A lawsuit that inspires: two Oregon teenagers who'll raise your Earth Day bar
(above) Kelsey Juliana
April 21 - I don't know about you, but in my teenage years I spent my Earth Day hiking, gardening with my family or, on my best year, planting trees with my school. I'm absolutely sure I spent more than one doing nothing productive what so ever. Thankfully, Eugene climate champions Kelsey Juliana and Olivia Chernaik were a little more ambitious. Punting all millennial stereotypes of apathy and laziness into the nearest correctly labeled recycling bin, these two are suing the State of Oregon for not addressing climate change. This process began in 2011 when the two were just 11 and 15. Their case specifically addresses the public trust doctrine, the legal obligation of states to ensure natural resources for current and future generations.
Their argument essentially boils down to this: Oregon has official goals to reduce emissions 75% by 2050, but don’t have anything concrete to enforce those promises. Climate change also threatens Oregon’s natural resources and future generations’ abilities to enjoy them the same way we have today. In combination, the state’s lack of action amounts to a violation of the public trust doctrine and the state is infringing on these two girls' rights, as well as everyone else's.
The suite was initially dismissed as Judge Rasmussen ruled only the executive and legislative branches had the authority to implement climate plans. But the two inspiring young women pressed on and appealed. Earlier this month a Lane County judge heard arguments on why the court should or should not force the state to do more on climate change.
Kelsey (19) and Olivia (15) will spend their Earth Day awaiting a court ruling on whether they’ve pushed an entire state towards climate action. These two certainly have set the standard for youthful accomplishments and should inspire all of us to set our bars just a bit higher. Personally, my teenage years of track meets and soccer practice are starting to feel a tiny bit underwhelming.
Nick Abraham - editor and lead contributor of Oil Check Northwest