California activists walking hundreds of miles for climate change

Seven young activists are walking almost 300 miles trying to galvanize support for a Civilian Climate Corps.

The Corps, first part of the Green New Deal, would create thousands of jobs to combat climate change.

It is now a $10 billion feature of President Biden's infrastructure plan.

"Our generation feels the urgency more than ever," said activist Sally Morton, 29, of San Francisco.

"Each year that we don't act the crisis gets worse so we have an incredible opportunity right now."

Morton is among the oldest of seven women making the two-week Northern California trek.

The youngest is Madeline Ruddell, 16, of Rohnert Park.

"I can't remember a year without wildfires in my life," said Ruddell.

Three of the marchers are from fire-ravaged Sonoma County.

"I want a future where I don't have to leave my home every year, where I don't have to pack evacuation bags and fires don't destroy my community," said Ruddell.

On Wednesday, the team was overnighting at a home in Santa Rosa's Coffey Park, doing laundry and enjoying some comforts after mostly camping in tents since May 28.

Their journey started in the town of Paradise, in Butte County, and will finish Monday in San Francisco.

They admit their legs are sore, they've experienced 100-degree temperatures and their share of blisters.

"But we're marching 266 miles so we can demand good jobs for everyone and so we can fix this climate crisis," said Vianni Ledesma, 27, of San Diego.

The Civilian Climate Corps would employ people to work in parks, forests, and public lands, and in fields mitigating climate change.

It is modeled after FDR's Conservation Corps which operated after the Great Depression.    

"Having a program in which we can fund and provide good-paying union jobs to stop the climate crisis is so important in this country," said walker Ema Govea, 17, of Santa Rosa.

An early stop in their itinerary was a rally at the State Capitol in Sacramento. 

There, marchers were joined by other members of the youth-led Sunrise Movement, a national organization. 

"For me, I've been an organizer since I was 12 years old but I've never done anything so fun and cool as this, " said walker Catalina Carbajal, of San Diego.

Most of the women had not met before setting off.

"Getting to know one another, it's been an adventure and we're here with the same goal so it's very empowering, " said Maricruz Ramirez, 29, of Bakersfield.

The marchers also meet with fellow environmental activists and elected officials on their journey.

"On this march and through my activism I see so much power in my generation," said Lola Guthrie, 17, of Sebastopol.

"And even though time is running out on climate change, I'm actually inspired and very hopeful."

The squad usually walks for about eight hours a day.

Much of their travel has been through rural, agricultural counties.

"It's so incredible being able to slow down and walk through communities you would just drive through," said Ruddell.

The women have been surprised and encouraged that even in politically conservative counties, reactions have been positive.

"People would ask us what we are doing and we would say we are fighting for good jobs to stop the climate crisis, and they were all for it!" said Ledesma.

Sunday at noon, the marchers will hold a public event at the Marin Civic Center in San Rafael.

Monday, they will cross the Golden Gate Bridge into San Francisco, to meet supporters as their trek comes to an end.