No climate, no deal: The importance of the Civilian Climate Corps

On June 14, I met up with a group of 20 young people as they marched from Sonoma County to the Marin Headlands. Many of these trekkers started their journey from Santa Rosa, while a select few started their journey in Paradise, California, the site of the deadliest fire in California history. Even though everyone’s feet were hurting by the end of the day and the fog brought a chill to our campsite, the excitement for the next day was palpable. Together, we planned to walk from Marin across the Golden Gate Bridge into San Francisco — the final leg in the 266-mile march from Paradise.  

There, more than 100 of us made our demand clear outside Speaker Nancy Pelsoi and Senator Diane Feinstein’s homes: Pass legislation to create the Civilian Climate Corps (CCC). 

Sunrise Movement Generation on Fire March

Photo by Janina Turner / The Climate Center.

For two years, I’ve been organizing with the Sunrise Movement in Sonoma County. Sunrise is a youth-led movement working to halt the climate crisis by calling on politicians to enact Green New Deal policies, transitioning the United States away from a fossil fuel economy, toward renewable energy, and creating millions of good-paying jobs in the process. The Sunrise Sonoma County hub works to bring the pillars of the Green New Deal — such as climate justice, livable wages, affordable housing, and green jobs — to life at the local level.

The launch of a Civilian Climate Corps would put 1.5 million people to work over five years. These are jobs that move us toward a regenerative, green economy, creating a world of opportunity for Americans struggling to find stable employment in the wake of COVID and helping to curb climate change at the same time. As we transition away from fossil fuels, the Corps can provide jobs in the energy sector as well as opportunities focused on restoration, decarbonization, and community revitalization. In California, the Corps could also provide jobs that focus on wildfire prevention, renewable energy, habitat restoration, public transportation, and affordable housing. 

The Civilian Climate Corps is inspired by the Civilian Conservation Corps of the New Deal era, which put people to work by planting trees, developing recreation areas, and upgrading infrastructure. But this updated version is designed to be more equitable and inclusive. New Deal programs like the Civilian Conservation Corps discriminated against African American and Indigenous men, who were segregated from their white counterparts in the workforce. And women, regardless of race, were not even allowed to join the corps and were sent instead to women-only work camps. This time around, we want to ensure that the communities that have been harmed the most by climate change and fossil fuel pollution are the first to benefit. We’re demanding that 50 percent of job opportunities go to environmental justice communities and half of all projects are happening in these communities.

Furthermore, it’s vital that the jobs created by the Corps pay at least $15/hour, come with good health care benefits, provide education grants to help pay off student debt, and offer long-term career opportunities so workers can afford to take care of themselves and their families. 

The movement for a Civilian Climate Corps took to the streets again on June 28, this time in front of the White House. There, more than 500 Sunrisers demanded that President Joe Biden include the Civilian Climate Corps in the infrastructure package Congress is negotiating right now — and 13 activists were arrested for peacefully blockading the entrance to the White House. A contingent of California-based Sunrisers marched to Speaker Pelosi and Senator Feinstein’s D.C. homes for another protest on June 29. 

https://twitter.com/sunrisemvmt/status/1409633324671246341

Knowing that climate catastrophe is hovering over my future and that of my generation is why I fight for Green New Deal legislation like the Civilian Climate Corps. Knowing that a better future is possible but watching critical climate resolutions be tossed away is what ignites my generation to organize and protest. Experiencing record-breaking wildfires year after year, as well as drought, heatwaves, and floods in my backyard, I have no choice but to continue the fight for a safe future. To see that future come into fruition, it is crucial that we see mass mobilization in support of a Green New Deal and Civilian Climate Corps. The CCC is only one part of a larger vision for a just and livable future, and it’s time for our elected leaders to understand that we will not accept compromises or excuses.

The federal infrastructure package must reflect on the urgency of the crises we are in. 

The climate justice movement must oppose white supremacy everywhere

by Mattias Lehman, Medium


Highlights

Mattias Lehman of the Sunrise Movement, a youth-led climate movement working for the end to the climate crisis, shares how environmental groups need to focus more on racial inequality.

  • The climate movement is typically focused on nature-based initiatives such as “Save the Trees” and “Save the Polar Bears,” but rarely provides emphasis on saving the Black and Brown communities that have been experiencing environmental racism throughout history
  • The climate crisis is a major contributing factor to the migration of peoples to other countries. Many are seeking refuge from drought and famine
  • Environmental groups must speak out on injustices within the immigrant communities because immigrants are directly impacted by climate effects. To be silent is to be complicit with the racism that keeps these communities on the frontlines, in detention centers, and held in cages
  • Supporting and working towards defunding, reforming, and abolishing structures in this country built on principles of systemic racism is an important step for building a just, green, and equitable future

The Climate Center’s urgent climate policy goals will only be achieved if we also close the climate gap and ensure that communities of color are no longer disproportionately harmed. There cannot be climate justice without racial justice.


Read more: https://medium.com/sunrisemvmt/the-climate-justice-movement-must-oppose-white-supremacy-everywhere-by-supporting-m4bl-4e338cf91b19

Kids’ climate lawsuit thrown out by appeals court

by David Hasemyer and Nicholas Kusnetz, InsideClimate News, January 17, 2020


Highlights:

  • A federal appeals court on Friday dismissed a lawsuit brought by a group of young people that had sought to compel the federal government to rein in the nation’s climate emissions
  • The Juliana case was thrown out of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals because it is “beyond their constitutional power”– the court concluded that only elected branches of government could take the necessary actions to address the plaintiff’s claims
  • The plaintiffs had presented compelling evidence that a rapid buildup of carbon dioxide, driven by the combustion of fossil fuels, was sending global temperatures ever higher, melting polar ice caps, and threatening devastating sea-level rise within the century
  • In dismissing the suit, the court noted that the plaintiffs had succeeded in making a strong case that the government had for decades not only failed to act to limit emissions but had actively promoted fossil fuel development.

The case highlights the importance of a solid Theory of Change for the climate movement to execute rapid decarbonization.


Read more: https://insideclimatenews.org/news/17012020/children-climate-change-lawsuit-appeals-court-fossil-fuel

A staged "die-in" at Santa Rosa mall to demonstrate the perils of climate change

Youth-led staged “die-in” successful in raising awareness about climate change dangers

by Gavin Sellers and Amy Jolly

The Climate Center staff members recently turned out to participate in a youth-led climate strike. The action, organized by the Sonoma County Sunrise Movement, began at Courthouse Square in Santa Rosa, where about 50 youth members and supporting individuals assembled at 12:00 pm on Friday, December 6th. The participants marched to the Santa Rosa Downtown Mall, where they staged a “die-in.” Positioning themselves in the center of the mall’s bustling plaza, they lay silent and somber on the ground as if dead to illustrate the catastrophic consequences of climate change. For 11 minutes – one for each of the years that we have left to make changes and avert the worst effects of a destabilized climate – the demonstrators remained on the ground, and then rose exultantly to their feet as organizers spoke into a megaphone, projecting inspirational words across the mall plaza and demanding a livable future. Having aroused the curiosity and in some cases great enthusiasm of shoppers, the assembly burst into song and paraded out of the mall. The event received extensive media coverage in the local newspaper as well.

The event made clear that youth-driven activism with a demand for systemic change is becoming a staple of the suburban American experience– even in shopping malls. Several Climate Center staff members attended the event and former Climate Center intern Christine Byrne was the lead organizer of the action. The Climate Center’s Renewable Energy Program Associate Nina Turner addressed the assemblage during the rally and helped organize the event. Gavin Sellors, the current intern at The Climate Center’s youth program also spoke. 

By empowering youth, The Climate Center continues to build a movement demanding bold climate action through smart policies that will help us rapidly decarbonize to reverse the climate crisis and return us to a safe and stable climate.

Time’s Person of the Year is its youngest ever: Greta Thunberg, the teen climate activist

by Hannah Knowles, The Washington Post

Greta Thunberg has rejected accolades for her activism, sayingawards are not what the environmental movement needs.

But on Wednesday, the Swedish 16-year-old, who has mobilized millions of people to fight climate change and condemned leaders’ inaction, picked up another honor that acknowledges her impact.

Thunberg is Time’s Person of the Year — the magazine’s youngest ever.

Read more: https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2019/12/11/time-person-year/

Youth speak at the Climate Strike in Santa Rosa on September 20, 2019

The Climate Center’s youth demand real action– climate policy for rapid decarbonization

Over four million of us demonstrated across the world on September 20th. School strikers, unions, businesses, teachers, scientists, celebrities, and religious organizations took to the streets. Hearing the call to action from Greta Thunberg, people united across time zones and cultures to fight the fossil fuel industry for our future.

Youth speak at the Climate Strike in Santa Rosa on September 20, 2019.

Youth speak at the Climate Strike in Santa Rosa on September 20, 2019.

While we might all expect mass protests in our urban centers, this movement has become so wide that even in suburban Santa Rosa, a coalition of climate organizations came together to organize rallies with over 2,000 young people and adults taking to the streets. Our young people are taking the stage and demanding an end to the age of fossil fuels and a livable future.

Evelin Aquino, a senior at Roseland University Prep in Santa Rosa spoke passionately in Spanish, a reminder that we are not a homogenous group. [translated] “We see the effects of climate change in our community. To this day we are still affected, whether from fires or air pollution. There will be no land or nation to govern if politicians do not take immediate action. We have to implement laws to regulate the use of fossil fuels and protect our forests to avoid global catastrophe.” Our youth know the science and they know that aggressive policies for rapid decarbonization are required.

Estrella Pacheco, a junior at Analy High school outlined the US Climate Strike demands. “We, the youth of America, are striking because the science says we have just a few years to transform our energy system, reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, and prevent the worst effects of climate change. We are striking because our world leaders have yet to acknowledge, prioritize, or properly address our climate crisis… The climate crisis should be declared a national emergency because we are running out of time.”

“It’s great that we all showed up [for the strike]. But we must show up tomorrow. And the next day.” said Noa Polson-Schwartz 8th grade Hillcrest Middle School.

Strikes, marches, and rallies build momentum and awareness. They are not an end, but a beginning. Now we must immediately pursue policies for rapid decarbonization at scale and support organizations that are developing these policies.

Our young people have given us a call to action. Are we listening?

 

ECO2school’s youth climate activists are part of a movement affecting national politics

It would be hard to make it through a newspaper over the last few months without hearing about the youth climate activist movements – Fridays for Future, Sunrise, Youth vs. Apocalypse, and the Green New Deal. The Center for the Climate Protection has the honor of working with some of the youth involved in these movements and helping them to find their voice and power. The Center’s ECO2school program is training these formidable youth and we are helping them live with integrity by tracking their own greenhouse gas emissions.

Earth Club President Nima Sherpa, a junior at Sonoma Valley High School (SVHS) is deeply committed to raising awareness and demonstrating leadership on environmental issues. Nima shares her concerns about the impacts of a changing climate on the Sherpa communities of Nepal and the village where her family hails from. Their livelihoods depend heavily on farming and tourism, both affected by dramatic shifts in weather patterns. She understands the global interconnectedness of the climate crisis and is determined to help her peers and local community realize the same and engage in local solutions.

With a warm smile and soft but zealous voice, she welcomes her eco-club members every week on Tuesdays at lunchtime in the school’s “K” building. “ECO2school helped me a lot in terms of leading earth club and engaging more people on my campus. I learned that I’m capable of running a club and that being a leader in the community came to me easier than I had imagined” says Nima. This young activist stayed on her toes and made sure the wheels were churning throughout the year. Every week she met with a group of environmentally conscious and committed members like her including seniors Alexandera McIntyre, Esveldy Gutierrez, Jacquelyn Torres, juniors Ava Powers, Sydnie Raup, as well as sophomores Tenjing Sherpa, Camille King, and freshman Grace Utnehmer.

Earth club leaders advocated for an environmental action theme during the school’s annual “Bee Kind Week” celebration. They organized a creek clean up, an on-campus Earth mural and brought an emission reduction focus to their actions. In partnership with ECO2school, the team put their energies and passion into organizing “Cocoa4Carpool” and “Walki4Guayaki” days. These simple and fun actions helped raise eco-consciousness among teens by rewarding healthy transportation habits with a hot cocoa or a cool Guayaki drink as students arrived at school in the morning! Eager to take it up a notch during the spring, despite the prolonged wet season, the team organized a 2-week ECO2school Challenge.  About a hundred students participated by choosing active and shared modes of transportation, keeping 1000 lbs of CO2 from being emitted.

Albeit a small dent in the 474 tons of CO2 emitted from this school’s commute per year (source: ECO2school’s 2018 fall survey), club leaders were heartened that the incentive-based campaign nudged their peers to experience (seemingly) small but important shifts in transportation behaviors towards more walking, biking, transit use and carpooling. Based on the transportation survey, about three-quarters of the school’s 1300 students’ school commutes are by car, with approximately 10% walking or biking and a similar percentage commuting by bus. In a school where more than two-thirds of the students live within a 3-mile radius of the school, there is still tremendous scope for increased walking and biking to school.

“Attending ECO2school’s Green Teen conference was a highlight for me and my friend Tenjing, where youth were actively using their voices to advocate for the environment,” said Nima as she recollected some of her favorite moments of the year. Organized by ECO2school’s Youth Advisory Board, Green Teen took place in November 2018 in Santa Rosa. Around the same time the clarion call of youth across the nation and the world was rapidly picking up momentum through the Fridays for Future, Sunrise, Youth vs Apocalypse and the Green New Deal movements. On Friday, March 15th, SVHS students joined in on a climate demonstration.

This groundswell global movement is comprised of an ecosystem of local groups like the Sonoma Valley Climate Coalition, 350 Sonoma, Sonoma Ecology Center and very importantly teachers on campus, which give these student leaders hope and motivation as they discover their voice and power.

 

Build it and they will walk and bike: youth, government, and developer collaborate for expedited infrastructure changes

by Kevin Anderson, The Climate Center

“They already made those changes?” a student excitedly asked during a recent discussion in Mrs. Marika Ramsden’s One Planet Living class at Credo High School in Rohnert Park. There were a number of Credo students surprised to find that some of their very own recommendations for bike and pedestrian-related infrastructure changes, made only last fall, had already been completed.

First, a little background on the project. Over the past couple school years as part of an Active Transportation Planning grant, ECO2school, in partnership with W-Trans Engineering, has been conducting Walk Audits at eleven public high school campuses throughout Sonoma County. Walk Audits involve the systematic gathering of information about environmental conditions around a school that impact students’ ability to bike or walk safely and easily to and from campus. This information is gathered through a community process that encourages various stakeholders to participate.

Credo’s Walk Audit took place last Spring with a handful students and teachers participating in the first inspection. Engineers then compiled a list of their infrastructure recommendations. We organized multiple follow-up meetings last Fall with students, parents, administration, Rohnert Park Public Works and Police, and community members reviewing the first round of initial recommendations and contributing their perspectives.

Students, staff, admin, and engineers conduct the initial Walk Audit

We usually tell students and community members who participate in these projects that it can take anywhere from four to ten years to see the infrastructure changes completed. That it depends on a variety of factors from the amount of vocalized community support and documented public engagement (such as a walk audit), funding cycles, even a city’s current bicycle and pedestrian master plan can determine when, and if, the changes are made.

There is another side to this story though. Because Credo High School sits at the heart of Sonoma Mountain Village (SOMO), an internationally-recognized mixed-use development site and One Planet Living Community, we were able to bring SOMO into the conversation. Tina Montgommery, General Manager of SOMO Village, attended one of those meetings last fall and listened intently to the observations and suggestions made by the students and city. A couple of those student recommendations fell directly on SOMO’s property: adding additional bike racks at the northwest corner of campus and paving a gap between an existing campus path and the SMART Trail.

The gap between the SMART Trail and the campus path:

Before After

But SOMO Village did more than just listen. Before the end of last year, the bike racks were added to the northwest corner of campus; moreover, they were perfectly placed under the awning which keeps the bikes safely parked out of the rain. As for the rutted-out, often mud-filled gap badly in need of a fix? That was done too. An aggregate path that students can walk, bike, and skate now connects the SMART Trail to the campus path rain or shine.

New bike racks and under the awning!

This success story cannot be overstated. When we look at solving the climate crisis both transportation and the redesign of our built environment are paramount. In this case, the collaboration between youth, public, and private entities helped streamline some important infrastructure changes that will make cycling, walking, and taking public transportation safer and more convenient. To reduce greenhouse gas emissions at speed and scale we must find ways to create and grow more partnerships just like this. What is your big idea to help transform your school and community into to a bicycle and pedestrian-friendly place? Please contact ECO2school today and let’s find a way to make this happen!

The Climate Center youth scholarship program now open

In all of human history, we have never known an existential threat like climate change. But humans are cognitively wired to deny, ignore, or remain complacent to the crisis regardless of the floods, droughts, wildfires, rising sea levels, and other evidence surrounding us. With the current federal administration, climate change deniers and fossil fuel leaders have ascended to positions of great power. Given this reality, we must step up. The need for scientifically accurate climate education and positive action is more important than ever. Young people are on the front line of this movement, and The Climate Center has been investing in youth leadership for many years. ECO2school’s World Changers Career Pathways Scholarship engages the next generation of problem solvers and creative thinkers to apply themselves to positive solutions to the climate challenge.

World Changers is a merit-based scholarship for graduating seniors who have engaged in community projects with measurable carbon dioxide emission reductions. A strong applicant will be able to clearly articulate their leadership in both planning and organizing activities that tangibly reduce greenhouse gas emissions here in Sonoma County. Five $1,000 scholarships are available.

The World Changers grant is now open and completed applications are due April 30th. Interested seniors can find more information at our website eco2school.org.

Have questions or need support in your project? Contact eco2school@theclimatecenter.org

Solana Jolly spices up low-carbon commutes with Windsor High Green Week

Solana Jolly, a senior at Windsor High and co-president of the “Green Team,” recently organized a “Green Week” as her senior project. The week was supported by the staff of The Climate Center’s ECO2school program.

Green Week engaged students in activities geared towards encouraging a shift in how students get to and from school. Over 850 Windsor High students participated by either walking, biking, skating, taking transit, or carpooling.

The week kicked off with Motivation Monday, which included a bike blender set up during lunch so that students could pedal their way to delicious organic smoothies. Students had fun getting comfortable on the bike while also rewarded with a refreshing berry beverage, mixed by their own pedal-power.

Next up, Textless Tuesday, where students who signed a “Don’t Text and Drive” pledge received a scoop of ice cream from our generous sponsor Straus Family Creamery.

For Walking Wednesday, students met at the Windsor Town Green for coffee and bagels and then walked to campus in a group. Walking to school is enjoyable with friends and treats, as the smiles of the participants revealed.

Thursday’s theme was Cocoa4Carpools where students who carpooled or took transit to school received a cup of hot cocoa when they arrived on campus in the morning.

The last day of Green Week was Fun Friday! As the name implies, this final day was full of excitement with a lunchtime rally of small bike races, a guaranteed giggle watching students compete to the finish line on tiny bikes built for a clown! Students received free helmets to decorate and wear during the game, which added a colorful artistic flair to the festivities, as well as kept participants safe.

With as many students that participated and all the more students who perhaps did not get tallied in their classrooms, Solana had this to say at the end of the Green Week:

“It was really fun and great to see students come out and be enthusiastic about finding solutions to our transit woes!”