Q&A with E-Town Sunrise’s Emmet Ebels-Duggan

Q: What is your role in Etown sunrise?

A: My official title is Communications and Partnerships Coordinator, but honestly, that’s just a way of making it sound fancy. We all have official roles, and we all kind of split the work. We’re all responsible for a lot of stuff. I take primary responsibility for the email [account], and then a lot of other stuff. And that’s the sense in which I’m the Communications Coordinator. 

Q: What is the overall goal that sunrise wants to accomplish?

A: So sunrise, as a national movement, is a climate justice-oriented organization. So we are seeking changes to climate policy and climate legislation, with a focus on justice for groups that have been disproportionately affected by the climate crisis.

Q: How has April being Earth Month affected your agenda over the last couple of months?

A: We’ve got a lot planned. But thinking back to about January, going into the second semester is when we really started thinking about planning. So we’ve been thinking about this stuff for a while. And our planning committee for the climate justice conference convened for the first time at the beginning of March. So that’s kind of what our test timeline looks like.

Q: What is your goal for the protest coming up, what message do you want to send?

A: We’re having the walkout on Earth Day, which is April 22. That’s a Friday. So this walkout is going to look about exactly like the last one that we did, we’re going to leave the building after sixth period, we’ll meet in front, and then we’ll walk fountain square. This time we have a Roycemore contingent of sunrise members that will be joining us on the way, which is going to be great. And the main purpose of this walkout is —at ETHS specifically— we are calling for the creation of a sustainability coordinator position within the school administration. This is somebody who is in charge of looking at waste management, looking at recycling, where our recycling goes, and energy management for the school. There’s so many problems that would be much more efficiently solved by delegating them specifically to a sustainability coordinator, instead of just having them out there and having nobody whose job position it is to be responsible for them. District 65 is hiring a sustainability coordinator. And we want ETHS to follow in their footsteps. Our whole group message — with Roycemore —is that we’re calling for, again, implementation of CARP. That’s Evanstons Climate Action Resilience Plan. And we want the city of Evanston to declare a climate emergency with commitments to find and implement sections of CARP. 

Q: In your opinion, what are the most important climate change issues that E-Town Sunrise is working to change right now?

A: So sunrise as a national organization works at National and global levels. Etown sunrise, because we’re quite a small hub, we focus mostly on stuff local to ETHS and local to Evanston. So our most important things that we’ve been focusing on this year are carbon limitation, which we keep talking about, but very little has been done on it so far. [With] carbon limitation climate curriculum at ETHS. ETHS has formed a climate curriculum committee, with their administration and some members of Sunrise, which is very exciting. And we hope that that project can go far in the future and can implement real climate education that can be adjusted. 

Q: What do you think regular people can do to benefit the climate and help sunrise?

A: I think that the biggest thing that individuals can do is push for policy change. That is where we’re going to get the biggest large scale changes. Going vegetarian is great and getting solar panels is great, all that stuff is great, but it’s all on an individual level. So while people doing those things on a large scale can make a difference. The biggest structural differences that will help to solve the structural injustice of climate change are going to come from climate legislation. And that’s why sunrise is primarily focused on legislation. And so if people want to help sunrise, we are a grassroots organization. That means we are made up of normal people. And so the way to help sunrise is to join sunrise. You can do that at our Instagram at etown_sunrise. Or you can just shoot us an email at [email protected]