Every single young person should know the newly established American Climate Corps (ACC). It is not only proof of our generation’s power, but it is and will be the government of the future – by and for us.
The American Climate Corps is a visionary new policy that will employ and train tens of thousands of young people in good-paying jobs to stop the climate crisis. That’s right – any person in this country, regardless of their background or education level, can work for our government, conserving America’s lands and waters, bolstering community resilience to climate disaster, restoring wetlands and so much more.
The simple philosophical shift that your government should work in partnership with you will change everything.
In fact, this is a major change from recent climate and energy policy. Right now, many of our climate laws are designed to give corporations tax breaks for being more green as a way of stopping the greatest threat of our time. The American Climate Corps takes a new approach – it directly invests in people and projects that will pay us directly to strengthen our communities and begin the clean energy transition. This is the government taking an active approach to designing the workforce of the future and averting climate catastrophe – not just leaving it up to the markets, who we can’t rely on alone to cut carbon emissions or reach our climate goals.
And this approach will allow us to use the government as a way of designing our own society and setting new norms for the workplace. This program will work in partnership with unions and employers to ensure that we can work in good paying, meaningful jobs. Instead of working on an assembly line to maximize profit for a CEO we’ve never met, we can spend our days strengthening our communities. It can raise the bar for all employment.
And the time for this has never been more right. Just this summer, we saw another massive wave of worker strikes – from screenwriters and actors to autoworkers – with workers calling for dignified work and good paying jobs. This summer we faced the hottest days the Earth has had in 125,000 years, we breathed ashy wildfire smoke into our lungs, floods consumed homes, Maui was burnt to ash. We experienced a summer that can only be defined as a crisis, and the American Climate Corps begins to meet that moment. The need for an energized, young group of people to take on this challenge in good paying jobs has never been clearer.
If you remember, this is just the kind of thing President Franklin Delano Roosevelt did in the 1930’s. When the US was in crisis, FDR launched a Civilian Conservation Corps – a national public work relief program that employed over three million workers repairing and conserving the United States forests, parks, and natural resources. It pulled millions out of unemployment and drastically improved our nation’s natural infrastructure during the lows of the Great Depression. It had deep flaws – like solely hiring white men and nonconsensual development on stolen Native American land – but that’s why this time around, the modern Corps will be deeply rooted in equity and equality, and will invest directly in marginalized communities facing the worst of the climate crisis.
Because the modern Corps was created and molded by us. Over the course of the last three years, thousands of young people stepped up and demanded what’s right for our generation. From the grassroots to the grasstops, we organized every single person, organization and institution until our demand could no longer be ignored.
In 2020, Sunrise’s Executive Director, Varshini Prakash, pulled up a seat at the Biden-Sanders Unity Task Force on climate and made our generation’s call heard. In 2021, we launched a massive campaign for federal jobs, pushing our leaders in Congress and in the White House. And in partnership with our allies on the Hill – Senator Ed Markey and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez – we made our idea of a Civilian Climate Corps real, legislative text.
From there, the work began. Hundreds of young people across the country visited their Congressional offices, talked to their neighbors, displayed banners of support, and put on over 100 rallies and actions in support of a Civilian Climate Corps. We launched three marches across the country to reach young people, build awareness and fight for a Civilian Climate Corps. Sunrise leaders in Dallas, Houston, and New Orleans trekked 400 miles from New Orleans to Houston to demand a Civilian Climate Corps. In California, young people trekked 260 miles through extreme heat and wildfire zones in service of the same demand.
Over the course of the next three years, Sunrise turned the Civilian Climate Corps from an idea into a generational rallying cry. By April of 2021, a majority of all voters said they support the Civilian Climate Corps. Even more notable, half of all voters under 45 said they would consider joining the Climate Corps if a job was available to them. Today, that number is even higher – voters support the creation of a Civilian Climate Corps by a +39-point margin, including 88 percent of Democrats, 60 percent of Independents, and a plurality of Republicans.
And when it got tough – weathering record heat, torrential rain and political bureaucracy – we never gave up. We never caved. We kept fighting. It was Sunrisers — even in one of our lowest hours — who were willing to put their wills to the test, when everybody else wanted to give up, roll over, play nice. We put our bodies on the line, didn’t eat, marched across the country, blockaded the White House, and held true to our commitments. And we proved when we organize together and call for what’s right, we can win great things.
These days there is so much to be cynical about. It’s hard to look at 2024 and feel excited, let alone our future if we don’t stop the climate crisis. But our win for an American Climate Corps is why we do the work. No matter who’s in power, we have power.
If you’re interested in signing up for the American Climate Corps, fill out the official interest form here.