Apr 09, 2015

The Generation Acting on Climate

Earlier this week, two teenagers from Eugene had their historic case against the Governor of Oregon and the state government heard in court. The young women say the state is failing them, and their generation, by not doing more to reduce climate pollution.

It’s been a long journey for Kelsey Juliana, 19, and Olivia Chernaik, 14, who first asked to hold the state accountable four years ago (at just 15 and 11 years old). From Lane County Circuit Court, to a state appeals court and back to Lane County -- they’ve earned quite an insider’s education on the legal system.

As young people, Kelsey and Olivia are taking ownership of the struggle to protect the atmosphere. Their argument to the court is this: the air should be protected under the public trust doctrine-- the same as state waters and coastlines we all share. Under that protection, it is the government's duty to maintain the health of the atmosphere for the public's use. They know we’re the first generation to feel the effects of climate change, and we’re the last one who can act to stop it. It can be an overwhelming responsibility, but the teens are tackling the issue head-on; it’s impossible not to feel inspired.

On Tuesday, Kelsey was in court -- having flown back home from college in North Carolina -- with her legal team from CRAG Law Center and Our Children’s Trust.

“The atmosphere should be a public trust resource because it is essential to our survival, and the state has a sovereign obligation to protect that natural resource for future generations,” said lead attorney Chris Winter. “We’re facing irreversible harm for a natural resource; that is the imperative.”

The state set goals to cut greenhouse gas pollution, they argue, and it is failing to meet those goals. Government must enact a recovery plan that will help stabilize the climate.

It’s clear the impact the girls’ leadership has had. The hearing room and overflow rooms were packed -- standing room only with children sitting on parents’ laps. Even more supporters assembled outside the courthouse.

Climate allies of all ages from across the state left school and work to send a singular, strong message: ensuring a healthy future is not a political issue; it’s a moral one. The time to act on climate is now. Climate change is an issue that needs attention from all branches of government.

“I’m angry about climate change. It makes me really angry. It’s an issue we’re all talking about. I want us to get serious about it,” said a freshman from South Eugene High School, whose class left campus to attend the hearing.

Caitlin, a student at Oak Hill Middle School noted “We learned about climate change in school. It’s scary, but Kelsey inspires me. She makes me feel like kids can make the world better.”

At Renew Oregon we want to enforce emission limits and make polluters pay their fair share. We can safeguard a healthy climate while growing the local, clean-energy economy. Oregon can lead the way. If you agree, join the hundreds who have signed the Renew Oregon pledge and learn how you can help.

If you’re on Twitter, why not send @Kelsey_Juliana a tweet to thank her for her leadership and taking a stand. She inspires all of us. Together, we can Renew Oregon.