There isn’t much for young Americans to be optimistic about at the moment. Two successive generations have now had their growth stunted by major global recessions. It’s hard to know how long we’ll live with the lingering effects of the pandemic. And then, of course, there is climate change.
To today’s young people, climate change is not a distant theoretical possibility but an immediate threat, swiftly closing in on us, threatening our very futures and altering our sense of possibility. The increasing intensity and frequency of climate-fueled natural disasters—made distinctly clear by the Camp Fire and the dramatic lengthening of California’s wildfire season in recent years—suggests that the upheaval of the past year may be a mere dress rehearsal for changes to come.
On Friday (May 28), youth activists from Sunrise Movement hubs across California kicked off a 266-mile march from Paradise to San Francisco. Sunrise Chico showed up in solidarity with Regenerating Paradise, Camp Fire Restoration Project, and the Mechoopda Tribe to host a send-off event for the marchers on the still-scarred Ridge. At the event, we called on Sen. Dianne Feinstein and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to take bold action on climate change.
Butte County was a fitting starting point for the march since we have gotten an early look at the multiple cascading issues that can result from climate catastrophe. Intense heat and drought conditions helped make the Camp Fire especially explosive and deadly. The fire displaced thousands of people, creating a wave of climate refugees right here in our backyard. And this refugee crisis has drastically increased pressure on the housing and labor markets, thus fueling local political conflict. Left unchecked, climate change will have similar effects across the globe.
While local organizers have worked tirelessly to rebuild Paradise, heal our communities, and make them stronger, the levels of investment and cooperation required to stave off the worst effects of the climate crisis are massive and international in scale. That’s why we’re asking Feinstein and Pelosi to support a new Civilian Climate Corps. This modern-day revival of a New Deal-era program will put over a million people to work rebuilding our communities and transitioning our nation to a more sustainable, equitable, and low-carbon economy.
As it stands, President Biden’s Civilian Climate Corps proposal will not be enough to solve the climate crisis, and we encourage our representatives to support a more comprehensive CCC that would meet the needs of all young, BIPOC, and working-class Americans. Still, we know that many of our representatives will need to be pressured to support any big proposal like this. When our representatives ignore the present and future impacts of the climate crisis and wave us off with condescending remarks about the “green dream or whatever,” we have no choice but to take bold action to make our voices heard and communicate our urgency.
A strong, visionary CCC would be an encouraging initial investment of government resources, as well as an investment in the young people of this country. Moreover, it will help provide some much-needed hope for our nation’s youth—hope that we can find meaningful work that pays well, and hope that there may still be a future for us on this planet. As our fellow activists march, we hope that the reality of what was lost in the Camp Fire travels with them and helps spur our leaders to action.