Kelsey, 16, is from Eugene, Oregon.

TRUST Oregon: Kelsey Juliana Asks Courts to Recognize her Generation’s Right to a Healthy Atmosphere

Posted on October 10, 2012 by Kelly Matheson

Since the world’s key decision makers and our legislature’s refuse to lead us out of our climate crisis and protect our air and water, our youth, between classes, after school and on weekends, are stepping up and asking the courts to recognize and honor their constitutional right to a healthy atmosphere. In Oregon, Kelsey Juliana’s parents taught her not to take the air and water for granted.

Kelsey’s appreciation of our essential natural resources combined with her love for the clear rivers, old growth forests and rugged coastlines lead her, along with 12-year old Olivia Chernaik and their mothers, to bring a case to compel the Oregon State government to implement a viable Climate Recovery Plan for reducing carbon emissions to protect Oregon’s natural resources. The Oregon Court of Appeals will hear their case this winter.

Watch Kelsey’s story about how climate change is affecting her community in Oregon:


Saving Up for College and A Healthy Atmosphere

From the moment a child is born – and often before – parents start saving and investing in their child’s college education because we have a collective understanding that education is, quite literally, an investment in our children’s future. All parents also understand college fund math – the sooner the account is created and we begin to make regular contributions, the smaller the contributions will need to be to ensure the exponential growth that is needed so that someday our children can pursue the educational path they are most passionate about. In short, the sooner we start, the more doable college will be. But a college fund is only one aspect of what our children will need to pursue their dreams. They will also need a healthy atmosphere and at the rate we are going, chances look bleak.

The mathematical principles are the same for a carbon fund as for college fund. Scientific consensus holds that to have a properly functioning world, we can max out at 350 ppm of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. We are currently at 387 ppm so we have to save. If we peak our carbon emissions in 2013 and begin saving then – aka leaving the fossil fuels in the ground versus pumping them into the air – then our top scientific advisors tell us that we have to save a minimum of 6% of carbon every year from current levels and plant a lot of trees. If we wait until 2020 to start saving carbon, then we have to save a minimum of 15% per year. The former is feasible. The latter is not. To download the scientific paper laying out the carbon, click here and download the work provided by Dr. James Hanson.

Over the last 18 months, I have been struggling to understand why we are so committed to saving for our children’s education but, as a global community, we are unwilling to save to protect our children’s most basic environmental human rights. I struggle because, at the end of the day, a child could live happily without a college education but they cannot live period without air and water. Kelsey understands this, I hope our elected leaders will too.

Kelsey’s story is the eighth film in the ten-part, award-winning documentary series Stories of TRUST: Calling for Climate Recovery featuring the voices of daring youth from across the country who are pursuing lawsuits and asking the ruling generation to hear their climate change concerns. TRUST Oregon will be part of the Climate Reality Project’s 24-hours of Reality on November 14 and has already been pre-screened at the Women’s Congress for Future Generations  in Moab, Utah.

To support Kelsey and the youth across the country that are making a difference for all our lives, please watch her film then go to Our Children’s Trust and the iMatter Campaign to take action. Let’s show all our children that their safety, well-being and lives are just as important as their education.

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