Cher Gilmore | Youth Step Up to Save the Earth

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Earth Day offers a special opportunity to look at how Mother Earth is faring under the onslaughts of our oil-based society, what’s being done to help her, and what else needs to be done.

Although Donald Trump is doing everything in his power to repeal protections for her air, water, soil and wildlife, others are stepping up to challenge his moves and take us in a direction that will serve the planet and all life forms. Among these “good actors” are young people around the world. It’s their future that’s most jeopardized by the consequences of climate change, and they’re ON IT!

Several youth-led organizations to address the devastation of climate chaos have arisen recently, spurred on by the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report saying we have only about 12 years to limit climate change catastrophe. Perhaps the best known is YouthStrike4Climate, which was kick-started by 15-year-old Swedish schoolgirl Greta Thunberg, who single-handedly started a school strike for climate in front of the Swedish Parliament building. 

She was soon joined by others, and was ultimately invited to speak at the U.N. climate conference in Katowice, Poland, last year.

Greta told the delegates, “You say you love your children above all else, and yet you are stealing their future in front of their very eyes. Until you start focusing on what needs to be done rather than what is politically possible, there is no hope. We can’t solve a crisis without treating it as a crisis. (…)We have come here to let you know that change is coming, whether you like it or not. The real power belongs to the people.”

Greta continues to strike every Friday outside Parliament. And this year, in a spontaneous groundswell, international demonstrations inspired by her activism took place on March 15, organized by Fridays for Future (fridaysforfuture.org). The website states that about 1.6 million students participated at more than 2,000 locations in 125 countries.  

The American branch of YouthStrike4Climate (youthclimatestrikeus.org) puts forward a complete platform, including support for the Green New Deal, declaring climate change a national emergency, halting all fossil fuel infrastructure projects, and tying all government decisions to current scientific research.

The Sunrise Movement (SunriseMovement.org) similarly works toward stopping climate change and creating millions of jobs in the process. They coordinate with other youth groups and are now planning a “Road to the Green New Deal” — eight tour stops and more than 100 town halls across America—to educate the public on climate change solutions. They’ve already done some well-publicized lobbying on Capitol Hill outside House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office. 

Extinction Rebellion (https://xrebellion.org), birthed in the UK and spread worldwide, declares “international non-violent rebellion against the world’s governments for criminal inaction on the ecological crisis.” They demand that governments tell the truth about the ecological crisis, and call for zero emissions and drawdown by 2025, participatory democracy, and a just transition to renewables that prioritizes vulnerable populations. 

Thinking globally and acting locally in our area, the Ecos Chicos, a club with chapters at several William S. Hart Union High School District high schools, aims to promote sustainability by such activities as placing recycling bins around campuses, urging students to carpool, planting trees, and sponsoring beach cleanups.

Another approach young people are taking is through the courts. In 2015, a group of 21 young American plaintiffs sued the government in Juliana v. United States, arguing  that the “youngest generation’s constitutional rights to life, liberty, and property” are being violated by government policies that promote the use of fossil fuels — despite knowing that carbon emissions are a primary cause of global warming. They also claim their generation has been disproportionately burdened by the environmental impact of climate change, which violates the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause. The government has tried mightily to get the case dismissed — so far unsuccessfully. 

The next action in Juliana v United States will be in Portland, Oregon, on June 4, when the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments for the federal government’s latest appeal. 

Last April, youth in Colombia won a similar lawsuit against their government, and parallel cases are proceeding in Belgium, India, Pakistan and Norway. New actions are being planned in Australia, Canada and the UK as well. 

What can you do to help? Support the young people in any way possible! Reduce your carbon footprint. Call or write your congressional representatives. And consider joining local environmental groups like Citizens’ Climate Lobby and SCOPE, which are actively working toward ecological preservation and national legislation to reduce carbon emissions.

Cher Gilmore is Group Leader of Citizens’ Climate Lobby, Santa Clarita Chapter, and lives in Newhall.

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