Dec 25, 2018 - Energy & Environment

What we're reading: The youth movement behind the Green New Deal

Youth activists sit with signs that read "green new deal" and "do your job"

Photo: Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

A youth movement that was founded less than two years ago and that stages most of its protests by singing has been lobbying on Capitol Hill for the "Green New Deal" — and has become "the dominant influence on the environmental policy" of the young, progressive Democrats, The New Yorker’s Emily Witt writes.

Why it matters: The Green New Deal is an economic and climate plan supported by incoming Democratic congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and about 40 lawmakers. The youth movement, which goes by the name "Sunrise," is one of the reasons the plan is getting so much attention.


  • Their inspiration comes from Occupy Wall Street, the Movement for Black Lives, United We Dream, and Cosecha.
  • "They studied the wins and the losses of the climate movement in its forty-year history," Witt writes, and they "tend not to talk about starving polar bears, melting ice caps, or ocean acidification. Instead, they talk of family members who have lost their homes to floods or fires, young relatives who have asthma, or beloved landscapes that have been degraded or destroyed in the spans of their short lifetimes."
  • They focus on racial and economic justice in their message, since poor communities of color are disproportionately affected by climate change.
  • The activists are working to get out the youth vote and getting politicians to back away from accepting donations from fossil-fuel billionaires.

Where the Green New Deal stands:

  • The activists staged a sit-in outside of Nancy Pelosi’s office after the midterm elections and have also lobbied other top Democrats, including Steny Hoyer and Jim McGovern. McGovern will head the House Rules Committee and said he wants to back the deal.
  • Democrats are resurfacing a select committee on climate change, but it will not focus on the Green New Deal and will not have subpoena power.
  • The plan isn't likely to become law any time soon, as Axios' Amy Harder writes, but it will get a lot of attention in Congress over the next two years — and in the 2020 presidential campaign.

Go deeper: Democrats' left turn on climate change

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