Fight against climate change takes root in Grand Rapids

Courtesy: Margaux Sellnau

Courtesy: Margaux Sellnau

Elyse Greenwood

Amidst environmental issues worldwide, many people still question the prevalence and effects of Global Warming. To combat misinformation and spread awareness, hundreds of students across the country have joined the Sunrise Movement. There are more than 100 Sunrise Movement hubs across the nation, and two Grand Valley State University students have taken the initiative to begin the conversation of climate change in Grand Rapids. 

The Sunrise Movement aims to unite young adults across the nation with a common goal of environmental conservation and fighting climate change. To achieve this, the main objectives of the movement are to end the corruptive influence of fossil fuel money on politics, elect leaders whose platform aligns with the health and well-being of all people, and to make the sustainability of our planet an urgent priority. Upon hearing of the impact the Sunrise Movement has made and is continuing to make on our country, GVSU student and hub co-founder Margaux Sellnau felt compelled to make the same difference in her hometown.

The passion to fight climate change began to manifest in Sellnau, a junior studying Environmental and Sustainability Studies and Human Rights, after attending the Climate Change Conference at the Seidman College of Business. She left that conference with a fervent desire to take action, but the opportunity arose one day when she stumbled upon an inspirational video from Sunrise Movement’s top leader Jeremy Ornstein. 

“By the end of (the video), tears were streaming down my face,” said Sellnau. “They mentioned they were having a national mass call the following day, and immediately I knew I couldn’t miss it. On that call, I knew this was what I needed to be doing. Why? Because of the culture, principles, strategy and story the movement was founded on.” 

The specific values of this movement that truly resonated with Sellnau were the non-violent principles and the youth-centered mission. 

“I like to feel and see the impacts of my actions and know that it’s worth it while maintaining non-violent actions,” Sellnau said. “This is one of the Sunrise founding principles that they implement into their movement which I deeply resonate with. Not to mention, this movement simply felt like my calling. It is a mass movement of young people, led by young-people. This is something that I strongly identify with, and I felt empowered to take a stand.”

The Grand Rapids Sunrise hub officially launched in February. Since then, the hub has been busy organizing visits to the offices of both Representatives and Senators, leading Town Hall meetings and planning other events to raise awareness and rally supporters. One of the upcoming events for this hub is the Road to Renewable Energy panel discussion hosted by the Michigan League of Conservation Voters at the Loosemore Auditorium. 

With all of these efforts, the local Sunrise Movement hopes to have a strong beginning to their fight against climate change. 

“The Sunrise GR hub is working to bring climate action to all levels of government, specifically pushing our local governmental officials in Grand Rapids,” Sellnau said. “As much as we are a support to the national movement, we also work collectively with the state movement while doing our own thing on the local level.”

Local initiatives like the Sunrise Movement Grand Rapids hub truly start the conversation against climate change in the area and begin the efforts toward long-term change. 

As the Sunrise Movement’s website says, “We are not looking to the right or left. We look forward. Together, we will change this country and this world, sure as the sun rises each morning.”