Sonoma County Teenagers Participate in 266-Mile Climate March

On Friday, May 28, seven young climate activists set out from Paradise to complete a 266-mile march to San Francisco in an effort to bring attention to the worsening effects of climate change on Northern California. 

“I’m tired of inaction while watching my city burn. Living in California is terrifying, in the past 4 years alone I’ve had to pack more than ten evacuation bags,” Madeline Ruddell, a 16-year-old Sonoma County resident participating in the action, said.

The march was organized by the Sunrise Movement, a youth-led climate action organization with local chapters around the country. The marchers—impacted by the worsening impacts of climate change and the ever-declining economic prospects of America’s younger generations—are attempting to pressure Rep. Nancy Pelosi and Senator Dianne Feinstein to support the creation of the Civilian Climate Corps (CCC), a proposed government program to hire people to construct projects to recover-from and stave-off the impacts of climate change. 

The proposal would amount to a 21st Century version of the Civilian Conservation Corps, a short-lived government program which hired Americans to work on wildland conservation projects between 1933 and 1942, between the Great Depression and the start of World War II.

If created, the new CCC would be the first step towards passing the Green New Deal, a legislative proposal that Sunrise and other backers say would pair climate improvements with additional climate-friendly jobs—a two-for-one deal which seems especially appealing for young Californians considering living through years of worsened wildfires, droughts and sea level rise.

Backers estimate that the $10 billion program, which is included in President Joe Biden’s American Jobs Plan, could create 1.5 million jobs over the next five years.

The Covid-19 pandemic’s disastrous effects on increasingly fire-prone Wine Country offer an example of why such a jobs program could be effective. As workers were laid off in the early months of the pandemic, instead of repeatedly calling the state’s inadequate unemployment insurance phone line, some could have been paid by the government to prepare the region for the coming wildfire season.

“There are millions of us looking for good work, and so much that needs to be done. It will take all of us to build a renewable energy grid, restore our parks, and retrofit old buildings as well as carbon-intensive transit infrastructure,” a statement from Sunrise California announcing the march states. 

Organizers see the CCC as the first part of the Green New Deal, a green jobs proposal which has become a rallying cry for activists in recent years.

“I’m marching because when I’m a mom, I know I’ll have to tell my kids a story about how when I was their age, fires would devastate my community every year. But then I want to be able to finish that story by talking about my power: The power I had to walk 266 miles and demand a CCC from our leaders,” said Lola Guthrie, a 17-year-old Sonoma County participant in the march.

Whether or not the march is successful in its goals, the participants are not alone in grappling with the numerous monumental problems facing the world these days. The California march is paired with a similar journey from New Orleans to Houston. 

The California procession is expected to pass through the cities of Winters, St. Helena and Napa on June 7 and 8, before heading on to Santa Rosa on June 9 and 10. Supporters of the protest will hold a rally at Santa Rosa’s Julliard Park at 10am on Thursday, June 10. The march will conclude in San Francisco on Monday, June 14.

You can follow the climate procession in real time on Twitter @smvmtgenonfire or on Instagram at @sunrisegenonfire

Will Carruthers
Will Carruthers is a news reporter for the Pacific Sun and North Bay Bohemian. Email tips to [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @Carruthers_W.
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