In 2019, American awareness on the climate change crisis was significantly raised. The increase in the globe’s average temperature is causing rising sea levels, compromise of agriculture and infrastructure, wildfire outbreaks, extreme and erratic temperatures, flooding, erosion, and other disasters. These environmental impacts are becoming increasingly worrisome for populations worldwide. The concern for climate change has been amplified by Swedish activist Greta Thunberg’s “Fridays for Future” and the organizations associated with the climate activism movement.
Two of the prominent climate activism organizations in Pennsylvania are represented at Central High School. The Sunrise Movement is a national organization that is dedicated to promoting the Green New Deal, ending the influence of fossil fuel executives on American politics, and to encouraging local politicians to stand up for climate change.
Louisa Hanson (279) is an active member of The Sunrise Movement in Philadelphia. Louisa shared her views on the future of the Sunrise Movement and her climate activism in 2020, describing the movement’s endorsement of Senator Bernie Sanders for the Democratic Presidential Nomination in Iowa City, Iowa. Sunrise chose to support Sanders with the hope of electing a “climate champion” into the White House. Sunrise supports Sanders’ $16.3 trillion plan for a Green New Deal (GND), a set of social and economic reforms that aim to push America out of the climate crisis by eliminating greenhouse gas emissions and stabilizing the economy through guaranteed jobs, the right to health-care, and affordable housing. Varshini Prakash, the founder of the Sunrise Movement, stated: “We believe a Bernie Sanders presidency would provide the best political terrain in which to engage in and ultimately win that struggle for the world we deserve.”
Similar to the Sunrise Movement, the Pennsylvania Youth Climate Strike is a statewide organization that focuses on coordinating and promoting climate strikes throughout Pennsylvania. Amy Huang (280) is the head organizer for The Philly Youth Climate Strike, which originated as an independent group and is now a part of the U.S. Youth Climate Strike. While Philly YCS is known for organizing local climate strikes, Amy shared with me that she participates in many climate activism activities beyond striking. “My team and I organized a teach-in where people could come and partake in workshops to learn more about the climate crisis and how to tackle it,” she says, “the main focus of teach-ins is to inform the audience and anyone who is curious about the climate movement.” Amy views her position as Head Organizer for Philly YCS as a very rewarding position giving her the opportunity to “see the expansion of [the] organization” and to work alongside like-minded Philadelphia students to cultivate change in our city and beyond.
Both the Sunrise Movement branch in Philly and Philly YCS are collaborating with fellow climate activist organization, Philly Thrive, to encourage Mayor Kenney to keep the Energy Solutions Refinery closed. Last June, an explosive fire led to dangerous amounts of hydrofluoric acid being released into the air. Weeks after the explosion, the Philadelphia Energy Solutions Payment for Ecosystem services refinery declared bankruptcy but plans to reopen. Philly YCS is planning action on January 25th to protest the reopening, rallying for Philadelphians’ right to breathe. On Earth Day, April 22, the Sunrise Movement plans to be involved in another Youth Climate Strike as we move closer to the Pennsylvania primary election on April 28th.
Both Sunrise Movement Philly and Philly YCS continue to encourage high-school students to become involved in the climate activist movement. These organizations are currently represented at Central, yet growth, persistence, and awareness will lead our city and our planet to environmental justice.
Kate Ratner (280)
Climate Strike Interview with Carmen Siftar
On December 6, 2019 thousands of students walked out of class for the climate strike. After working extremely diligently, the Sunrise Movement came together with Dr. Hite and provided students throughout the Philadelphia School district with excused absences and parental permission to strike for climate change. These climate strikes began with Greta Thunberg in August of 2018 and since then thousands of other students have begun getting involved in this movement.
What is Sunrise?
Sunrise is a national organization that is building a mass movement of young people to stop the climate crisis and create millions of good jobs in the process.
What is the purpose of the climate strike?
The purpose of the climate strike is to pressure our elected officials into taking a stand against the climate crisis. As young people who cannot vote, striking is how we make our voices heard.
What is the Green New Deal?
The Green New Deal is a congressional resolution (not a piece of legislation as it is often mistaken as) that addresses the scale of the climate crisis and what the US will have to do in order to face it. It is a plan that outlines why the economy must become completely independent from fossil fuels, how we will shift our economy to renewable energies, and how to protect the people and provide a just transition. The Green New Deal acknowledges that the transition of our economy to renewable energies must happen quickly and dramatically. It also acknowledges that with our current system, the poor and people of color would feel the direct negative impacts of this dramatic transition and continue to benefit the rich. Therefore, the Green New Deal promises to provide a just transition through universal healthcare, free higher education, and job guarantees. The Green New Deal is a comprehensive plan that addresses the magnitude and urgency of battling the climate crisis as well as protecting those who will be directly impacted by a complete transition of our economy to renewable energies.
Why is participating in the climate strike important?
As a young person, the climate crisis primarily impacts our future. Without a voice in government, striking is how we can pressure our local and federal governments to act urgently to stop burning fossil fuels before the effects of the climate crisis become irreversible. Participating in a climate strike is the easiest and most basic step to get involved in the worldwide movement of young people fighting for our futures.
How can others get more involved with this movement?
The first step to getting involved in this movement is educating yourself on the effects of the climate crisis and what can be done to stop it. Through family and peers, spreading this information is important to create awareness around the climate crisis. With this basis of understanding, you can now join an organization that is fighting for change in your local community. This could be the Philly Sunrise hub, a school club, or if no group exists, create one. If you want to keep updated on what you can do specifically, you can follow @sunrisemvmt and @sunrisemvmtphilly on social media or sign up for emails at https://www.sunrisemovement.org/.
As the climate change crisis becomes an increasingly prevalent issue in our society it’s critical for more young people to become involved. Students at Central High School are diligently working towards creating a club for Philly Sunrise. Hopefully learning more about the issue will encourage other students to become more involved and help them to better understand that every single student counts when striking against climate change.
Sydney French (280)