To respond to the growing climate crisis, several activist groups have formed with the intent to empower young people to take action against climate change. One of these organizations has just begun to take root at Allegheny College: the Sunrise Movement.
The Sunrise Movement is a grassroots organization dedicated to advocating for environmental policies, mainly a Green New Deal. There are chapters of the organization located across the United States.
The Sunrise Movement is seeking to build “an army of young people to make climate change an urgent priority across America, end the corrupting influence of fossil fuel executives on our politics, and elect leaders who stand up for the health and wellbeing of all people,” according to its website.
Akeem Adesiji, ’20, noted a rise in the organization’s popularity, especially amongst young people.
“They’ve been responsible for kind of pushing the idea of the Green New Deal and to the national news and into the opinions of people running for president and other politicians,” Adesiji said. “They’ve done that primarily through really good grassroots organizing, a lot of demonstrations — they are really good at training their volunteers to grow their chapter, which just happened (at Allegheny), they’re just beginning to start one of the new chapters.”
Leading the charge at Allegheny College is Joel Zove, ’23. He organized its arrival to campus without having previous experience with the movement before attending Allegheny. The group held its first meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 29.
“I had heard about (the Sunrise Movement) in the summer but wasn’t really familiar with them, and once the Climate Strike in September happened, that’s when I became more aware than that,” Zove said. “I signed up for a few trainings that involved video calls that I did throughout the fall semester.”
A key part to the movement is the use of a Strike Circle, which is when a group of 5-15 people from the same area get together to train and learn about the program.
“Strike Circle participants will go through a six-week program together where you’ll build relationships, learn how to win a Green New Deal, and take action to get your people at your school, workplace, or neighborhood to join a strike on Earth Day,” according to the Sunrise Movement’s website.
According to Zove, the movement sends him videos and presentations which discuss past social movements, successes, activism strategies and how to get more people engaged.
The primary goal for the organization is the development of a Green New Deal. This is accomplished from a multitude of fronts ranging from general strikes to contacting members of Congress.
“It’s kind of hard to get excited for me personally about what a Green New Deal would be knowing that it has to get filtered through Congress and everything first, but they’ve been really successful in generating more news and coverage of environmental issues,” Adesiji said.
Although the Allegheny chapter is still in its infancy, the Sunrise Movement does have a presence on campus. Adesiji pointed out that members from their organization visited campus two years ago.
“I had a few people come in and we hosted them at (the) Green Living (special interest house), brought them in to talk to students, the (Environmental Science) department and stuff about the Sunrise Movement,” Adesiji said. “If you see people with Sunrise stickers on their laptops and water bottles it’s probably where they came from.”
Adesiji has been involved with other climate organizations, but has yet to fully participate in the new movement due to studying off campus for a year.
One of the first events the Sunrise Movement will participate in this semester will be on Earth Day, April 22. Plans for the event and for future environmental events are in the works.
“The Sunrise Movement is planning to organize around for the 2020 (Presidential) Election in order to become politically involved, and then after the election to have some sort of sustained action in order to actually pass a Green New Deal, which is ultimately the main objective of the Sunrise Movement,” Zove said.
As the organization develops, Adesiji emphasized their efficiency when it involves bringing more members into the fold.
“They do a really good job of getting training material out to people so that you can start a group, and it’s a local group but you’re usually doing things in line with the national agenda (of the Sunrise Movement),” Adesiji said. “They really do a good job of getting all of their networks all around the country to work together on whatever it is at that moment.”