Shortly after the 2018 midterm elections, a group of climate activists from the Sunrise Movement, including UNC first-year Rachel Maunus, were arrested during a protest on Capitol Hill in which protestors sat in Senator Mitch McConnell’s office and demanded he listen to constituents about climate change.
“We knew that they were going to start arresting people, but we also knew that we needed to have all those people share their stories,” Maunus said. “So, I risked arrest going into it because I acknowledged the privilege that I had in that situation.”
In January, Maunus started a new branch — or "hub" — of the climate activist organization in the Triangle area, and she is actively recruiting UNC students to join.
One of Sunrise’s new members, first-year environmental studies major Claire Bradley, said she joined the club because she was looking for a way to make an impact in the fight against climate change.
“Since I got to college, my eyes have been opened up through lots of different classes and clubs about how severe a problem we have,” Bradley said. “I want to be part of a group or an organization that’s going to take drastic measures, because we have a really big problem ahead of us.”
On Wednesday, Sunrise is hosting a town hall in Durham to educate the community about the Green New Deal, a stimulus program that addresses climate change and economic inequality.
“Being able to delve into the Green New Deal, but also hear from speakers and community partners to see how the Green New Deal can positively affect the community and how the policies in it are necessary, is going to be great,” Maunus said.
Georgette Sordellini, one of the state directors for Sunrise in North Carolina, said the organization has 200 hubs across the country. She said she believes young people should get involved with a hub because they are the people that will be most affected by climate change.
“Since universities and colleges are like a hub of activity for young people, it’s really important that these students are standing up for themselves and standing up for their futures,” Sordellini said.
Sordellini said Sunrise is a large movement, but each hub chooses how to shape their activism.
“We work on this very decentralized model of letting young people take this and run with it and really do work locally in their communities,” she said.
In October 2018, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said the world only has 12 years left to keep global warming at a maximum of 1.5 degrees Celsius and prevent the worst effects of climate change.
In order to avoid a global climate catastrophe, Maunus says drastic change is needed, and it starts with youth participation.
“I would like the sustainability culture at UNC to shift so that it’s not about how we can be better consumers. It’s about how to restructure a system that doesn’t ask us to constantly be consuming these things,” she said. “I think that Sunrise plays an imperative part in that.”
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