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The New Generation of Climate Activists Are Media-Savvy Teens

by WS Editors

May 23, 2019 | Culture, Environment

Anders Hellberg

Greta Thunberg was 15 when she initiated a school strike for the climate last fall outside the Swedish Parliament. Her protest, known as Fridays for Future, has since spread across the globe and has now arrived in the United States. Greta posted this call to action on YouTube.

We are on a school strike for the climate. Every Friday we will sit outside the Swedish Parliament until Sweden is aligned with the Paris agreement. We urge everyone to do the same, wherever you are, sit outside your parliament or local government building until your nation is on a safe pathway to a below 2-degree warming target.

If we include all of Sweden’s current emissions, including aviation, shipping and imported goods, and if we take into account the aspect of equity to poorer countries clearly stated in the Paris agreement and the Kyoto Protocol, rich countries like Sweden need to stop producing emissions by at least 15 percent every year, according to Upsala University.

By doing so we enable a chance for developing countries to heighten their standard of living, by building some of the infrastructure we have already built, such as roads, schools, hospitals, clean drinking water, electricity, etc.

Sweden is often referred to as a role model, but if we include all of our emissions, we actually have among the top 10 highest ecological footprints per capita. If everyone lived as we do, we would need 4.2 planet Earths per year.

That means that countries like Sweden steal 3.2 years of natural resources from future generations and poorer parts of the world every year.

We who belong to those future generations demand Sweden and all other countries put an end to that and start living within the planetary boundaries.

Some people say that we should be in school instead, but why should we be studying for a future that soon will be no more, and when no one is doing anything whatsoever to save that future? And what is the point of learning facts within the school system, when the most important facts given by the finest science of that same school system clearly mean nothing to our politicians and our society?

Four years ago, when she was 18, Kelsey Juliana became the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit to force the United States government to act on climate issues. On June 4, in Portland, Oregon, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has scheduled oral argument to hear why the federal government believes the suit should be dismissed. According to prehearing documents, the government will argue that the plaintiffs lack standing, have petitioned the wrong branch, and that their constitutional claims fail on the merits. Kelsey explained the reasoning behind the suit online at Boingboing.net.

My name is Kelsey Juliana, and I’m suing the United States government for causing and accelerating the climate change crisis. I’m 22 years old, and I’ve been a climate advocate for more than half of my life.

The Constitution guarantees all Americans the right to life, liberty, and property. But how is anyone supposed to live a life of freedom amid a climate crisis? My own government is violating my constitutional rights by its ongoing and deliberate actions that cause climate change, and it’s not right.

I, along with 20 other young people from around the country, filed a lawsuit against the federal government in 2015, called Juliana v. United States. We’re not asking for money. Instead, we’re asking the Court to order the government to develop and implement a National Climate Recovery Plan based on the best available science.

This plan should end the reign of fossil fuels and quickly decarbonize our atmosphere so that we can stabilize our climate system before it’s too late. The longer we go without climate recovery, the more we risk allowing our climate to spiral completely out of control.

All of the expert witnesses in our lawsuit say that we are currently—already—in the “danger zone” and an “emergency situation” with only 1 degree Celsius of planetary heating. Allowing the planet to heat up any more is not safe for our species, as well as so many others. And according to the Trump administration’s most recent environmental impact statement, the planet could heat as much as 7 degrees Fahrenheit before the end of this century.
We cannot allow this to happen because we simply will not survive.

We originally filed our lawsuit against the Obama administration. That administration tried to have the case dismissed, but the judge ruled in our favor and found that we should be allowed to go to trial.

In 2017, the Trump administration inherited the lawsuit, and it has done everything in its power, employing every conceivable tactic, to deny my fellow plaintiffs and me our right to present our case in court. This administration is so fiercely attempting to silence our voices.

At this point, every level of the federal judiciary—the U.S. District Court, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, and the Supreme Court—has denied the Trump administration’s efforts to have the case thrown out. Yet it will not halt its efforts to avoid standard legal procedures and confront us, the nation’s youth, in court.

Just recently, the Trump administration asked the United States Supreme Court to again circumvent the ordinary procedures of federal litigation and stop our case from going to trial.

What we’re asking for could change everything.

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