Sunrise Movement: Youth-Led Climate Revolution with Neha Desaraju
Meet Neha Desaraju
Neha is on the Comms team at Sunrise Movement and an incoming college freshman. She’s sometimes a coder, usually a writer, and always an organizer.
As a journalist, she seeks to tell and celebrate the stories of her community in North Texas, and finds that storytelling is central to organizing. She believes that climate justice isn’t restricted to the environment, but lies at the intersection of social justice.
The Sunrise Movement is a fast-growing youth movement to stop climate change and create millions of good jobs in the process. In this episode, you’ll hear from Neha Desaraju, an incoming college freshman, and Decentralized Press and Social Media Coordinator at Sunrise Movement. Neha shares her story with us, and we chat about how the work she is doing with the Sunrise movement is helping to build a community that takes care of each other while demanding climate justice through nonviolent action.
More about neha
Neha is the Decentralized Press and Social Media Coordinator at Sunrise Movement. Their growing movement is around 20,000 youth strong, and Neha gets to hear and tell their stories.
She coordinates national actions and decentralized actions across the nation, provides support in comms, and trains members on how to tell the best stories they can for the movement.
Neha says she comes from a family of immigrants. Her origins are rooted in India, but she currently lives in Dallas. Her climate motivation stems from seeing the monsoons getting worse in the last few years, especially in coastal areas where her father is from. She also witnessed the effects of the Dallas Freeze in her community. She says her story speaks to stories across the United States. Black and brown people in the country are facing flooding, droughts, and destruction becoming climate refugees in their own country.
The Sunrise Movement are literally building an army of young people to make climate change an urgent priority across America, working to end the corrupting influence of fossil fuel executives on our politics and elect leaders who stand up for the health and wellbeing of all people.
The movement started in late 2016 and only expected to last 4 years. However with climate change worsening and no major political action, they’ve continued growing and fighting.
“That’s really what we’re fighting for. Not just a green new deal, but beyond that we’re fighting for liberation for the people who are currently disenfranchised and who have to face the very real realities of climate change right now, versus the very wealthy, the ultra wealthy who are not currently feeling the effects of climate change. We are trying to convert that into a place where we can drive sustainability, and carbon neutrality, and energy efficiency in the United States and bring those communities up and really invest in them.”
Green New Deal
They support the Green New Deal, which is a congressional resolution to mobilize every aspect of American society to 100% clean and renewable energy, guarantee living-wage jobs for anyone who needs one, and a just transition for both workers and frontline communities—all within the next 10 years. Neha says the Green New Deal will achieve sustainability in the United States while investing in the communities that feel the most effects from climate change.
As a youth movement, they are flexible and can get things done. “Every challenge is a new opportunity” says Neha.
As a youth led mass movement their goal is to agitate and recruit as many people as they can so they can mobilize as quickly as possible.
“We are ready to fight whenever we need to. That also means that we don’t back down, we don’t compromise, and that most importantly we stick to our values.”
And they want politicians to hear their message too.
Climate needs to be a priority of politicians and they feel that it is crucial they take action now. They want anyone who has the ability to spend money on climate change and have their voice heard to change priorities in the nation to do so.
They aren’t afraid to tell politicians what they want done and never step down.
Community and hope
Youth are more acutely aware of climate change. They see the effects every day and know what their future holds if something isn’t done about it now. When asked how Neha and others like her stay hopeful, she says the key is surrounding yourself with people fighting for the same things you are.
“It’s been so inspiring and so motivating to see people who are my age who are faced with the same difficulties I am really keep fighting for the same thing. I think that’s one thing that Sunrise offers and does really well is that sense of community in the face of climate anxiety. Really turning that climate anxiety into a source of climate anger and climate hope.”
In the face of climate change and a future that is uncertain, Neha says sunrise movement is focused on protecting communities first and foremost. The way they do that is through building structures in your community or your network. She says the biggest thing you can do right now is to help organize your community and make sure the systems are in place to support each other.
“We really have to make sure that our friends, our family, our neighbors have that kind of support. It doesnt take an organizer, it doesnt take a communications director to do that. It takes one person who is really passionate about their neighbors and seeing them and helping them.”
The way to build structure is as simple as getting to know your neighbors. Pick up the phone and tell them you want to build a community that works together and build a support system and keep the conversation going from there.
“If anyone who is like “I dont know how to help my community fight climate change” the first thing I would say is to pick up the phone and call your neighbor. Start building those relationships one at a time. It just starts with one person…People trust their friends, their families, their neighbors. Whenever you’re building that trust it’s not just about climate change, it’s about community and community resilience.”
Neha says that That’s bringing your community together in any shape, form, or fashion is organizing, and building a stronger bond is what’s going to get us through.
“People trust their friends, their families, their neighbors. Whenever you’re building that trust it’s not just about climate change, it’s about community and community resilience.”
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