(CNN)When Elise Joshi posted a TikTok video about the Alaska oil drilling project known as Willow in early February, she didn't have high hopes it would go viral.
Joshi, 20, posts often about climate issues on TikTok for the account Gen-Z for Change, as well as her personal account. She's well aware "climate doesn't trend very often," as she told CNN. But Joshi's video about Willow was very different. It took just a few days to accumulate more than 100,000 views, eventually surpassing 300,000.
"It's my most-viewed video in months," Joshi told CNN. "This is the entire internet advocating against Willow; [President Joe Biden's] voter base, that trusted him to act on climate."
Biden's administration is expected to finalize its decision on whether to approve the ConocoPhillips Willow Project next week. If it goes through, the decadeslong oil drilling venture on the North Slope of Alaska would create thousands of jobs and establish a new source of revenue for the region.
But it would also generate enough oil to release 9.2 million metric tons of planet-warming carbon pollution a year, by the federal government's estimate, about the same as adding 2 million cars to the roads.
While the project has both supporters and opponents in its home state, it has become a lightning rod on social media. Over the past week, TikTok users in particular have galvanized around halting the project, with a staggering number of people watching and posting on the topic.
Videos with anti-Willow hashtags like #StopWillow have amassed close to 50 million views in the last week, and on Friday, Willow was on the site's top 10 trending list, behind celebrities Selena Gomez and Hailey Bieber. Much of the spike in interest has come in the last week alone.
The online activism has resulted in more than one million letters being written to the White House protesting the project, as well as a Change.org petition with 2.8 million signatures and counting.
"If that doesn't emphasize the fact that it's everyday Americans pushing back, I don't know what does," said Alex Haraus, 25, a TikTok creator whose Willow videos have garnered millions of views. "This is not an environmental movement, it's much larger than that. It's the American public that can vote."
The sudden growth of #StopWillow
TikTok creators and climate groups CNN spoke to said the sudden surge in online activism around Willow has largely been organic, and much larger than any other climate issue on the app before.
Some climate and anti-fossil fuel groups have been working with specific TikTok creators and accounts around Willow, but no one group has spearheaded the online movement around the project. Similar TikTok ca