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Youth Organization Leads March For Green New Deal

Youth vs. Apocalypse (YVA), a local youth group that advocates for climate justice, is joining youth, including Berkeley High School (BHS) students, across the country today to strike against climate change and for the Green New Deal (GND).

Previously, YVA held a press conference in front of Senator Dianne Feinstein’s office in San Francisco on Monday, February 25 to show support for the GND. The conference came several days after members of YVA, along with other local groups such as Sunrise Movement and Bay Area Earth Guardians, confronted Feinstein on February 22 asking her to vote yes on the GND. A video taken of this interaction has since gone viral.

The GND was presented to Congress by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey on February 7; its main goal is to “provide economic justice and equality” within 10 years after the plan is set into motion. Strategies described in the GND to accomplish this goal include limiting usage of fossil fuels and focusing on diversifying labor markets that are controlled by the fossil fuel industry. The GND has been the focus of criticism from members of both the Democratic and Republican parties for being too costly, having overly ambitious goals, and because many believe it unlikely to be passed by Congress. However, members of YVA and other local movements argue that a drastic plan is needed to reverse the effects of climate change. The plan has also received support from some 2020 Democratic presidential candidates including Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren and Kirsten Gillibrand.

Feinstein gave copies of her alternate resolution to fight climate change to the groups that she spoke with on video on February 22, inviting them to share their criticisms of the document after reading it. Feinstein claimed that her resolution would have a better chance of getting the Republican vote and being passed by the Senate than what was proposed by Ocasio-Cortez and Markey. However, Feinstein recently announced that she will be reworking her resolution before introducing it to Congress. Feinstein has also received criticism for what some have perceived as condescension towards the group during the interaction.

During the press conference, speakers addressed their criticisms of Feinstein’s resolution. “It has a number of problems, including not addressing offshore drilling, not addressing the fact that all this must be done with respect to native people and their land and it also doesn’t fit the timeline of science which we can’t exactly argue with,” said Sam Saxe-Taller, a BHS student who spoke at the conference on February 25.

One of YVA’s main beliefs is that it is imperative to listen to the younger generation when it comes to climate change, given that young people will have to face all of the potential consequences in the future.

“How do I know if I can have a career when I’m older if we can’t breath outside and mass populations have to migrate because their homes are being destroyed? The consequences of climate change are devastating and I don’t think people realize that,” said Hannah Estrada, a member of YVA.

Speakers at the conference also asked Feinstein to support the GND and not propose her resolution in order to set a precedent, even if she didn’t believe that the deal had the potential to pass through Congress. However, the MC’s of the event, both of whom are a part of YVA, emphasized that the purpose of the conference was not to focus on their viral interaction with Feinstein, but to respond to her resolution and encourage her to support the GND.

On March 15, YVA is joining with other activist groups and students across the country to strike from school as a part of “School Strike 4 Climate,” a student-run organization fighting to bring climate change to the attention to politicians.

In the Bay Area, students are congregating at Nancy Pelosi’s office in downtown San Francisco. The group is also marching to Diane Feinstein’s office to write notes asking her to vote yes on the GND.

BHS students gathered at Civic Center Park Friday morning and took BART to join the strike at Pelosi’s office. According to BHS student Sadie Fleig, BHS Principal Erin Schweng and the administration are in support of the strike, although they will not be clearing absences of students who decide to participate.

According to Saxe-Taller, the inspiration behind the school strikes comes from Greta Thunberg, a 16 year old climate activist from Sweden who has been striking from school every Friday to demand that the Swedish Government take action on climate change.

Although it is predicted that the GND is unlikely to be passed by Congress, Estrada says YVA will still continue working to stop climate change regardless.

“We’re going to continue to make noise about this and continue to fight for this because we’re fighting for our future and for future generations,” said Estrada.