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The Children Are Getting Restless

April 5th, 2019 by dk

Don’t look now, but the children are getting restless. News reports from Eugene, Washington and New York City show young people are taking matters into their own hands. Combatting climate change is becoming their issue.

Eugene’s so-called Climate Kids case, Juliana v. United States, was featured last weekend on “60 Minutes.” Millions of people now know about these 21 young people who are suing their government for failing to preserve life, liberty, and property for future generations.

Lead attorney Julia Olson is confident that her young clients will win their case on the facts to be presented at trial. The federal government doesn’t seem to disagree, since it is doing everything possible to prevent the trial from happening.

Indeed, the federal government has already granted most of the facts that Olson’s plaintiffs allege. Yes, the federal government has known for 50 years about the possible catastrophic effects of climate change. Yes, the government acknowledges that these changes are caused by subsidizing and burning fossil fuels. And yes, things are worse for the planet now than they’ve been for millions of years.

Those admissions have come before U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken convenes her courtroom. You can see why government officials want to avoid a trial.

But there are other stories popping up around the country. Young people around the world are using the same logic, if not the same strategies. Dozens of protesters were arrested recently when they demanded a meeting with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The protest included 20 Kentucky high school students and children as young as seven.

Stephen O’Hanlon, organizer of the Sunrise Movement, explained it to reporters this way. “We want to put senators on notice that if they don’t put us before the interests of oil and gas, we’re going to remember that when it’s our turn to vote them out.” He pledged an “army of young people” to make their case on Capitol Hill.

“Young people … are going to be the most impacted by climate change,” O’Hanlon said, “and it’s morally reprehensible for politicians to not take young voices seriously on this issue. They’re the ones who are going to be affected by it — not Mitch McConnell.”

Then there’s 13-year-old Alexandria Villasenor. The seventh-grade New Yorker goes to the United Nations every week, demanding action on climate change. She’s coordinating a worldwide School Strike 4 Climate on March 15, urging kids to skip school that day to protest.

Villasenor became a climate activist only a few months ago, after her family felt the effects of wildfires in Northern California. That alerted Villasenor to the problem, but it was a 15-year-old from Sweden who showed her how she could organize a response.

“You say you love your children above all else, and yet you are stealing their future in front of their very eyes,” Greta Thunberg proclaimed at a global climate change conference in December. “We have come here to let you know that change is coming, whether you like it or not.”

Are we there yet? No, but impatient young people seem ready to do the driving.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at


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