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Sunrise CT calls for students to be climate activists

Published on April 12, 2022

Sunrise CT calls for students to be climate activists

University Hour
Sunrise CT: Climate Action for Connecticut’s Youth director Sena Wazer (left) and deputy director Kimmy Reindl (right) 

Eastern Connecticut State University hosted a presentation by the climate-change awareness organization Sunrise CT on April 6 in the Student Center Theatre. The University Hour presentation was titled "Climate Action for Connecticut’s Youth,” and focused on the realities of climate change and ways to get involved with the movement.

Established in 2019, Sunrise CT is a youth-led organization that works to mitigate the effects of climate change and create jobs in the state. According to their mission statement the organization seeks “youth from across the state to demand immediate and drastic climate action. We push for statewide policies and legislation that address climate change and intersectional social justice issues; organize events such as climate strikes that bring attention to the climate crisis and build political power; and endorse/campaign for elected officials running for political office.”

The Eastern presentation was led by Sunrise CT director Sena Wazer and deputy director Kimmy Reindl. “For me, I find that it’s very helpful to have a community, especially in work like this, when it can be easy to get discouraged when reading the news," said Reindl.

“We need to lift and build each other up so that we can continue doing this important work. I joined Sunrise CT because when I learned about how the climate crisis will affect the most vulnerable communities before it affects the wealthier ones, that was really the wake-up call that I needed for my social justice brain.” University Hour

Some of the projects Sunrise CT has coordinated are sit-ins such as the one at U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s office, and a clean-up of the riverfront park organization in Hartford known as Riverfront Recapture, which was joined by Connecticut state legislators who had a discussion with Sunrise CT and community members about climate change initiatives. The movement has also conducted various protests such as bringing Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont’s attention to the state’s environmental crises by rallying at the gates of his house, marching around the Connecticut State Capitol to protest for climate justice and more. 

Wazer went on to discuss one of the legislative priorities Sunrise CT is trying to establish in the state. “Our first priority is climate change education. All public schools k–12 should educate students about climate change,” said Wazer.

“In Connecticut climate change is an optional subject. Some schools teach it, and some schools don’t and that contributes to the notion some folks have that climate change is an opinion when in reality it’s a scientific consensus. This ensures that students are on a more leveled playing field when it comes to understanding climate change and also have the understanding and the knowledge that equips them to comprehend the problems and the solutions.”

There are plenty of lifestyle changes a person can implement to help decrease their carbon footprint, but Wazer shares why a bigger step can make a bigger impact. “Political change is one way to accomplish and ensure that change is happening because politicians work for us, and I think a lot of the times people forget that,” said Wazer.

"Politicians need to listen to our opinions and understand what their constituents want. While I do think taking personal actions are important, political change is really important and necessary because we’re on such a short timeline with climate change and it is a big issue that impacts our lives in a lot of ways.”

Steve Nathan, the chair for the Department of Environmental Earth Science, ended the discussion by saying, “Communicate by talking to your friends, neighbors and family. Not everybody might be on the same page, but always be respectful with other people’s viewpoints. I think when we build these bridges, we can slowly change people’s minds. Don’t give up. Be persistent.”

To learn more about Sunrise CT, visit https://sunriseconnecticut.wixsite.com/website .  

Written by Bobbi Brown