Now’s not the time to backtrack on climate action, Pasadena

Send a letter to your council member and Mayor Tornek asking them to immediately reinstate the ban and increase fact-based communication with the public regarding the safety of reusable items. 

Pasadena did not need to do this. While Gov. Newsom did temporarily suspend the state’s plastic bag ban, Pasadena was grandfathered in and left to make its own choice on whether or not to follow suit. For once, Pasadena could have been a climate leader in an ever so small, but ever so important way. Again, they failed us.

Let me be clear, there is no doubt that the safety of frontline workers, protection of vulnerable community members, and efforts to flatten the curve of COVID-19 are the first priority and I fully support policies that actually protect public health. However, this suspension lacks any evidentiary basis for rolling back a sound policy that mitigates both the climate and plastic pollution crises. Reusable bags, especially when washed, do not increase the risk of transmission of the coronavirus. When asked for her opinion by Councilman Madison, Dr. Goh, Pasadena’s Director of Public Health and Health Officer, said she was “agnostic” on the issue and does not think inanimate objects pose a significant risk in transmitting the virus. They’re not even listening to their own scientists.

Just like when we asked them to commit to not accepting fossil fuel money, supporting a local Green New Deal, or declaring a climate emergency, City Council has chosen to ignore the science and not be brave on climate action by rescinding the bag ban “until further notice.” Once again, they have taken the easy way out, pushing the climate crisis even more into the hands of my generation. To be clear, there were other options that would have taken just the slightest amount of work to implement: increasing communication with the public to wash their reusable bags often, or even temporarily suspending the surcharge on paper bags (which, as Mayor Tornek pointed out in the meeting, some stores are already doing illegally).

Make sure Pasadena City Council knows you’re not happy with their decision by sending a letter.

We need City Council to immediately reinstate Pasadena’s bag ban and disseminate fact-based information and guidance instead of suspending waste reduction and pollution prevention policies. The bag ban suspension is a shortsighted response that encourages disposables, and perpetuates a throwaway culture that takes us further away from being a healthy and sustainable community. 

Shine bright,

Hub Coordinator, Sunrise Sequoyah


Pasadena Mayor Tornek Responds to Letters Asking Him to Declare a Climate Emergency

On Friday, January 24th, Mayor Tornek responded to the letters we’ve been sending to him asking him (and City Council) to declare a climate emergency. Read his response below, and send your letter now!

This is in response to your email regarding my willingness to declare a Climate Emergency as expressed at the Arroyo Seco Foundation candidate forum held on 1/14/20.

While I believe that the planet is indeed faced with a Climate Emergency, I am not willing to sign on to the Climate Emergency Declaration you have suggested.

Throughout the discussion at the Arroyo Seco Forum, I explained how I believe that Pasadena’s interests are best served when we develop our own responses to issues that impact our City, rather than signing on to national or international declarations.

The Declaration that you attached outlines specific steps, time-frames and support for national legislative policies that are at odds with our locally adopted and annually updated, Climate Action Plan. Pasadena’s plan is the product of detailed community discussions that respond to local conditions, California requirements and resident participation. I do not support preempting its programs and policies with the suggested template.

However, in view of mounting evidence of global damage and a growing demand for action particularly among our youth, I agree that our Plan’s introduction does not convey an adequate sense of urgency. So I have asked staff to discuss revisions that would reflect the emerging realities. This is exactly what should happen within the framework of a local document that is frequently adjusted as new information and changing circumstances emerge.

Thank you for your interest in this critical subject. I hope that you will participate in the ongoing dialogue.


Terry Tornek


Climate Action Forum, Declaration of a Climate Emergency, and the Green New Deal Pledge

It’s been a busy few weeks! I’ve been busy with a bunch of other Sequoyah students (and other organizations) planning and strategizing about our next steps. To try to spare your inboxes, we’re now going to send no more than two emails a week to our general list, unless we’re coming up on an important action (like a climate strike or the Climate Action Forum). (We’ll still email you specific follow ups when you, for example, RSVP to an event or sign a petition.)

Climate Action Forum – we want your questions!

We’re preparing for the Climate Action Forum on February 4 and we want your help with questions! While we can’t guarantee we’ll be able to ask every question we get, we want to make sure we have a diverse set of questions to ask the candidates.

To stay organized and on topic, we’re periodically going to ask for questions in specific topic areas. This week, we’re asking for questions about energy and green spaces. Submit yours now!

Declaring a Climate Emergency in Pasadena

On January 14, Arroyo Seco Foundation held a mayoral candidate forum on the environment. While all of the candidates argued for incremental change in one way or another, they all said they would support declaring a climate emergency. Tell our current City Council they need to do that now so that the climate crisis is considered in every decision they make by sending a letter (it’s pre-written and automatic—just enter your contact details and we’ll send it for you!).

We’re planning on going to City Council on Monday, January 27th to ask them in person to declare a climate emergency—can you join us? The meeting starts at 6:30, as usual, but if you want to speak (highly encouraged!), we strongly recommend arriving no later than 5:15 PM so that you get a speaker card filled out and turned in—otherwise you could end up waiting until the end of the meeting to speak.

Update on the Green New Deal pledge

On December 9, we asked Pasadena City Council to sign the Green New Deal pledge that many of you signed a petition asking them to do. None of them did. So, last Monday we called them out for not even responding to our emails:

Why Pasadena needs a Green New Deal!

In case you missed it, last week I published an op-ed in Sequoyah’s newspaper outlining the responsibility Pasadena has in tackling the climate crisis. Give it a read, and submit your own op-eds to local newspapers!

Press Release

Pasadena Youth to Hold Climate Action Forum for Pasadena Mayoral and City Council Candidates

Pasadena, CA — On February 4, 2020, Pasadena voters will gather at Robinson Recreation Center (1081 N. Fair Oaks Ave.) to attend the city’s first-ever youth-led Climate Action Forum. All mayoral and city council candidates have been invited to attend the forum and discuss their ideas and vision for how Pasadena can be a leader on the climate crisis and be a more sustainable, climate-resilient city.

“Pasadena is in a unique position to be a leader on the climate crisis, and cities like ours have a responsibility to lead during a period of federal inaction,” said Ozzy Simpson, a senior at Sequoyah School and co-organizer of the Pasadena Climate Action Forum. “Local, systemic change—such as enhanced public transportation systems, cleaner and renewable energy, and energy-efficient buildings—from mayors and city councilmembers is required.”

For the first time in Pasadena history, the forum’s moderating panel will be composed entirely of people under the age of 35, highlighting that young people have the most at stake in addressing the climate crisis. Pasadena’s youth vote is also expected to surge in the March 3 elections, given mobilizing issues like the climate crisis and Pasadena’s elections sharing the same ballot as higher-turnout statewide and primary elections. 

Mayoral candidates will participate in their own portion of the forum from 6 to 7 PM, while city council candidates will participate from 7 to 8 PM. Prior to the forum, local environmental groups will table to share how concerned voters can get involved in their organizations. 

The Pasadena Climate Action Forum builds on the recent momentum from local students who led the September 20 and December 6 climate strikes at Pasadena City Hall in an effort to make the city take serious action against the climate crisis. At the December 6 climate strike, three city council candidates and one mayoral candidate signed the Green New Deal pledge, committing themselves to championing the legislation on a federal and local level as well as not accepting donations of over $200 from the fossil fuel industry. The sitting mayor and councilmembers were asked by local students to sign the same pledge on December 9.

The Pasadena Climate Action Forum is being organized by an intergenerational coalition of local organizations concerned about the climate crisis, including the newly formed Sunrise Sequoyah hub, Pasadena Environmental Advocates, Day One, Pasadena Complete Streets Coalition, and more. If other organizations are interested in joining, please contact Ozzy and David at the numbers listed at the top of this press release.

RSVP to the Pasadena Climate Action Forum at

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Press Release

Pasadena Students Behind September, December Climate Strikes Form Sunrise Hub

Pasadena, CA  After organizing two climate strikes at Pasadena City Hall this year under the name Pasadena Climate Strike, a group of nine students from Pasadena’s Sequoyah School recently formed a high school hub of the Sunrise Movement.

“Forming this hub will allow us to focus on other actions besides climate strikes and build our momentum in the lead-up to the 2020 elections,” said Ozzy Simpson, Co-President of Sequoyah’s student council and Sequoyah’s Sunrise Hub Coordinator. “I’m excited to see our hub grow and encourage change locally.”

In September, over 500 people joined the strike led by Sequoyah students and participated in a die-in. In December, about 100 people joined in another strike, die-in, and march. Over 100 people signed a petition recently asking Pasadena City Council to champion a Green New Deal and get fossil fuel money out of local elections, that students from the Sunrise Sequoyah hub presented at Monday’s City Council meeting.

The new hub has already started working on their future actions, including a climate action forum with Pasadena’s mayoral and city council candidates in February in partnership with other local environmentally-concerned organizations.


Sunrise is building a movement led by young people to stop climate change and create millions of good-paying jobs in the process. We’re transforming our generation’s anger and frustration at witnessing a lifetime of political inaction on climate into a mass movement to build the political consensus for the real solutions to the crisis. We’re building the bridges between protest, youth organizing and electoral politics.


Green New Deal Petition Signatures Delivered!

I want to thank everyone who signed our petition asking Pasadena City Council to pledge their support for a Green New Deal and getting fossil fuel money out of local politics so much.

After six hours of waiting last night, I was able to deliver the petition’s signatures (and pledges to sign) to the council members at 12:30 AM. None of the sitting members signed publicly last night, but we are following up with them soon to ensure they do.

Thank you to the select few who waited the entire meeting out and stayed to support. For those that couldn’t make it or had to leave early (smart choice), here are my remarks.

If you didn’t know, District 2 candidate Felicia Williams, District 4 candidate Charlotte Bland, and District 6 candidate Ryan Bell all signed the Green New Deal pledge last Friday at our strike, along with mayoral candidate Jason Hardin. Other non-incumbent candidates, including District 2 candidate Tricia Keane and District 6 candidate Tamerlin Godley, also plan to sign the pledge soon.

Thank you again to all those who signed the petition, and we’ll be sending updates soon.

Happy holidays,

Ozzy Simpson

Press Release

Pasadena Students to Join Global Climate Strike on December 6

Students will join activists at Pasadena City Hall in demanding Pasadena City Council members pledge to support a Green New Deal and not accept donations from the fossil fuel industry

Pasadena, CA — On Friday, December 6, as world leaders gather at the UN’s annual climate conference in Madrid, Pasadena students will participate in a climate strike from 10 AM to 2 PM at Pasadena City Hall. Led by a student committee from Sequoyah School, protesters will be demanding Pasadena City Council members support a local Green New Deal and pledge to not accept campaign contributions from fossil fuel companies or executives. Strikers are also demanding respect of indigenous land, environmental justice, protection of biodiversity, sustainable agriculture, and more.

“After a successful climate strike on September 20 at Pasadena City Hall, it’s time for us to show Pasadena politicians that we’re serious when we ask them to treat the climate crisis as an emergency and to stand with students to fight for a Green New Deal,” said Ozzy Simpson, Co-President of Sequoyah’s student council and one of the students leading the Pasadena Climate Strike. “We will not stop striking until governments take swift action to combat the climate crisis we face.”

During the strike, leaders will be collecting signatures for a petition that they will deliver to City Council members at the December 9th City Council meeting asking them to officially pledge to champion a Green New Deal and not take contributions of over $200 from oil, gas, and coal industry executives, lobbyists, or PACs and instead prioritize the health of families, climate, and democracy over fossil fuel industry profits.

“We are in the midst of the sixth great extinction,” said Milo Knell, a member of the Sequoyah student committee planning the strike. “200 species of plants, insects, birds, and mammals go extinct every day. This is 1,000 times greater than the resting rate of nature. And if we don’t act soon, we may soon become just one more tragic species on this list.” 

The December strike builds on the momentum of September 20th’s historic Climate Strike, the largest youth-led climate mobilization in United States history. With over 500 people in Pasadena striking, 650,000 people in the United States striking across over 1,300 events, and 7 million worldwide, September 20th was a call for elected officials and world leaders to rise up and address the climate emergency with swift and effective policies.

In September, the Youth Climate Strike Coalition released five policy demands: respect for indigenous land, environmental justice, protecting biodiversity, the implementation of sustainable agriculture, and a Green New Deal.

The Youth Climate Strike Coalition, coordinated by Future Coalition, includes organizations such as Earth Guardians, Earth Uprising, Fridays for Future USA, Extinction Rebellion-Youth, International Indigenous Youth Council, Sunrise Movement, US Youth Climate Strike, and Zero Hour.

The Climate Strike is a multigenerational and intersectional movement, with youth-led organizations leading national organizing efforts with support from an adult coalition, including organizations such as Greenpeace, Sierra Club, Greenfaith, Hip Hop Caucus, NRDC, SEIU, and March On.

Find out more information about the national strikes at 

Find out more information about the Pasadena strike at

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Press Release

Sequoyah School Students Will Join Climate Strike on September 20

Students will join activists in a public die-in at Pasadena City Hall

Pasadena, CA – On Friday, September 20, three days before the U.N. Climate Summit in New York, high school students from Sequoyah School will participate in a climate strike and die-in. Led by a student committee, students will march from Sequoyah’s high school campus at 301 N. Orange Blvd. to Pasadena City Hall starting at 11 AM. They will remain at City Hall for an hour to participate in a public die-in, a form of protest where activists will simulate the act of being dead. Sequoyah students will be striking alongside other members of the public to demand a Green New Deal, respect of indigenous land, environmental justice, protection of biodiversity, sustainable agriculture, and more.

“Climate change is the biggest threat we will likely face during our lives, and with only a few years (or even months) to act, we must treat it as an emergency and combat it in every way we can,” said Ozzy Simpson, Co-President of Sequoyah’s student council and one of the students leading the Pasadena Climate Strike. “With more disastrous weather events, rising sea levels, and changing landscapes, we need to make significant changes to save this planet, and quickly.”

In the morning leading up to the strike, students at Sequoyah’s high school campus will also participate in workshops and discussions led by high school students and faculty. Discussions will focus on the causes of climate change, why people deny climate change, and how to combat climate change as individuals, among other topics.

“Climate change is a frightening, imminent reality which we are all facing, and as students, even global citizens, it is imperative that we stand together and fight for the future we want to see,” said Julian Suh-Toma, who serves with Simpson as Co-President of Sequoyah’s student council.

The Climate Strike on September 20 is part of a growing movement of youth and adults, institutional and grassroots organizations, climate-focused and social justice groups, that are coming together as a unified front to demand the change needed to protect the future of the planet. Nationally coordinated by Future Coalition, this effort includes youth organizations such as Earth Uprising, Fridays for Future USA, Extinction Rebellion-Youth, the Sunrise Movement, US Youth Climate Strike, Zero Hour, Earth Guardians and International Indigenous Youth Council. The Youth Climate Strike Coalition is steering the national campaign, with the active support, participation, and collaboration from an Adult Climate Strike Coalition, which includes leading national progressive organizations such as, Greenpeace, SEIU and March On. 

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