Varshini Prakash: Leading A Climate Revolution

Varshini Prakash
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BOSTON- Varshini Prakash is leading a climate revolution in U.S. politics. Co-founder and Executive Director of the Sunrise Movement, as well as co-author of the book “Winning the Green New Deal: Why We Must, How We Can” (which was released in August of 2020), Ms. Prakash has led a youth movement to stop climate change and create millions of good jobs in the process, while bringing The Green New Deal to the attention of millions during the election.

Known most notably for their 2018 sit-in in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office, The Sunrise Movement is, in their words, “[…] a youth movement to stop climate change and create millions of good jobs in the process […] to make climate change an urgent priority across America, end the corrupting influence of fossil fuel executives on our politics, and elect leaders who stand up for the health and wellbeing of all people.” The pillars of the movement’s agenda include The Green New Deal, a 10-year plan introduced by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Ed Markey to mobilize every aspect of American society toward 100% clean and renewable energy, as well as economic justice, prosperity and security; electing politicians who will make climate change a priority in their tenure; and removing fossil fuel interests from politics.

“A defining moment for me was December 2015, when a series of extremely strong floods deluged Tamil Nadu, the state in India that my dad (and a lot of my family) is from,” said Ms. Prakash in an essay in Sierra, the national magazine for the Sierra Club, on Dec. 22, 2020, adapted from “The New Possible: Visions of Our World Beyond Crisis”, a collection from Cascade Books, published in January 2021. “[…] Hundreds of people died in that flood, and thousands were displaced. That was 2015, and it was a big wake-up call to me that the climate crisis was right now. The increase in the number and severity of flooding episodes—predicted as a result of climate change—was happening now, in the present, not in the future. That was the moment. I thought, ‘What do I have to lose?’ This time it was someone else’s grandmother; the next time, it could be mine. We didn’t have time to waste.”

The Sunrise Movement has acted to reposition the current climate crisis as not simply a matter of ‘environmentalism’, but a crisis of social, economic and societal urgency.

“It feels like for the last 40 years [the climate crisis]’s been gated to the realm of environmentalism. Like it’s about saving the environment or preserving the environment, not salvation for humankind more broadly and preserving our way of life,” said Ms. Prakash in an interview with Ezra Klein on the podcast ‘The Ezra Klein Show’.

On March 6, Ms. Prakash will be honored as one of the 20 Outstanding Women of 2021 during the 18th Annual Woman of the Year Awards ceremony— to be held virtually this year. To buy a ticket, please click here.


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