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Washington Can’t Wait to Update the GMA

As a youth-led organization passionate about achieving a livable and sustainable future, Sunrise Spokane is dedicated to improving our community in effective ways. Not only is climate action needed for the sake of the environment, it is also essential for communities disproportionately impacted by it. An important step that we can take at the state level is updating the Growth Management Act (GMA), which exists to help Washington cities and counties effectively and sustainably accommodate growth. The problem: the GMA doesn’t require communities to meaningfully plan for climate, housing affordability, or racial equity.

As young people, we know that our future is at stake if we do not act now to stop climate change. During our lifetimes, we have seen the impacts of climate change only worsen. Every summer, the air quality in Spokane reaches unsafe levels as the wildfires increase in frequency and severity. The negative impacts that climate change has on air quality will lead to more respiratory and heat-related illnesses among vulnerable groups, such as elderly people, children, low-income communities, communities of color, and the homeless.

Our problems don’t stop at the effects of climate change. We know that climate justice is housing justice. Communities across Washington are in a housing affordability crisis. 32% of Washingtonians struggle to balance housing costs with the rest of their expenses. Furthermore, many communities struggle to gain economic mobility due to historically unjust policies of the past. In Spokane, the history of redlining has created neighborhoods where opportunities to gain economic mobility are scarce.

In Eastern Washington, we have all seen the effects of the decisions our legislators have made regarding how our city and state manages our growing population. Our beautiful plots of empty wildland, neighboring farmlands, and even the local and highly-frequented city parks are subject to policy such as the Washington Growth Management Act. Unfortunately, the GMA hasn’t been appropriately updated to include planning around climate change or environmental equity.

During this legislative session, the state legislature has the opportunity to address environmental injustice, the effects on climate change on our communities, and the lack of affordable housing. Making these updates to the GMA would create a brighter future for our beautiful state of Washington and ALL who live here.

There are 3 bills this session that will update the GMA to:

  1. Plan for climate change: Via HB1099, counties will be required to mitigate the effects of our changing climate and prepare for climate disasters.
  2. Support housing development for all unit types and income levels: HB1220 will address housing affordability and sprawl, while creating housing policies that serve all members of our community equitably.
  3. Require environmental and human justice: The HEAL act will require just and equal representation for all residents of the state, and increase community involvement.

We can’t afford to go another decade without addressing these concerns. We must take action now to protect our state from the severe effects of unaffordable housing, environmental injustice, and climate change. Eastern Washington will inevitably see change in the coming years, and as our population grows we must accommodate new people in a responsible way. By updating the GMA, we are sustainably prioritizing the safety of everyone in Washington State.

As a grassroots movement dedicated to improving our community, we encourage state legislators who represent Eastern Washington to support and champion these important updates to the Growth Management Act to improve the livability of our community for all residents.

Authors: Rosie Zhou, Sophie Avery, Eliza Dawley, Veronika Coleman, and Phillip Amado.

Sunrise Spokane Accomplishments Sept 2019 – Sept 2020

What we’ve accomplished as Sunrise Spokane in 1 year

Sunrise Eastern Washington (later to be renamed Sunrise Spokane) was founded by Mattie, a highschool student & Maggie, a recent college grad in July 2019, as a local hub of the Sunrise Movement. The past year has been an exciting journey, encouraging youth climate activism in Spokane & building our movement. Our group welcomes anyone under the age of 35 to join & participate; however, the large majority of our hub membership is younger than 25. In the past year we strived to achieve a well-rounded organization to create change by adopting the Four Pillars of Social Justice Infrastructure: policy, consciousness, service, and power. Our goal is to create a livable future for generations to come by stopping climate change & creating green jobs. Our movement has experienced roadblocks: Bernie Sanders, our #1 Green New Deal champion dropping out & Covid-19 halting progress & the ability to meet in-person. What keeps us going is commitment to our principles, our passion for the environment & social justice, and our vision of a brighter future for all people. This year we are going to take our organizing to the next level & scale-up the fight for climate justice in our community & a Green New Deal at the national level. Read about our accomplishments in the past year below. 


September Climate Strike

  • Our first climate strike was a success! Speakers captivated the audience with powerful stories, poetry, & songs & the Spokane Police Department estimated about 2,500 people were in attendance (enormous for Spokane strike standards) 
  • Caught the attention of local media Spokane Public Radio; KHQ; KREM

December “Die In” 

  • Over 50 people participated in the die in demonstrating what is at stake if we don’t take action on climate change. KREM coverage

Earth Day Live 

  • A coalition of climate activism groups in Spokane, including 350 Spokane and student groups at Gonzaga University, planned Earth Day Live due to the coronavirus pandemic.
  • The goal of the event was to educate people on the importance of activism and voting in order to create change and stop the climate crisis.
  • The first day of the livestream event included a virtual town hall with School Board President Jerrall Haynes and Nikki Lockwood
  • Students were able to ask the School Board members questions about their thoughts on climate action, specifically implementing climate curriculum in all K-12 schools in Spokane. The School Board members agreed to work with Sunrise members to create a student led advisory council that would advise the School Board on all climate issues. Since then, two of our members have stayed in contact with the Board, pushing for the creation of this council, and the Student Advisory Council on Climate Change will have its first meeting in October. 

Black Lives Matter Banner over the highway near Liberty Lake

  • Our members created a Black Lives Matter banner to support the Black Lives Matter movement.
  • The banner stayed over the highway for almost an entire day.


  • Clean Fuel Standard
    • We testified at the Spokane City Council, urging the adoption of the Clean Fuel Standard in order to reduce climate and air pollution by establishing carbon intensity limits for transportation fuels sold in Washington & to create local economic development opportunities by investing in clean, locally produced transportation fuels. 
  • Canvassing & Phone Banking for Bernie Sanders before the primary election 
  • Youth Climate Lobby Day, Olympia, WA 
    • Hub members Joye, Tony, and Hope attended Youth Climate Lobby Day to sit down with our state legislators and demand they take action on 1. Declare a climate emergency 2. Improve our state’s pollution limits to be up to date with the latest science 3. Pass the Transportation for All bill 4. Pass a clean fuel standard
  • Covid-19 response phone zapping Senators to support People’s Bailout: putting people over profit
  • Working with the Spokane School Board, created the Student Advisory Council on Climate Change 
  • Created a banner that advocated for the City Council to vote NO on a police contract that would limit citizen oversight over police & attended rall
  • Spoke at School Board Meetings to urge the passage of the Racial Equity Resolution and to advocate against Campus Resource Officers in Schools
  • Spreading support of the Spokane Community Against Racism’s Racial Justice Platform through our social media
  • Supporting & advocating for tenants rights and just cause eviction in Spokane 


Sunrise 101 training

  • 35 participants between age 12-25 attended our weekend-long training on the fundamentals of organizing, climate science, political history, & justice, equity, and anti-oppression. 2 trainers were brought in from Boise & Tacoma to assist our hub’s two new trainers. 
  • The training lasted for two days and greatly helped us establish more leadership in the hub and get more young people involved in the movement.
  • 3 hub members Chelsea, Iaitia, and Maggie trained as national Sunrise Movement trainers & brought their new skills back to Spokane.
  • Online Zoom training to on-board new members in April & September.
  • On-going political education in meetings including topics such as, intersectionality, animal agriculture, youth organizing, Black Lives Matter, and the Black Panthers. 
  • Several members participated in a community conversation hosted by a statewide Environmental Justice task force to discuss local concerns surrounding local environmental justice issues.


  • Tree Planting
  • Spokane River Cleanup 
  • Vegan food making & distribution with food not bombs 

Sunrise School

Earth Day Live may be over, but the fight for climate justice never ends. Sunrise headquarters has started something very exciting called Sunrise School! This is a program filled with various classes you can sign up to take and learn about things like the Green New Deal, how to build the movement, and even advanced skill workshops! The classes take place via zoom and are easy to sign up for on Sunrise’s website. Sunrise School is a perfect way to get involved with Sunrise as well as meet like minded people and learn about the steps we need to take to tackle the climate crises!

To learn more and sign up for any (or all!) of these awesome classes, go to this link:

The Corona Virus’ Impact on Sunrise Spokane

The Corona virus has swept over the USA and especially Washington in the past few weeks. Naturally, this has hugely impacted what Sunrise Spokane is planning and how we are going to plan it. We have moved all of our meetings to zoom, which has been a learning curve, but we are now confidently using zoom to connect, plan, and check up on each other during this strange time.

Unfortunately, the strike we were planning in conjuction with other climate justice groups in the area had to be cancelled, because large groups of people are now prohihbited from occuring and we want to keep everyone safe and healthy. Do not despair! There will still be a strike on earth day, but it will be held online. The details of the stike are still being planned, but once everything is set in stone we will put out another blog post telling you how to participate. In the meantime, you can participate in the Fridays For Future weekly virtual strikes on the social media platform of your choice. Just post yourself with a climate strike sign and include “#climatestrike #fridaysforfuture” in your caption. Our Instagram page will be sharing these posts, too. If you want to get involved more heavily with the strike planning, now is also a great time to join Sunrise! Just comment below on this post and we can help you get involved!

We at Sunrise Spokane hope that you are staying happy and healthy in your home and that you are just as excited as we are about Earth Day 2020! <3

Author: @mayahlwrites