A dozen young Pennsylvanians are on their way to the White House to advocate for a climate and economic justice initiative.
They gathered on the steps of the State Capitol on Monday to start their march, holding black and yellow signs reading “Generation on Fire.”
They are members of Sunrise movement, a youth-led climate advocacy organization with centers across the United States. The Generation on Fire campaign also included marches from Paradise, California, to San Francisco and from New Orleans to Houston.
The marchers are calling for a Civilian Climate Corps: a federal agenda, modeled on a New Deal initiative, which supporters say would tackle economic inequality by creating well-paying jobs designed to tackle the climate crisis. The Biden administration included funds for a CCC in its American employment plan, announced in March, but leaders of the Sunrise movement argued that the proposal does not go far enough.
Instead, the group expressed support for the program outlined in the Law on the Civil Body for the climate for employment and justice, presented by Massachusetts Senator Edward J. Markey and New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in April.
It is not clear whether the CCC is included in the bipartisan infrastructure bill that the Biden administration announced on Thursday. the New York Times reports that the compromise includes considerably less funds to fight climate change than the US jobs plan, its precursor.
But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the House would not consider the bipartisan bill unless the Senate passes a larger bill as part of the budget reconciliation process, according to the AP. This is seen as a potential route for the passage of parts of the US jobs plan that were not included in the compromise bill.
Mary Collier, a leader of the Sunrise Movement from Lewisburg, said she sees the Civilian Climate Corps as a way to protect workers’ livelihoods during the transition to renewable energy.
“I think of all the people in my rural central PA community who depend on these fossil fuel jobs,” Collier said. “They don’t want to harm the planet, but they have no other choice.”
Personal experience also motivated other walkers.
“I used to hear these stories about my great-grandfather who went to the mines with a broken leg because he couldn’t afford to quit his job,” said Marielle Miller, from Atglen. Their grandfather worked in the coal mines for years and eventually died of emphysema, which research linked on inhalation of coal dust.
“I don’t want anyone else to go through this,” Miller said.
Starting their march in Harrisburg is symbolic, said Collier and Miller. Pennsylvania’s electoral votes played a pivotal role in President Biden’s victory and, they said, paved the way for climate initiatives like this one.
The group plans to join other members of the Sunrise movement next week in Washington, DC, for a rally in support of the Civilian Climate Corps.