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Santa Barbara County Supervisors Debate the Green New Deal

Supervisor Peter Adam Complains He Was Compared to Nazis for Doubting Climate Change

At issue at Tuesday’s board meeting was a proposed resolution in support of the Green New Deal as well as Supervisor Peter Adam’s (right) charges that Supervisor Joan Hartmann (left) compared him to a Nazi two weeks ago for being a vocal denier of climate change.

Supervisorial tempers flared during a tense but strangely subdued showdown over the Green New Deal this Tuesday with Supervisor Peter Adam ​— ​an avowed doubter when it comes to climate change ​— ​charging that Supervisor Joan Hartmann had compared him to a Nazi for expressing his opinion. In a lengthy speech, Adam said Hartmann sought to bully and shame him during a previous board discussion about climate change held two weeks ago because she believes in climate change and he does not. “Mrs. Hartmann compared me to a Nazi,” Adam said. “Nazis were real,” he added. “Climate change ​— ​despite all the claims that the science is settled ​— ​is not.”

Hartmann did not address Adam’s charges at all during this Tuesday’s board discussion. In a brief interview afterward, she said simply, “Peter is very emotional where oil is concerned.” In the past two weeks, Hartmann said she and Adam have worked collegially together and the issue he raised this week did not come up. On May 21, Hartmann had recounted her days taking college courses in Germany during the 1970s and how many young Germans were agonizing over their parents’ participation with the Third Reich. During those remarks, Hartmann read a short poem in which the punch line was, “They ask me in duress, what did you do when the planet was plundered … what did you do, once you knew?” None of her remarks were directed at Adam. But in that meeting, Adam was characteristically outspoken about his doubts regarding climate change. Humans were living longer, he said, adding, “There’s never been a better time to be a human.”

This week, Adam, detailed how many times environmental “Chicken Littles” had predicted the end was nigh only to be proved incorrect. In 1985, Adam said, the experts insisted air pollution would reduce solar exposure by 50 percent, ushering in a new ice age. As to Hartmann’s remarks, he said, “I have never felt so violently attacked as I did on May 21.” He added, “This was as unreasonably as I’ve been treated in my six years, and it was an effort to shame me.” The science, he insisted, is not settled. “I will not lower my eyes, I will not shut up, and I will not save it for another day,” he said. “We are not demons. We are not Nazis. We are your neighbors. We are your friends.”

As outspoken as Adam ​— ​the board’s most undiluted conservative ​— ​has been during his political tenure, he can be surprisingly thin-skinned. Hartmann, who represents the 3rd District, tends to be strikingly soft-spoken in her delivery but very definite in her environmental beliefs. Das Williams, the supervisor most prone to deliver environmental sermons, defended Hartmann, stating, “She is the farthest from a bully of any elected official I have ever met.”

At issue before the supervisors was a proposed resolution in support of the Green New Deal, which among other things calls for a carbon-free future by the year 2030. Resolutions are largely ceremonial gestures, but with three major onshore oil projects now slated for Cat Canyon, the battle lines over anything remotely petrochemical have intensified. Supervisor Adam not only railed against climate change ​— ​calling it a pretext by which citizens will be frightened into giving up its rights ​— ​but rallied the troops. Oil workers showed up to testify on behalf of an industry that produced clean energy safely and provided jobs for which college degrees are not necessary that pay $102,000 a year. A cadre of younger ​— ​as well as older ​— ​environmental activists showed up and hammered away at the mass extinctions now imminently predicted as a result of climate change.

Supervisor Hartmann ​— ​who, along with Supervisor Williams, sponsored the resolution ​— ​was focused on her message and not distracted by Adam’s complaints. The Pentagon, she noted, was making plans to relocate no less than two-thirds of all military bases in response to climate change. Even oil companies, like Exxon, Chevron, and BP, she said, took climate change seriously. Republican elected officials avoided the issue completely in 2016, she added, but many are acknowledging it now. “The Green New Deal is already performing,” she stated. “It’s sparking a national conversation.”  

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