It’s a Sunday morning, and a group of students sit around a table in the foyer of the dining hall near the end of brunch. They are talking and enjoying their brunch, much like the rest of the students in the main dining room, but this table is different from all the others. They have their laptops out, just not for schoolwork. This group of students is passionate about implementing positive environmental change through political action.
They are holding a meeting as Deerfield’s local chapter of the nation-wide Sunrise Movement, a youth-led organization whose main goal is to pass the Green New Deal through Congress. Sam Crocker ’19 started the local Deerfield branch of the Sunrise Movement last year soon after a student- led climate change protest in Greenfield on September 20, 2019. This protest had proven popular and successful among Deerfield students. A bus full of Deerfield students participated in the climate protest, donning signs and calling for climate justice. At one point during the protest, Thomas Lyons ’21 took the microphone and said that “the time is now to rise up and disrupt. Who will rise with us?” In response, the crowd cheered loudly.
Lyons credited his initial involvement in climate activism to Crocker, and described the Sunrise Movement as “a group of passionate, young people who are dedicated to working on promoting climate justice in the U.S. and the world.” The Sunrise Movement hopes to rally support on campus for the Green New Deal, a congressional resolution first proposed by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Senator Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts. The goal of the resolution is to create a plan to combat climate change, while creating jobs and protecting those who may live in disadvantaged communities or communities vulnerable to the effects of climate change.
Maya Laur ’20, another member of this local branch of the Sunrise Movement, said, “We have a stake in the world around us and the communities around us. We have a choice, and we can either be leaders in the climate justice movement and leaders in a better tomorrow or we can fall on the wrong side of history.” Laur’s sentiments reflect the sense of urgency that pervades the mission of the Sunrise Movement. One of the goals of the Green New Deal is for the U.S. to be entirely carbon neutral by 2050.
Currently, the Deerfield branch is working to create a Deerfield thrift store where students can donate and exchange clothes and items they no longer use. Lyons commented, “The idea is to cut down on our carbon footprint by reusing, recycling, and it’s also just a cool idea, that I hope everyone can get excited about.” The thrift store will be located in the basement of the Dewey dorm, and the Deerfield Sunrise Movement hopes to have an initial donation drive by the end of this February.
The movement also wants to start a conversation about responsible investing practices for the Deerfield endowment. Lyons noted, “The student body presidents of all the Big 10 schools released statements in support of divestment. The Sunrise Movement at Deerfield hopes to look to other colleges like Bard, Smith and Yale to learn about their eco-movements on campus and see how we can try to mirror the successes of those movements and also learn the shortfalls of those movements.” The Sunrise movement also hopes to network with other Sunrise Movements at NMH and Greenfield High School and work with these programs on local projects and awareness.
Laur noted that she believed that we are at a “crossroads.” The Deerfield Sunrise Movement hopes to continue working on its current projects and recruit more and more students to be increasingly aware of the effects of climate change, and find ways for students of the Deerfield community to make a difference in improving Deerfield’s climate impact.