Youth Activists Take On Climate Change

BY ON November 26, 2018
Varshini Prakash at the Sunrise protest, Nov. 13, 2018. Youth activists taking on climate change

Varshini Prakash at the Sunrise protest, Nov. 13, 2018


There is change in the air. A large percentage of voters were millennials. Now, climate voters have more traction in the House of Representatives. And they are poised to plan their climate strategy for 2020.

Simultaneously, there is news about the Juliana v. United States case, which originated in 2015 when twenty-one young people took their concerns for the planet to the judicial system. Led by environmental lawyer Julia Olson and her organization Our Children’s Trust, they have been spearheading a national and global movement to challenge the status quo.

During the Obama era, the goal was to push the administration toward implementing bolder moves. The case held the U.S. government accountable for violating the constitutional rights of young Americans and their right to health. It challenged a lack of oversight and the unending subsidization of the fossil fuel industry.

With the advent of the Trump administration’s regulatory EPA rollbacks, the concern shifted to encompassing the prevention of a major backslide.

In a series of progressions and regressions, November 5th marked a motion to stay litigation.

A week later on November 13th, environmental activists with the Sunrise Movement (an under-thirty age demographic), captured the spotlight. They took their concerns directly to the Capitol Building and the office of Rep. Nancy Pelosi.

Pelosi, who has a strong record of being proactive on climate issues, had announced plans to revive the House Climate Caucus.

However, with the dire predictions put forth by the 2018 IPCC Special Report on Global Warming – outlining a twelve-year window to get on track – time is of the essence. For those who will be in their thirties by 2030, climate change is not an abstract concept.

The Sunrise Movement sprang up to deal with the urgency of the climate crisis. The goal was to reach a critical mass of young people ready to fight for immediate action.

Appearing at the Capitol with shirts underscoring their top talking points (12 YEARS, GREEN JOBS, and NO FOSSIL FUEL MONEY), the members were tenacious and vocal. Some were arrested while proclaiming, “Our lives are at stake.”

These are the kids we have been hoping for! Passionate, involved players who get that the “time for evidence is over,” and the key to progress is rejecting “entrenched power interests.”

The numerical shift introducing diverse Democrats to the House has these environmental grassroots activists eager to forge alliances. They seek to connect with those who agree with mandating a plan to scale the problems outlined in the 2018 IPCC report.

Most of the media stories framed the November 13 event as a challenge to the leadership of Pelosi. Rather, it was a statement about a bold new vision that looks at climate change as part of a larger picture.

New York’s Congresswoman-elect, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, showed up at the Sunrise gathering. Ocasio-Cortez made a point of telling news cameras, “We’re here to back her [Pelosi] up in pushing for 100% renewable energy.”

Ocasio-Cortez, has authored a concept for a Green New Deal. The scope is ambitious. It includes decarbonization, a shift to renewable energies, investment in capturing existing greenhouse gases, a “smart” energy grid, rebuilding infrastructure, and placing America at the forefront of green innovation in technology expertise, products and services.

I reached out to Varshini Prakash, Communications Director of the Sunrise Movement, to get a comment on the Juliana v. United States lawsuit and the work of Sunrise.

Via email, Prakash responded:

“We’re extremely proud of, and in solidarity with, the youth activists suing the government to take action on climate. Our generation will bear the brunt of impending disaster and pollution. It’s time our politicians took the threat of the climate crisis as seriously as we do.”


TOPICS: Activism, Climate Change, Heat and Extreme Weather, Politics, Social Justice