from France, Melanie Giraud, was in the audience. “I want to hear what he has to say,” she said, explaining that she hoped to become a citizen in time for the election.
A student from Baltimore, MD, Alexandra Matu, is a member of the Coastal Carolina Democrats and said she supports Sanders but would back the eventual nominee if he does not gain the nomination. “This is a good opportunity to listen and be involved,” she said.
Also a student at CCU, Nina Staples, of Wayne, PA, said she attended the rally because “I want to open my eyes and learn more about the issues that I’m concerned about. I feel like if I can hear them speak, I can get a better fix on them.”
“Now is the time to save the one planet that we all have,” Sanders declared as he closed his remarks. “Now is the time.”