Amid a Pandemic and Racial Unrest, Climate Activists Push for Long-Term Change Photo Credit: Zoe Nagasawa

By Anna Wilcox

While the coronavirus, economic recession, and Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement stand in the national spotlight, the fight for environmental justice is ever present. Many Massachusetts environmental organizations have issued statements of solidarity with the BLM movement, and environmental activists are determined that their efforts at racial and social awareness, justice, and inclusivity range beyond the short term.

Some environmental activists also see the turmoil as an opportunity for change in our economic and social systems; specifically as a key moment for the Green New Deal (GND).

The GND has many advocates, but the Sunrise movement is perhaps best known for supporting it. Sunrise fights for progressive climate legislation and works to elect environmental proponents to office through grassroots action.

“We’re trying… to get people elected locally who will fix [systemic problems] for example, [Massachusetts congressman candidate] Alex Morse,” said Elizabeth Pereira, a Western Massachusetts Sunrise youth activist.

Public and vocal demonstrations, such as this one in Chicago, established Sunrise and the GND for the public before Covid-19 ramifications.

350 Mass Action, a program in the Better Future Project organization, has created a Massachusetts Green New Deal Roundtable in collaboration with other environmental organizations across the state to commit Massachusetts to a clean, sustainable future while empowering vulnerable communities.

The GND Roundtable has “been adamant that we really need to center black and brown voices, black and brown leadership, as well as labor leadership and youth leadership... to make sure that we are coming up not only with the policies, but also the campaign and the messaging that resonates with these communities, that speaks to their needs,” said co-founder and executive director of the Better Future Project, Craig Altemose.

“As a youth myself, it feels empowering that I get the chance to be part of an important legislative piece for the state I live in. Witnessing the plan being formed within my eyes is fascinating and it is something I have never done before,” said Angela Ruan, a leader on the GND Roundtable.

The GND Roundtable is a new and growing collaboration of organizations and people.

Now is the time to “figure out the next version of the social contract” said Altemose. The GND could act not only potentially as the stimulus for an economic recovery, but as the groundwork for a more equitable, just and environmentally-friendly society.

Photos from BLM protests in Boston this year. Photo Credit: Zoe Nagasawa


Zoe Nagasawa