The 18 Year Old College Freshman Taking The Gov’t To Task Over Climate Change


Ever been told you are “too young” or inexperienced? Ever had someone make you feel like you need to wait your turn or wait in line when you have a bright idea that you want to share with the world. Unfortunately, there are young up-and-comers every day in every industry being told these statements and it is a damn shame.

When did we become a society that only values Harvard degrees and older experienced people when it comes to opinions? Thankfully there is a whole generation out there who couldn’t care less about what others think because their passion for an issue is much greater.

One person who is a living example of that is 18 year old college freshman Kelsey Juliana from Oregon. Her passion: climate change and she is not exactly taking baby steps to make an impact.

She is taking the US government to task and making others around her realize that politicians need to do better.

“I want to remind them that we are their employer,” said Juliana, 18, a freshman at Warren Wilson College in North Carolina. “The government works for us. If you’re not doing your job, then I’m going to call you out on it.”

Juliana is a plaintiff in a court case against Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber (D) and the state. She and co-plaintiff Olivia Chernaik, 14, claim that their government isn’t doing enough to protect its current and future citizens from the devastating effects of climate change.

The case was filed in early January and will begin hearings in March.

“This could be a landmark decision on the question: Does government, as trustee over our essential natural resources, have to protect it from carbon pollution and the impacts of climate disruption?” said Julia Olson, executive director of the nonprofit Our Children’s Trust, and originator of a suite of youth-led lawsuits since 2011.


It’s not like we hear of these cases every day, where governments are literally being sued for their inaction. Not sure why Americans haven’t done this more often for other issues…

This lawsuit is being watched closely by experts because already it has gotten much further in the judicial system than others similar to it.

The motion filed on behalf of Juliana and Chernaik asks that Oregon be ordered to develop and implement a plan that will contribute to a global reduction in emissions necessary to “return atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide to 350 ppm by the year 2100.” The state’s answer acknowledges the “serious threat” of climate change, yet argues a lack of legal basis to extend the public trust doctrine to the atmosphere.

In the meantime Juliana hasn’t exactly been waiting on the couch twiddling her thumbs, she has organized an activist march across the United States called the Great March for Climate Action.

The overall message is that politicians are not acting as appropriate trustees of the environment and not representing the interests of the people as best they can.

One of the world’s leading climate scientists James Hansen told the Huffington Post that eventually these kind of cases and issues will awaken world leaders to stop being so blind about climate change. However by then it might be too late to act, where as now they have an opportunity to take preventative measures before it gets out of hand.

“By the time the climate change becomes obvious it is hard to prevent much larger change in the next several decades,” said James, whose 2013 scientific paper has become a basis for evidence for the girls’ case, and also outlines in great detail how fossil fuels are the number one evil when it comes to the environment.

Kelsey and Olivia are pointing at a few proposed fossil fuel projects for the Pacific Northwest as a reason to get the attention of the Governor.

“For a state court to declare that the atmosphere is a public trust subject to control of the state government would be an unprecedented holding,” said Willy Jay, a lawyer with expertise in Supreme Court and environmental cases, which is why the outcome of this case is being watched very closely by environmentalists.


Kelsey believes politicians need to listen to the voice of the people and going after the jugular is the way to potentially make that happen.

“I’m paying them and they don’t seem to be seeing how their decisions are impacting me,” said Kelsey. “They are speaking from their wallets and not from their hearts or heads.”

In an appearance on Bill Moyers’ news talk show (video below), Juliana spoke at length about her case and why it is going to affect the future of all youth today.

“I just think, you know, if I’m worried now about having children, I can’t imagine 10, 20 years from now like the life that they’ll take. The worries that will be on me when I’m a mother will just be incredible.”

Kelsey us welcoming the attention she is getting from news media as she hopes it will encourage other young men and women to get involved in political issues that affect them, and recognize how much they can change a situation just by speaking up.

“I think there’s so much power in youth standing up and saying ‘Will you please protect this vital resource…for me and my children?’ I think that’s so powerful. And to have someone decline that is just…I don’t understand it.”

Ya heard? A new day of reckoning has come where the younger generations are calling into account the irresponsible and damaging actions of those who have gone before us. Your issue may not be climate change (although it is something that should be on everyone’s radar), but whatever your fight is, just know how vital your voice is to the conversation.




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