‘It does not have to be like this’: 266-mile anti-climate change trek stops in Santa Rosa
A group of seven activists on a 266-mile trek from Paradise to San Francisco stopped in Santa Rosa on Thursday morning to garner support for a federal plan that would create thousands of jobs to help slow and mend the impacts of climate change nationwide.
About 100 people met the group, made up of Sunrise Movement members from Sonoma, San Diego and Kern counties, at 10:30 a.m. at the city’s Juilliard Park near downtown as they prepared for the last leg of their journey.
While at the rally, several of the activists called on U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, and U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, to support the Civilian Climate Corps, a conservation corps included in President Joe Biden’s proposed eight-year infrastructure plan.
The Sonoma County marchers in the seven-person group also shared calls for broader and bolder government action around climate change, an issue that has materialized in their own backyards in the form of increasingly destructive wildfires and now the region’s worsening drought, they said.
“The fires, the smoke, the lost lives are a political choice you are making,” said Sonoma resident Madeline Ruddell, 16.
She recalled volunteering at evacuation shelters with her family in 2017 during the North Bay’s Tubbs fire. “It does not have to be like this,” she added.
Several speakers at the rally also spoke about the importance of jobs that pay fair wages, a key component of creating a livable future for today’s youth and generations to come.
Vianni Ledesma, a Sunrise Movement activist from San Diego who spoke at Thursday’s rally, recalled being offered a 50-cent raise by her boss despite helping increase the business’s sales by 20%.
Her salary amounted to about 3% of what her boss made annually, wages that left her with little left over after she paid rent.
“We all deserve a world where we live comfortably without the fear of climate change upending our lives,” Ledesma said.
“This is about so much more than jobs,” she said. “It’s about our livelihood.”
Cotati Councilwoman Laura Sparks, Healdsburg Councilwoman Skylaer Palacios were among the local elected leaders who attended Thursday’s event.
Sparks, who the Sunrise Movement supported during her campaign last year, encouraged activists to continue to “hold our feet to the fire. Keep us accountable,” she said during a speech, referring to politicians like herself.
At the end of the rally, attendees were invited to walk with the seven Sunrise Movement members for a half-mile as they continued their journey on to San Francisco, where they’re expected to arrive on Monday.
Dozens joined the group as they marched south on Santa Rosa Avenue, chanting at times, lead by a pair of activists carrying a sign that read “Good jobs for all.”
Others, like Michigan resident Grace Bradley, 18, intended to follow the original group of seven marchers all the way to San Francisco.
While she hasn’t personally experienced the wildfires that have raged through California in recent years, Bradley said she has watched them play out on TV, causing her to worry about the safety of her grandmother and other relatives who live in the Bay Area, she said.
She had planned to visit those family members this summer, but decided to come early in order to join the activists departing from Santa Rosa.
“This felt to me like an opportunity to take action,” Bradley said. “It’s like making a big scene and I’d like to get attention for the (Civilian Climate Corps).”
The group is expected to cross the Golden Gate Bridge at 11 a.m. on Monday, when they’ll hold additional actions in San Francisco to garner support for the Civilian Climate Corps, organizers said.
You can reach Staff Writer Nashelly Chavez at 707-521-5203 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @nashellytweets.