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Published on February 15th, 2019 | by Carolyn Fortuna

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Sunrise Movement Call Incites Supporters Of Green New Deal To Make Climate Crisis A Visible, Crucial Political Issue #CleanTechnica Exclusive

February 15th, 2019 by  


More than 800 people were on the emergency mass Sunrise Movement Zoom call on February 13, 2019. That is remarkable, as the invitation to participate went out over social media and electronic mail only about 6 hours earlier. To the credit of the editors at CleanTechnica, they published an article that invited our readers to join in to learn more about intended climate action as a crucial political issue.

Varshini Prakash, executive director of the Sunrise Movement, introduced herself and offered an overview of the state of the Green New Deal.  “A lot has been going on in the news,” Prakash began. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had just announced his decision to bring the Green New Deal to a quick vote in the Senate. “I’m going to try to break it down. We have 2 weeks to make this something that Mitch McConnell regrets.”

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Citing Mitch McConnell’s $1.9 million in fossil fuel campaign donations, Prakash outlined the 2 major reasons why Republicans are running scared at the idea of a Green New Deal.

First, she said, if the fossil fuel industry loses their stranglehold on US energy, “they lose out, Mitch McConnell loses out… they’re seeing what we’re doing every single week — a wall-to-wall solution to climate change.” She described the opportunity that the Sunrise Movement has at this moment in time and needs to harness by getting Senators on the public record as to whether or not they support the Green New Deal.

“He really thinks that he’s taking away our ability to organize,” but it is actually the opposite, she argued. “We’re here to say that he, straight up, picked the wrong movement to mess with. We have an army of young people who are ready to respond in this moment. Mitch McConnell cannot mess with our future.’’

Prakash pointed to a second reason that Mitch McConnell has chosen to push a vote on the Green New Deal. “He is trying to start a fight in the Democratic party — he is trying to paint them as too far left.” She reminded participants that a poll last fall said that the Green New Deal has 80% public support and is “trying to build a world that works for all generations. This is a huge opportunity he is giving us,” she continued. “We can ask who they are standing with: the fossil fuel elites or the American public. This is not a game to the people who saw their homes burn down last fall in California. This is not a game to the people in Flint, Michigan who saw their water poisoned.”

“We are not going to let him win.”

For years, many people were concerned about widespread apathy, or even alienation, from the traditional modes of political participation in representative democracies, particularly among the young. However, the ways that citizens choose to express themselves politically and the agencies representing the organizational structures through which people commonly mobilize for political expression have gone through waves of changes.

The Sunrise Movement, a US primarily youth grassroots organization that advocates political action on climate change from the US Congress, embodies a shift in choice in available repertoires that are currently being harnessed for political activism. As a self-identified organization of people who are scared about what the climate crisis means for the people and places they love, the Sunrise Movement is gaining political savvy, recognizing that “public opinion is already with us – if we unite by the millions we can turn this into political power and reclaim our democracy.”

Operation Green New Deal Blitz

US Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and US Senator Ed Markey have introduced a Joint Resolution for a Green New Deal. If resolutions get enough cosponsors, they can become a major driver of the policy debate. If not, they can get lost in the political shuffle and fade into oblivion. So the Sunrise Movement is asking its supporters to show up in person at their Senators’ and Representatives’ offices and ask them to cosponsor the Green New Deal Resolution.

Instead of distinguishing between citizen-oriented actions (relating mainly to elections and parties) and cause-oriented repertoires (which focus attention upon specific issues and policy concerns), the Sunrise Movement’s petitioning, demonstrations, and protests are indicative of a new era of activism, one in which social movements often adopt mixed action strategies which combine traditional repertoires.

“What we’re seeing right now is the power of fossil fuel billionaires who want to ensure that they can profit,” Prakash continued. “We have political champions on our side. We have 86 House representatives who support the GND — we have at least 12 Senators, including every Democratic presidential candidate.”

Prakash conceded that the Sunrise Movement does not expect the Green New Deal “to pass the Senate in 2019… many politicians who may want to be with us are not ready yet to stand up to the fossil fuel billionaires,” Using the current momentum for the Green New Deal, however, she affirmed, “We can show Mitch McConnell how fast our movement is coming.”

With the Senate vote on the Green New Deal likely to be the week of February 25th, she asked the Sunrise participants to pressure their senators to support Markey’s resolution. “Next week is a Congressional recess, which means that Congress will be in their home district.” As a result, Prakash asked supporters to visit their representatives in their local offices.

“Ask them in person, take some video footage… let’s ask both Democratic and Republican senators to support the Green New Deal,” she outlined. “Mitch McConnell might think twice about his strategy. There are many senators who are up for election in 2020 who are out of touch with their constituents.” And she reminded participants to “celebrate and thank the Senators who have already came out in support for the Green New Deal.” A bit of laughter ensued with images of cakes and desserts lining local congressional offices and halls.

“Most important,” she instructed, “is for these folks to make sure that they know that there is support for the Green New Deal.” She described the many geographic locales and their different but direct experiences with the effects of climate change. “We know that the support for the Green New Deal exists there. It’s not just one place or one kind of person who supports the Green New Deal.”

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Organizing a Meeting with A Senator or Representative

Contacting an elected official about individual constituency service is no longer regarded as “conventional;” rather, it is part of a collective petition and an act of  protest. So the Sunrise Movement is spurring its participants to a powerful way to have their voices heard — by setting up a meeting with their members of Congress. All representatives have offices in Washington, DC as well as in their home districts, so the move is on for Sunrise participants to set up an in person meeting to talk through the importance of the Green New Deal.

After all, it is the job of members of Congress to represent their constituents –- they want to know what is important to the folks back home. On the webpages of each Senator and Representative is information on where the rep stands on issues related to the environment, contact information (in Washington, DC and in his/her home district), and more.

“We have a team who can help you to plan your visit to your senator,” Prakash noted. “We’re gonna have your back. If you’re not sure how you’re going to do it, we have a band of people who are going to help to make it happen.” She reminded participants on the Zoom call that last week the right wing conservatives took notice of the Green New Deal. “We’re in a situation where they have millions and millions of dollars backing the fossil fuel lobby, and they have Fox News — ‘the Trump channel.’”

She asked supporters to incorporate short personal stories that explain or bolster their positions on the Green New Deal when visiting representatives’ offices.

Over 400 of the people who were in attendance at the Green New Deal Blitz emergency call signed up to visit their Senator and seek support for the Green New Deal.

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Writing a Letter to the Editor Supporting the Green New Deal — With Some Help from Your Friends at Sunrise

Writing a letter to a member of Congress, Prakash said, is a succinct way to engage a Congressional representative on the Green New Deal.

Members like hearing from their constituents about issues that will affect their livelihoods, and writing a personalized is letter is one of the best ways to express an opinion across to politicians. “We need you to get letters to the editor published, to share the positive version of why the Green New Deal is important.” She suggested that letters from regular people persuade people, that “Senators and members of Congress read these letters, and they do take notice.” To help supporters, the Sunrise Movement offers “a handy tool to help you write a letter.”

“We need each other to do this.”

Here are quick talking points that Sunrise Movement website suggests to supporters to help them write a letter to the editor.

  • Personalize and say it in your own words! Keep your letter short; aim for 125-175 words.
  • Mention that climate change is happening here and now – and “as a young person, I’m terrified.” [Personalize with your age, something you’re concerned about, etc.]
  • Outline how the latest climate report from the UN says we have only 12 years to transform our economy to preserve the stable climate human civilization has depended on for millenia. We need a massive mobilization of every sector of society on par with what science and justice demand.
  • Describe how a Green New Deal will keep Americans safe from climate change and create millions of green jobs. It is common sense policy that is overwhelmingly popular with American people, regardless of political party or where they live.
  • Remind any presidential candidate who wants to be taken seriously on climate and earn the support of young people that he/ she needs to support Rep. Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Markey’s resolution.

Based on the supporter’s postal code, the letter generator will be automatically submit the letter to the supporter’s 5 closest newspapers. Now that’s efficient!

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Why Exposing Corruption Must Be at the Core of the Sunrise Movement Activism

Today, activism is usually characterized by fluid boundaries, loose networked coalitions, and decentralized organizational structures. The primary goals of new social movements often focus upon achieving social change through direct action strategies and community-building, as well as by altering lifestyles and social identities, as much as through shaping formal policymaking processes and laws in government. If the new Sunrise social movement is embodying an important alternative avenue for informal political mobilization, protest, and expression among the younger generation, then this development has important implications for how we interpret and measure trends in civic engagement.

Near to the close of the emergency mass conference call, one supporter put the following message up in the chat thread. “I’m 15, and sometimes I am just so scared of what climate change is going to mean for me and the future of my generation. Thank you for what you do!”

The sense of appreciation extended beyond the youth supporters, too, when one of the organizers, Will, confirmed, “We love people in their 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, ‘cause they’re standing with us to fight for the Green New Deal.”

Prakash ended the Zoom call by saying, “We are a people-powered movement that is trying to shape the US political landscape over the next couple of years…”

Want to learn more about organized activism? Check out the Sierra Club’s Activist Toolkit or this early 2000s white paper that still has a lot of merit today.

Unless otherwise noted, images are copyright free from Pixabay. 
 





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About the Author

Carolyn Fortuna, Ph.D. is a writer, researcher, and educator with a lifelong dedication to ecojustice. She's won awards from the Anti-Defamation League, The International Literacy Association, and The Leavy Foundation. She’s molds scholarship into digital media literacy and learning to spread the word about sustainability issues. Please follow me on Twitter and Facebook and Google+



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