By Kai Curry
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
In the middle of a heatwave, Vice President Kamala Harris landed in Seattle on Tuesday to talk about climate change and attend a fundraiser hosted by the president of Microsoft.
“Every day around the world, the impact of the climate crisis is stark and it is vivid. We are seeing it in real time,” Harris said at the outset of a brief presentation during a tour of McKinstry, a company that helps other companies reimagine an energy-efficient built environment for their businesses.
“Far too many lives, homes lost, businesses lost, livelihoods lost,” Harris said, explaining the tragic result of climate change, citing the recent wildfires in Maui, Hawai’i, and other environmental disasters regionally and around the world.
“Here in Washington state, you have endured deadly heatwaves and devastating wildfires. Across our nation, we see communities choked by drought, washed out by flood, and decimated by hurricanes.”
Harris’ visit fell on the anniversary of the Inflation Reduction Act that was signed into law by President Joe Biden on Aug. 16, 2022. This act, which is multi-pronged, aims to address the budget deficit, prescription drug prices, and promote clean energy. As such, Harris touted several projects currently in place around the United States, supported by funding put into place by the Biden-Harris Administration, that create clean energy, such as wind farms, solar power, and infrastructure to move the clean energy to needy communities. She talked about the purchase of clean school buses for Washington schools, and the altogether “nearly $1 trillion” that she and Biden have “committed…to build a thriving, clean energy economy for America.”
Integral to Harris’ speech, which contained shout-outs to Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell, and Rep. Marilyn Strickland, was the assurance that clean energy equals jobs. The vice president was introduced to the podium by an employee of McKinstry, Cameron Bowers. Bowers talked about pivoting into a trades job as a service technician after watching her father re-educate himself from heavy equipment operator to HVAC during the 2007-2008 recession.
“I do as much as I can to advocate for kids who don’t know what they want to do or maybe those halfway through their careers [who] just don’t like it anymore…I was able to get help and direction from those around me, those in the union, and the apprenticeship hall to set me in the right direction for this career.” Bower thanked the Biden-Harris Administration for investments that make buildings like the one they were in “safer, healthier, and more energy efficient.”
Continuing on this theme, doubtless in an effort by the administration to reassure the nation’s workers that clean energy does not mean their jobs will be phased out, Harris said,
“All these investments create jobs, good paying union jobs” (for which, she got a large round of applause). Jobs, she went on, for the types of people in the room, who were “some of the most skilled and experienced workers in our nation, going to work every day to build our clean energy economy.” The vice president added that clean energy also means reduced electricity bills, and she described how this would free up incomes and create a better standard of living.
As proof that “Bidenomics” is working, Harris mentioned that “since we took office, President Biden and I have created more than 13 million new jobs, including nearly 400,000 jobs right here in Washington state. Today, the unemployment rate is near the lowest it has been in over half a century. Inflation is down and wages are up.”
All of this on the same day that President Biden was in Milwaukee, Wisconsin talking about how Bidenomics means “investment in America” and “growing the economy from the middle out and the bottom up, not the top down,” according to the White House website. Biden’s presentation and Harris’ were broadcast live on whitehouse.gov and on YouTube.
“Mayor [Harrell], thank you for meeting me on the tarmac and for your leadership and friendship always,” Harris said. To Gov. Inslee, “Thank you for all that you are and all you have done…Among those who are leaders in our country…on the issue of what we must do with a sense of urgency to protect, preserve, and love our planet, you’re one of the greatest leaders.”
To people like Bowers, she said, “To all the activists, organizers, and young leaders here today, it is because of you and your partnership, and the enthusiasm and the passion that you bring to this work, that President Biden and I are taking on one of the most urgent issues of our time and of course that is the climate crisis.”
Former Seattle Deputy Mayor Hyeok Kim, who was at the fundraiser, said Harris “was incredibly engaging and did a great job of touting all of the accomplishments of the Biden-Harris administration.”
Kim added, “The other point from Vice President Harris’s remarks that really resonated with me were her remarks regarding reproductive health rights. She spoke eloquently about the fact that she’s met with over 100 world leaders and when established rights like reproductive rights are dismantled in the U.S. as a woman’s right to choose was when the Supreme Court overturned Roe V. Wade … that undermines U.S. leadership abroad.
Kim said that Harris reminded everyone that reproductive rights are under threat and that we need a pro-choice Congress to help the President and Vice President in their continued fight for reproductive rights.
The vice president was on a plane again by the late afternoon to fly to Los Angeles. She left with sobering and at the same time hope-inspiring words: “The clock is not just ticking, it is banging, and that is why one year ago, President Biden and I made the largest climate investment in America’s history.”
Kai can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.