Movement updates

People are dying and Congress is on vacation

People are dying and Congress is on vacation

by Sophie Guthier, photo by Josh Yoder

I’m 19 years old and I dropped out of college to organize. I’m wondering why Congress doesn’t share my sense of urgency.

Shifting to full-time organizing was a natural choice for me. In high school, I was totally preoccupied with organizing. I spent most of my time on it — all my free time between classes, all my time after school, and, honestly, I even skipped some classes to take action.

I didn’t plan to drop out at first. Since middle school, I had it in my head that I would go to college and major in environmental science. I knew I wanted to do something with my life that would help save my friends and family from the devastation of climate change. I thought a degree in environmental science would help me figure out how to do that.

photo by Josh Yoder

It was always a stepping stone for me, not the ultimate goal. I never had a dream school I wanted to go to, or any real idea of what job I’d do when I was finished. I just saw school as something I needed to get done, so I could move forward with organizing.

I ended up at a state school, UW-Madison, in the fall of 2019. I hated it. Every moment in class had me bored and anxious. I wanted to be out taking action, not learning theory that felt completely contrary to my values. My climate change economics class tried to teach me that carbon taxes and capitalism could fix climate change. The people around me didn’t seem to feel the same urgency I felt about stopping this crisis.

I knew I couldn’t be stuck there for the next four years of my life. So I left.

I wasn’t alone. So many of my friends and fellow organizers also realized that we thrive best when we’re out in the world trying to make a difference through organizing and action. School isn’t for everyone.

We’ve organized protests, pushed for policy, and fostered a community of hope and resilience. Driven by the anxiety and fear of the looming climate crisis, we’ve thrown ourselves wholeheartedly into organizing for change.

Why doesn’t Congress have our fire?

Coronavirus is the example nobody wanted — a clear illustration of just how unprepared we are to tackle a sweeping crisis. And instead of facing it head on, of going all out to help our communities who are out of work, sick, and scared… Congress went on recess.

Not only that — they went on recess right after passing a stimulus bill that did almost nothing for people. Those in power helped those in power — they bailed out airlines, cruise lines, big corporations — then turned around and questioned the cost of the ventilators hospitals need to save lives.

Almost 800 people died in one day in New York. Where was Congress? On recess.

And now there’s talk of getting people back to work and on the streets when healthcare professionals are so overwhelmed and under-protected that they, too, are dying?

We can’t keep going like this. Today, Congress is ignoring the pain of the millions of people who’ve been affected by this virus. Tomorrow, they’ll be ignoring the pain of millions affected by wildfires, floods, air pollution, and crops dying. Same shit, different crisis.

We must demand a change. First, a People’s Bailout — a stimulus that will serve the needs of everyday people, not CEOs hoarding money for themselves. It must make sure people have enough money to survive while the businesses across the country are shut down for safety. It must supply our healthcare professionals with the protective equipment they need to save people’s lives, including their own.

A People’s Bailout is the best shot we have at bouncing back economically and setting up the infrastructure needed to make sure any further crises headed our way — like the looming climate crisis — never break us like this again.

That’s what I’m organizing for right now. It’s what my fellow organizers are fighting for. It’s what Congress should be fighting for — and it’s up to us to speak out when they don’t.

You don’t even have to drop out of school to get involved. Sign up for our Sunrise School trainings to learn more about organizing to win the future we deserve.

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