From a handful to a hundred, local chapter of Sunrise Movement grows and promotes climate action

A group of students in chairs pose for a photo
The Claremont Colleges Sunrise Movement chapter, founded by Eric Warmoth CM ’22, aims to tackle climate change. (Photo illustration. Courtesy: Claremont Colleges Sunrise Movement)

Last semester, the new Claremont chapter of the Sunrise Movement, a youth-led environmental advocacy group, attracted a grand total of 10 regular student members. This semester, the group has ballooned to roughly 100 active members, with an email list of 400 interested students from across the Claremont Colleges, founder and coordinator Eric Warmoth CM ’22 said.

“We’ve pretty much exponentially grown,” he said. 

The group’s members have attended Sunrise-organized events — sit-ins, protests, poster-making sessions and bi-weekly meetings — according to Warmoth. 

He created the chapter in March 2019, completing online trainings and seminars to have the group added to the Sunrise Movement’s website as an official chapter.

Over the past semester, the group has hosted a letter-writing workshop to Virginia voters ahead of the state’s 2019 House of Delegates and Senate elections and sent students to the Los Angeles Climate Strike on Sep. 20.

The group also attended speeches by climate activist Greta Thunberg in Los Angeles at a Nov. 1 climate strike in Los Angeles, according to the chapter’s Instagram account.

“Seeing the national movement come together along with the Claremont Colleges and just locally, people coming together, with the UN climate summit this year, has been really powerful,” said Emily Kuhn PZ ’22, Sunrise’s communications director.

According to the chapter’s Instagram, Claremont Sunrise leaders also demanded that California Governor Gavin Newsom sign an executive order shutting down the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility near Porter Ranch, California. A methane leak at the facility forced more than 8,300 households to evacuate more than three years ago, according to The New York Times.

Uma Nagarajan SC ’22, a member of Sunrise Claremont College’s action team, which focuses on organizing events and actions, joined Sunrise after the climate strike in September. 

“I think climate justice is one of the most critical issues of our time, and Sunrise is such an inspiring organization,” Nagarajan said via message.

The chapter’s next big event is an on-campus strike as part of the upcoming national climate strike Dec. 6, Warmoth said. The event will include speeches and tabling by student environmental groups. 

Warmoth plans to invite Divest Claremont Colleges, Scripps Carbon Commitment and other environmental groups on campus. He also wants to open the event to the public by inviting local politicians and members of the larger Claremont community.

Following speeches, strike participants will march around the campuses and end with an undetermined protest action, according to a tentative itinerary sent to TSL. At night, there will be a follow-up, or a fun event to debrief and relax after the protest, Warmoth said. 

The group has also expanded its leadership team. As of this semester, Sunrise has leadership positions in recruitment, inclusion, action, policy, finance and media, and added a justice equity diversity position last week.

“This is a really exciting time on campus,” Warmoth said. “There’s more people interested in this type of activism and environmental issues on campus than we’ve ever had before.”

“We’re really seeing a lot of people come together that weren’t environmental activists and are now really waking up to the sort of issue,” Warmoth said.

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