A group of 15 people from the McFarland hub of the Sunrise Movement demonstrated early Saturday morning outside Rep. Bryan Steil’s Janesville home, demanding change in the representative’s climate policies.
The group gathered at Steil’s home at 6 a.m. Saturday as part of a series of “Wide Awakes,” intended to “wake up” people to the effects of climate change. The Sunrise Movement is a national youth-led organization aiming to stop the climate crisis.
The McFarland hub of the organization targeted Steil for their demonstration “for his inconsistent record, with a history of voting against the majority of environmentally-related legislation and being dismissive of progressive solutions like the Green New Deal,” according to an email release from the group.
Steil, a Republican who represents District 1 in the U.S. House of Representatives, was elected in 2018, replacing Paul Ryan, who did not seek re-election. District 1 stretches from Janesville to the eastern Border of Wisconsin.
Since his election, Steil has earned a 21% scorecard from the League of Conservation Voters, which tracks politicians’ votes on environmental topics. A 100% is the most environmentally-friendly score by the organization’s standard. In 2019, the average House of Representatives score was 56%.
Steil’s score was not the lowest in Wisconsin, with Reps. Mike Gallagher, Sean Duffy, Glenn Grothman and James Sensenbrenner all scoring below 15% in 2019. Republican Senator Ron Johnson and Sensenbrenner received 0% scores in 2019.
Steil’s website states that “we must be good stewards of the planet and take care of the environment,” but according to McFarland students, more must be done.
“I’m here to tell representative Steil that he must choose a side. You cannot claim to want to protect our earth’s resources, then take $25,000 in dirty money from oil and gas PACs,” McFarland high-schooler Felicia Zheng said. “You cannot acknowledge climate change, then vote against legislation that would address it. You cannot be pro-environment and continue supporting politicians and corporations who are not.”
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, a non-profit, non-partisan research group founded in 1983, Steil has received $25,000 from oil and gas PACs.
Steil faces re-election in 2020, running against Democrat Roger Polack. According to climate studies, Earth faces dire circumstances in the near future.
The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reported that we may have already reached or passed points that will lead to “irreversible changes in major ecosystems and the planetary climate system.”
The time for action is now, McFarland’s young protestors say.
“At just 16 years, I already feel as though I carry the weight of the world on my shoulders. I carry with me the knowledge that the earth as we know it is deteriorating, the knowledge that our atmosphere is warming, that our oceans are rising, our forests burning, and our land is being battered by increasingly aggressive storms,” Ella Gletty-Syoen said. “I carry the knowledge that it will cost thousands and thousands of lives, and eventually, many more.”