Local organizations expand environmental movement’s focus

Atlanta organizations are building community while advocating for climate crisis solutions such as the Green New Deal. Photo Submitted by Sun Rise Movement

Drastic global sea-level rise. The eradication of coral reefs. Mass desertification leaving 19% of land uninhabitable.

According to a 2018 IPCC report, these are just a few potential consequences of the climate crisis that Earth could see within this century. The report warns that tens of millions could face displacement if governments, corporations and people fail to take radical action within the next nine years.

Local environmental organizations see the importance of building community as they continue to adapt and organize in favor of comprehensive climate action.

Sunrise Movement Atlanta is a group that focuses on environmental activism and social justice while advocating for the Green New Deal. Erica Darragh, their communications team lead, says there are many misconceptions about the Green New Deal.

“The Green New Deal is not a piece of legislation,” she said. “It’s a governing vision to transform our entire economic and energy system in order to address climate change within the amount of time that scientists say we have to avoid catastrophic, irreversible ecological damage.

The group sees political engagement as essential to the environmental movement. During the general election, they supported Joe Biden, Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, whom they will continue to advocate for in the Senate runoff election. Georgia State junior Gana Kukkala, the group’s politics co-team lead, says getting these candidates into office is just the beginning of Sunrise Atlanta’s work.

“We have supported these campaigns and will continue supporting them,” Kukkala said. “But after Inauguration Day and once the Senate is in session, we’re going to have to put all the pressure that we can to push these people further left so that we don’t put any more lives in danger.”

Student Environmental Team (SET) is a Georgia State student organization that maintains a rooftop garden at Center Parc Stadium. They aim to fight food insecurity by donating their excess harvests to Panther Food Recovery Network.

Senior Blake Fowler, SET’s horticulturist, says that practicing sustainability is in everyone’s best interest.

“Right now, in the [U.S.] at least, everything has seemed to become a partisan issue,” he said. “No matter who you are or who you vote for, I think we can all get behind the message of sustainable living, at least to some degree.”

Darragh wants people to know that the climate crisis is about more than just environmental protection.

“Climate change [isn’t] just about polar bears and deforestation,” she said. “It’s about the concentration of wealth and power in such a disproportionate way that it has completely taken over the priorities of governments around the world.”

Fowler says getting involved in a sustainable project such as a community garden is a great way for students to make a difference.

“Something that I’ve been looking into … is the function of community gardening as a way to supplement communities that are struggling with getting food because of [Atlanta’s] food desert issue,” he said.

Although the climate crisis can feel overwhelming, Darragh says that remaining optimistic and participating in activism is a worthy pursuit.

“[We must activate] young people to help them see themselves as change-makers because we all have a role to play right now,” she said. “This is history being made right now. When we win, and we get to write the story of how we saved the planet, what will have taken place?”