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Sonoma County activists participating in 266-mile march for Biden plan to combat climate change

Three Sonoma County activists are part of a seven-person crew marching 266 miles from Paradise to San Francisco to drum up support for a proposed federal program that would create thousands of jobs to combat climate change.

The march, which was organized by the youth-led political action group Sunrise Movement, began on May 28 in Paradise, the Butte County town destroyed in the deadly 2018 Camp fire.

The trek is intended to put pressure on U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco and U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, to support President Joe Biden’s Civilian Climate Corps as part of an eight-year infrastructure plan, organizers with Sunrise Movement said.

The $10 billion initiative would bolster the nation’s public land conservation and reforestation efforts, and tackle other issues related to climate change, while providing good-paying jobs for America’s next generation of workers.

“Starting in Paradise, where that community was so demolished by fires, and we’re walking through so much land that has been hurt by fires … it just felt like the right kind of action for us to do,” said Sebastopol resident Lola Guthrie, 17, who is one of the activists participating in the march.

So far, the marchers, which include Guthrie, Madeline Ruddell, 16, of Sonoma, and Santa Rosa resident Ema Govea, 17, have snaked their way through parts of Northern California, including Yuba City, Sacramento and the Yolo County town of Winters.

They are expected to arrive just outside of Santa Rosa on Wednesday and will attend an event at the city’s Juilliard Park at 10 a.m. on Thursday.

The gathering, which will include other Sunrise Movement activists and local politicians, is intended to build momentum for the marchers as they head into the final leg of the march.

About 20 to 30 people are expected to join the marchers as they head to San Francisco, which they’re aiming to reach by Monday. The group plans to hold additional actions there, organizers said.

“The thing that’s keeping me going and giving me energy is all the people we’ve been able to meet through the route,” said Ruddell. “We’ve been through some of the reddest part of the state, yet every person we’ve talked to has been supportive of better jobs and a better climate.”

Govea, the lead volunteer organizer for the 266-mile march, said she and other Sonoma County-based activists were inspired by a Sunrise Movement group that was walking from New Orleans to Houston in support of the Civilian Climate Corps when planning their own action.

Sunrise Movement activists have backed the conservation corps initiative included in Biden’s American Jobs Plan because they see it as a first step reaching the Green New Deal, a proposal that advocates for public policies that would address the impacts of climate change while creating high-paying jobs for diverse communities, Govea said.

“We immediately jumped on that,” Govea said of the corps initiative. “The desire to make the Civilian Climate Corps the strongest piece of legislation that it could be, the one that could provide the most jobs.”

Guthrie’s younger sister, June Guthrie, 14, joined the Sunrise Movement a few months ago and is organizing Thursday’s event in Santa Rosa.

June Guthrie said that she was inspired to participate in the group in part because of her sister’s activism. She also realized that it “shouldn’t be normal” for her friends’ homes to burn down from wildfires or for smoke-filled skies to blanket the region every year.

“Every year when the fires come, it’s been part of my life,” said June Guthrie, who will join her sister for the remaining part of the march on Thursday. “Every fall, we’ve just waited for the fires. … That’s why I joined the fight for a livable future.”

You can reach Staff Writer Nashelly Chavez at 707-521-5203 or nashelly.chavez@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @nashellytweets.

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