Sunrise Movement: Young People for Greener World

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Tompkins Weekly 8-28-19

By Marisa Lansing

Is Ithaca really as progressive as we think? We have social justice ventures, green space and many sustainability-focused organizations, but are we prepared for the climate emergency? Sunrise Ithaca brought a Green New Deal resolution to the city, which was approved by the Common Council.

Now is the time for our community to come together for climate justice. This is our only chance; science has proven that we’re running out of time.

The Sunrise Movement is a national mobilization of young people, started in 2017, to fight the global threat of climate change. We demand that political leaders of this country put climate justice as number one on their agenda by taking extreme actions such as implementing a bold GND.

Since 2017, the Sunrise Movement has launched an incredibly successful, nationwide campaign for the House of Representatives’ Resolution for a Green New Deal. As young people, we were the first generation born into the era of “climate crisis,” not simply “climate change.”

Sunrise Movement Ithaca members.
Photo by Casey Martin

Our journey is about saving our home. We’ve realized that the emergency we’re in isn’t just about polar bears, melting ice caps or burning forests. The power of greed has put communities like indigenous, people of color, women, LGBTQ+ and youth at a disadvantage to produce a comfortable lifestyle. Selfish desire and materialism have stripped life away from humanity. We know that the Earth, though hurting now, will survive. This crisis is about the extinction of the human race itself. 

As young people, we’ve seen phase after phase of inaction. Action at the local, regional, and national scales are not lining up with the science. We are on a strict timeline to turn this boat around – before mass extinction is unavoidable. We’ve already begun to experience global devastation from natural disasters, which are only getting worse. We’re jaded by tragedy, but intense fear clouds our futures. We have no choice but to take action. 

In June 2019, the Ithaca Green New Deal resolution passed, and we’ve dedicated our mission to engage the community at large as visionaries of an Ithaca Green New Deal that will work for them. For this to be successful, this construction must be led by inclusive and representative leadership.

To facilitate this necessary justice, we cultivate relationships with appropriate civic leaders, organizations, institutions, and communities, collaborating with these groups to create a platform for powerful and broad-based coalitions. We acknowledge that relationship building and engagement occurs within communities, rather than merely inviting them into an existing structure without a previous relationship.

In this way, groups of trusted peers can authentically participate in round-table discussions, living room caucuses, creative events and other youth-led climate justice organizing.

To us, an Ithaca Green New Deal and 2030 carbon neutrality means serving justice to marginalized communities that have been the victims of a system rooted in extraction and exploitation. From the perspective of young people in 2019, we’re working to create a platform for healing and restorative action – one that will restore climate thrivability and social equity at the same time. 

Through community engagement, we plan to deliver policy articulating the specific needs of the people of Ithaca that must be addressed via the initiatives of Green New Deal. We are creating bottom-up, grassroots policy through empowered citizenry. We also intend to specifically mobilize young people on climate – it is our future, our Earth, that is at stake. 

In our youth-led climate justice hub, we encourage the practice of mindfulness meditation, individually and as a community. We feel that full climate action is not merely infrastructure or policy-based. It begins with our ability to stay strong within the reality of the climate crisis and propose these policy changes from a peaceful place, which allows for an inclusive process.

Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “The hope of a secure and livable world lies with disciplined nonconformists who are dedicated to justice, peace, and brotherhood.”

Practicing meditation helps an individual find peace within themselves so that they are able to share it with others around them. Committing to mindfulness allows us to honor our fellow social justice organizations, even when one community may have reservations towards one another. This intentional approach is vital for justice.

To fully articulate our commitment to this shared vision, we refer to the 11 Sunrise Movement principles, two of which are: “We take care of ourselves, each other, and our shared home.” and “We stand with other movements for change.”

Marisa Lansing is a co-founder of Sunrise Movement Ithaca.

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