Local News

Meet the Activists with a Plan to Make Climate Change Matter

News regarding climate change in Orange County is often scarce. In fact, the OC Register published it’s first editorial on climate change just months ago. But lately, there has been a glimmer of hope on the horizon for the climate, and it bears the yellow flag of the Sunrise Movement. The Sunrise Movement is a nationwide action led by young people working to pass the most ambitious legislation of the 21st Century, the “Green New Deal.” It’s a plan that would transform our economy and society at the scale needed to stop the climate crisis.

The Sunrise Movement is a nationwide action led by young people working to pass the most ambitious legislation of the 21st Century, the “Green New Deal.” It’s a plan that would transform our economy and society at the scale needed to stop the climate crisis.

Congresswoman-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has proposed a House Select Committee for a Green New Deal, and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has reinstated the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, underscoring the shift in election strategies as Democrats race towards the 2020 Presidential Election.

Even before the November midterms, local Fullerton activists and organizers across Orange County held demonstrations, marches, and protests to illuminate community-driven solutions to climate change, such as Citizen’s Climate Lobby’s Carbon Tax, OC Climate Action’s Municipal General Plan updates, and OC Clean Power’s Community Choice Energy program.

At the December 22nd inaugural meeting, approximately 40 local “sunrisers” crowded a corner of the Dripp and Tazon patio in Downtown Fullerton to form the Sunrise Movement Orange County Hub. Sunrisers as young as high school students along with elders shared visions of a just future with good-paying jobs, clean air, clean water, clean energy, affordable housing, and zero waste.

Socrates Cruz, a co-founder of the Sunrise Movement Orange County Hub, explained to me in an interview that, “the movement represents an opportunity to engage people of all walks of life because climate change affects us all. Led by our younger generation, the Sunrise Movement is about creating a sustainable future for everyone and pressuring our government to listen and act upon the environmental concerns of the people over corporate profits and special interests.”

As the co-founder of the OC hub, I addressed the sunrisers by stating that our goal is to build lasting relationships with our community members and elected officials in order to uplift people and projects that benefit everyone. Our only enemy is our limited time to pass real solutions. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Special Report called “Global Warming of 1.5°C,” the catastrophic effects of climate change could become our reality as early as 2040. We ground our approach on scientific conclusions that the only way to stave off the crisis is on a massive scale greater than the World War II effort.

Orange County’s newly elected Congressional Democrats now have two powerful forces working to push them in the right direction on climate: a strong grassroots movement intent on holding politicians’ feet to the fire, and a bold new crop of aggressive young Democratic Socialists like Ocasio-Cortez, who have been elected to office. It is the perfect storm of forces needed now more than ever to push a strong climate agenda.

Among some of the topics and solutions Sunrise OC members discussed:

Working with organized Labor to create good-paying jobs in a just transition towards a green economy, funding for reforestation, funding community composting centers to eliminate organic waste, revitalizing the Santa Ana River, putting a price on carbon emissions through a Carbon Tax, expand- ing protected bike lanes and reducing traffic, stopping mass extinction by funding green roofs and wildlife corridors, subsidizing local organic farms with an emphasis on permaculture and carbon sequestration, funding light rail on Harbor Blvd from Fullerton to Santa Ana and on Beach Blvd from La Habra to Huntington Beach, creating an electric microgrid at the Fullerton Airport, and protecting our drinking water.

If we are right about these major policy, funding, and infrastructure proposals, then major consequences follow for ordinary residents across the city and region. Although the Green New Deal may seem of concern to only a small group of climate activists, it should in fact concern anyone who cares about humanity. Ultimately, what is at stake here is the health and safety of future generations of Fullertonians and the planet.

CONNECT: For more information email sunriseochub@gmail.com and be sure to follow @sunrisemvmtoc on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for updates.

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