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Environmental Justice Club co-presidents advocate for the Green New Deal for schools

Heather Chen, Sunrise Movement
LHS Environmental Justice Club co-presidents Sarah Faik and Chloe Gilmore recently traveled to Washington DC with a group of students working with the Sunrise Movement.

Seniors Sarah Faik and Chloe Gilmore, two of the Lincoln Environmental Justice Club co-presidents, recently traveled to Washington, D.C. with a group of Portland Public Schools (PPS) students. During the trip, they worked with the Sunrise Movement and lobbied for the Green New Deal for schools.

“We went as a part of the Sunrise Movement, which is a national nonprofit organization that works to combat the climate crisis,” said Faik.

During the trip, the group worked to obtain signatures from representatives for support to reintroduce the Green New Deal for schools. 

“We lobbied two representatives, one from Oregon, Representative [Suzanne] Bonamici, and Representative Ed Case, and he represents the Honolulu District of Hawaii,” said Faik.

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The Green New Deal was originally introduced in 2019 by New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, but focused more on a general plan for tackling climate change. 

In 2023, the Green New Deal for schools was introduced as a new bill that focuses on “transforming our school systems to face the climate crisis,” according to the Sunrise Movement website.

“The idea is that the federal legislation allows for more states to obtain more funding to be allocated for the initiatives on the local level. So it’s both a school district level campaign but also a national one,” said Gilmore. 

Sophomore Leah Almeida is a member of Environmental Justice Club and will take on a leadership role next year. Although not working with Sunrise Movement yet, she is passionate about the Green New Deal for schools and hopes to continue the work in the future. 

“[The Green New Deal for schools] would basically transform schools to be better prepared for climate emergencies and also better prepare kids to enter the workforce and get jobs that combat the climate crisis,” said Almeida.

Garnering support for the Green New Deal has been the main focus of the Environmental Justice Club this year. 

“We’re currently gathering petition signatures for support of  the resolution and we got hundreds of signatures already. We’re recruiting right now and building momentum and then hopefully, we’re going to go testify to the school board soon,” said Almeida.

Almeida hopes to get the resolution passed sometime in the near future.

“It would be amazing if we could get this completely passed before I graduate,” said Almeida.

In order to accomplish this, the campaign has planned an escalation strategy. 

“It starts with simple things, and then when we get to the end of the year, if the resolution still hasn’t been passed, we’re really going to amplify what we’re doing,” said Almeida. “For example, we can start now by writing a letter to the school board saying what they think about the bill. And then if that doesn’t work, we’re going to be […] doing a lot of testimonies of the school board. If that doesn’t work, we’re going to be doing some form of protest like a silent strike.”

Although there is no direct correlation between Lincoln’s Environmental Justice Club and the Sunrise Movement, some of the Environmental Justice Club leaders are involved in the movement. In addition to advocating for the Green New Deal, the Environmental Justice Club works to educate others, particularly younger kids, on climate justice.

“We also go to local elementary schools and middle schools around Earth Day to introduce them to the ideas of climate change and environmental justice,” said Faik.

Almeida has advice for students looking to get involved in climate justice and the Green New Deal.

“Come to Environmental Justice Club meetings. They have a lot of useful information, resources to get you more involved in whatever you want to do,” said Almeida. “But if you don’t want to come to environmental justice, and you just want to be part of the campaign, you can also look up Green New Deal for PPS on Instagram and follow us.”

This story was originally published on The Cardinal Times on October 17, 2023.