Brookline students fight climate change through Sunrise Movement


Tina Little

According to the United Nations there are 12 more years for climate action until the point of no return.

“You’re going to die from old age, but we are going to die from climate change.”

Ever since the Boston Climate Strike in September, these words have been ingrained in the minds of many youth in the Boston Area. For members of the Sunrise Movement at the high school, this warning motivated them to intervene in the looming climate crisis.

The Sunrise Movement empowers youth in Brookline to take direct action against climate change through actions, protests and legislation.

The movement, which is made up of young adults under 35, is dedicated to fighting climate change while creating millions of new jobs. Nonetheless, according to senior Saya Ameli Hajebi, the organization is also a close-knit group.

“ is a lot more positive, it’s a lot more hopeful,” Ameli Hajebi said. “Even though people usually join because they care about the climate, they stay because of the strong community that they see. It’s really a huge group of friends that get together and make really cool stuff happen.”

The movement consists of different teams like media and press, outreach and presentations, diversity-inclusion, actions, community, fundraising, trainings and communications. Most members have roles in one or more teams. Currently, Ameli Hajebi is the leader of the media and press team, which is aiming to get more diversity in the movement.

“We didn’t have a lot of outreach to local communities of color and the smaller publications. Not everyone is going to read the Boston Globe, and not everyone is going to read the Brookline Tab,” Ameli Hajebi said. “The work that we’re doing now is trying to see which publications we can target next so that we can widen our audience.”

According to junior Paul Yang, who works on the fundraising team, the Sunrise movement drew attention to and continues to support the Green New Deal, while nationally working to plan the next climate strikes. He said these strikes attract people, like students at the high school, who care about climate change but are trying to find a way to show their support.

“Last time, if you saw the Boston climate strike, a lot of people from our school went. Whether it’s because it’s a meme or whatever, they went, and that means something,” Yang said.

A lot of the high school organizers are from Brookline, Ameli Hajebi said. But there is widespread support for the movement across the Boston Area.

“It really varies because once representation from one community grows big enough, then those people just split off and make their own hub,” Ameli Hajebi said.

For many students, it was the realization of the urgency of the movement that sparked their involvement. Ameli Hajebi said it was the permanent and continuous threat of climate change that made her feel she needed to take action.

“This shift really happened when I stepped off the plane in the US,” Ameli Hajebi said. “I looked up and saw a sky that is actually blue, whereas the place that I grew up in, Tehran, one of the most polluted cities in the world: we often have school cancelled because of extreme pollution. And because of this layer of smog that was over the city, it was really rare to see a blue sky.”

Senior Anjali Mitra, who is one of the general coordinators for the next climate strike, joined because she was discouraged by what was happening to the planet and the lack of action to save it.

“It was really empowering to see me as a young person being able to stand up to politicians and show them that I meant business,” Mitra said.

Both Ameli Hajebi and Mitra said that the movement is open to everyone willing to fight climate change. Ameli Hajebi said that people from all kinds of backgrounds and opinions are a part of the movement.

“Climate change is a bipartisan thing,” Ameli Hajebi said. “The only people that aren’t a part of it are fossil fuel billionaires.”

Many members of the movement feel it is their duty as the younger generation to stop the climate crisis, as older generations have failed to do so. According to Yang, it is especially important for young people to take action.

“This is the world that we will inherit from the older generations, and the older generations are the people that basically destroyed this world,” Yang said. “I think it’s necessary for us to stand up for ourselves and really speak up.”

Mitra said that the argument for youths to be a part of this movement is especially unique, as it is they who will be the most affected

“In our lifetimes it’s only going to get worse,” Mitra said. “I think youth are really important because their messaging is not just ‘Oh we want to stop the polar bears from dying from the melted ice caps.’ There’s an argument of ‘We want to save our future because it’s in danger of being lost.’”

But according to Ameli Hajebi, this idea of a lifelong consequence empowers the movement even more.

“It means not only do we have more at stake, but it also means that we’re that much more powerful because we have all this energy and all this knowledge and all this motivation behind us,” Ameli Hajebi said.

Mitra said that young people are often dissuaded from joining climate movements because it is too much commitment or they don’t feel knowledgeable enough about the topic, but these aren’t requirements for the Sunrise Movement.

“It gives young people a voice in conversations that they’re often left out of even though they’re the ones that are going to be the most impacted,” Mitra said. “The Sunrise Movement is really good at helping people understand that you don’t have to be a climate scientist in order to care about climate change.”