Why I joined Sunrise: Our jobs, our air, our home

Wilder Ranch, Santa Cruz, California

This weekend I painted bluffs that back up against farms on the coast of California. I painted them to remind me of what I could lose to the climate crisis and to politicians beholden to the fossil fuel industry. What’s scary is that there’s so much at stake in such a small patch of earth — the land itself, the food that feeds our nation, the livelihoods and families it protects.

My family was one of those that the land protected. My grandfather irrigated farms like these and climbed trees that bore fruit like this land bears — his work and this land fed my family before I was even a part of my family. He and my grandmother raised 11 strong, smart men and women. He had jobs, they had options, and we could grow. My family survived on this land, but families who came here 5 years ago, or those that will come in the next 5, or in the next 20, can’t count on the land in the same way. The climate crisis is threatening our country and home.

People in America find creative ways to feed their families everyday, and in my grandparent’s case, climate had no small part in the way they fed theirs. Good land and weather broadened my family’s options, millions of families’ options — options that are of no small consequence, options that put food on the table, options that keep the lights on.

That’s what the climate crisis threatens. I am afraid of families in America not having options.

My dad owns a tennis shop. There was a month this year where California saw unexpected rain. He lamented the rain; you can’t play tennis on wet courts and business was slow. My dad invested a lot in his business — his heart, loans, and mostly his time. He always told me that the most precious thing you can give someone is your time. Writing this makes my throat get tight and my eyes moisten, my breath catch, because all the hours that he put in were threatened by just a small month of rain. I’m scared he’ll lose his shop if climate change continues to threaten California’s sunny skies. I’m afraid he’ll lose his options, which get smaller as he gets older. I don’t know what climate change will bring and I don’t know how it will affect what he’s built and sacrificed for. I don’t want to find out.

I live in Brooklyn now, and I walk around and meet other small business owning parents — Richard has a pet shop and Anthony has a plant store that’s been in his family for 5 generations 3 blocks over. I feel scared meeting them and thinking about the ways they aren’t so different from my dad, the ways that they, too, aren’t invulnerable to forces that feel uncontrollable — the interest rate, the weather, the greed of a few wall street bankers or fossil fueled politicians.

I tell myself that it’s not so much to want families across America to have jobs and feel stable. It’s not so much to want all children to breathe clean air and play outside. I tell myself it’s not too much to want options.

I know I’m not alone in wanting more. I’ve seen students rise and sit for climate justice — 400 students alone at University of California, Santa Barbara this May. Today, we’ve seen 68 mayors recommit to the Paris climate deal as our President backs out, and 1,000 people gathered in Manhattan at the drop of a hat, speaking and rallying to show how much more we need.

It’s not too much to elect climate champions. It’s not too much to rid our government of fossil fuel executives and those beholden to them. My dad and my neighbors and our families deserve politicians who will stand up for our jobs, our air and our home.

I painted bluffs that back up against farms on the coast of California. I painted them to remind me of what I could lose to the climate crisis and to politicians beholden to the fossil fuel industry. There’s so much at stake in such a small patch of earth — the land itself, the food that feeds our nation, the livelihoods and families it protects.

I keep it beside my bed to remind me of what I fight to keep everyday.

Join me.