The kids are alright: a youth led mobilization is demanding action on climate change

Photo Credit: Robin Loznak

On March 15th, more than one million youth around the world, stepped away from their classrooms and took to the streets to demand action on climate change during the School Strike 4 Climate. The climate crisis is unfolding before our eyes: wildfires, drought, record flooding, severe storms and melting ice sheets. Global carbon emissions hit record highs in 2018. The list goes on — yet there is a continual outcry from young people around the world – what kind of future will they have if climate change continues at its current, destructive pace?

We can take inspiration in their leadership and collective call to action. The School Strike 4 Climate saw over 2000 events across 100 countries with a unified demand for immediate advancement on a just and sustainable path to stop climate change. We know what the solutions are: changing the way we generate and consume energy, changing the way our land is farmed and managed, change the way we power our cars and heat our homes. Keeping fossil fuels in the ground and accelerating the transition to 100% clean energy. We know it’s possible. And, so do these remarkable young people. 

The seeds for this international effort may have roots in the Pacific Northwest. In 2015, 21 young people came together to fight for children everywhere impacted by climate change — filed a lawsuit to secure their legal right to a safe and stable climate and healthy atmosphere. LDF Grantee, Our Children’s Trust, filed their constitutional climate lawsuit, Juliana v. U.S., against the U.S. government in the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon. Their complaint asserts that, through the government's affirmative actions that cause climate change, it has violated the youngest generation’s constitutional rights to life, liberty, and property, as well as failed to protect essential public trust resources.

This month, 30,000 youth under the age of 25 added their powerful voices of support for this landmark climate lawsuit, filing amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) briefs with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. In all, 15 amicus briefs, were filed on behalf of a diverse set of supportive communities, including members of U.S. Congress, legal scholars, religious and women’s groups, businesses, historians, medical doctors, international lawyers, environmentalists, and these young and inspiring leaders, displayed legal support for Juliana v. United States to proceed to trial. The case, which was supposed to begin trial on October 29, which was supposed to begin trial on October 29, 2018 in Eugene, Oregon, is now pending before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. A hearing is scheduled for June 4th at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in Portland, Oregon.

Swedish activist Greta Thunberg (recently nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize) the 16-year-old who caught the world’s attention with her own initial climate strike in 2018 outside the Swedish parliamentary building, said it best: "The climate crisis has already been solved. We already have all the facts and solutions. All we have to do is to wake up and change."

Last updated April 22, 2019

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