Written By: Ian Thom – 350 CO Intern

With the existential threat of climate change growing ever clearer and the window to act rapidly shrinking, today’s youth are taking notice and taking action. One of the clearest examples of this is the Sunrise Movement, which was formed only two years ago but has become a national movement making a big splash in addressing climate change. 

The Green New Deal that we hear politicians, news reporters, and climate activists talking about today would not be receiving the spotlight that it rightfully deserves if it were not for the actions of the Sunrise Movement. In November of 2018, 250 inspiring youth marched into Representative Pelosi’s Washington office demanding that she work to pass a Green New Deal when her party took control of the house in the coming year. These courageous individuals held strong during the threat of arrest to demand substantive action on the most pressing issue we face, climate change. Their actions that day and every day since have elevated the Green New Deal to the point where now every 2020 presidential candidate is being asked their stance on it. 

Photo Credit: Boulder/Denver Sunrise Movement

However, it is not enough for a politician to simply say that they support the Green New Deal, they must demonstrate and explain how they would make it a reality. The need for politicians to clearly articulate their plan to address the climate crisis has manifested in the Sunrise Movement’s demands for a climate debate. The need for this is only exacerbated when one recalls that during the 2016 Presidential debates there was not a single question about climate change. The recent Democratic primaries have felt the pressure from groups like Sunrise Movement and have included questions regarding climate change; however, the time they have devoted to the topic has been minuscule. That is wholly inadequate and belittles the severity of the threat we face. Instead of piecemeal questions about the climate crisis, we must ensure there is substantive discussion and debate on the problem and solutions to it, which will only be possible with a climate debate. 

With the Democratic National Committee (DNC) refusing to hold a climate debate and threatening to bar any candidates from future debates if they participate in a third-party climate debate, the Sunrise Movement is taking action. During the first Democratic debates in late June, a hundred youth held a sit-in on the steps of the Washington DNC office to demand they hold a climate debate. This act received the support from numerous members of Congress, and a number of Democratic nominee hopefuls even sent food as a sign of solidarity. This action helped to elevate the call for a climate debate and force the DNC to take notice of the importance of this issue to today’s youth. 

Photo Credit: Boulder/Denver Sunrise Movement

In August the DNC held a vote on whether or not to hold a debate focussing on the topic of climate change. Getting the DNC to consider this debate is already a significant shift in their stance, demonstrating the impact of the Sunrise Movement. Local Sunrise movement hubs across the country, including those here in Colorado, were determined to make sure the DNC voted the right way. The Boulder/Denver chapter of the Sunrise Movement took action to demand that Colorado’s DNC voting members pledge to vote in favor of a climate debate. On August 2nd, youth from across the front range gathered at the Colorado Democratic Party office to make their call for a climate debate heard. And their call was heard! Less than two weeks after voicing their demands they received signatures from all five Colorado DNC voting members pledging to vote in favor of a climate debate. 

When the DNC ultimately met on August 24th to vote on whether or not to hold a climate debate the Sunrise Movement members watched with bated breath. Had the DNC recognized the importance of such a debate? When the votes were tallied it was apparent that the DNC had not. The DNC rejected the climate debate resolution. This decision once again demonstrated the inability of our political leaders to take action on the climate crisis. It highlights the clash between the desires of today’s youth and the political establishment. We can not lose hope at this moment. Instead, the rejection of the climate debate shows that we must take broader action and make our voices louder until they are truly heard! At the Youth Climate Strike on September 20th The Sunrise Movement and 350 Colorado will join forces to do just that! 

We have plenty of work to do in order to address the climate crisis, and it is never too late to get involved! To learn more about and get involved with the incredible work that the Boulder/Denver Sunrise Movement is accomplishing contact:

Boulder & Denver Sunrise Movement Hub Contacts:

Michele Weindling: Michele.weindling@gmail.com

Nick Tuta: ntuta33@gmail.com

We hope to see you join the youth on the front lines on September 20th and demand that our elected officials address the climate crisis! Our very lives depend upon it!