On March 15, empty desks took up the majority of classrooms. The students who regularly fill them are not skipping class to hangout or sleep in; they are trying to save the planet. Walking down streets or marching to their nation’s capital, teens are finally pushing their posters up in the air and their voices out of their chest in protest of climate change.
Young people need to get behind the earth. At the current rate that nations are burning fossil fuels and increasing carbon emissions, there will not be an inhabitable planet Earth for much longer. The thought that this generation’s grandchildren will not have a safe place to live in is terrifying, but it is not a thought that many people concern themselves with. It is a thought that most people ignore since they know that it will not be during their lifetime. the current generation that see the effects of climate change, and must and take on the initial impact of the damage done in previous generations.
Ever since the 2015 lawsuit Juliana v. United States, the youth community has been a huge force in the climate change movement. This case is what many young activists are using as their platform for the environmental debate because it is at the leading edge of environmental law.. According to the ABA Journal the suit asserts that the government violated youths’ rights by allowing activities that harmed the climate and sought the government to adopt methods for reducing carbon dioxide emissions.
While previous lawsuits about climate change have been dismissed by U.S. courts, Juliana v. United States gained attention in 2016 when the case came to U.S. District Court of Oregon Judge Ann Aiken. She upheld the idea that access to a clean environment was a fundamental right as stated by Climate Liability News, therefore the case was allowed to proceed. Since then, the government has sought to dismiss the case for various concerns, and four years later the trial is still on hold.
Although coming to the realization that teens cannot sue the U.S. government, teens are taking the matters into their own hands. Organizing a worldwide walkout titled Fridays For Future, teens are encouraged to, as much as it makes teachers and parents cringe, hit the streets instead of the books in protest of climate change. Marking their calendars for March 15, students in over 1700 places and in 112 countries around the world protested to take back their world.
The woman behind organizing this greenhouse gas gang of teenagers is not even old enough to vote yet. 16-year-old Greta Thunberg from Sweden is the face of the youth climate movement. She planted the seed of the movement at Sweden’s parliamentary elections in 2018. She sat outside the country’s Parliament building with a sign demanding radical action from the government for three weeks. Her efforts even got the attention of world leaders after she delivered a speech at the UN’s climate conference in December. Her unending support for the planet landed her a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Despite all the progress that has been made, there is still a long way to go before the planet can pass any health exams. What the protesting teens are saying is a very simple concept: if someone is sick, they should be taken to the doctor to help themselves heal. By continuing to poison the planet, the population is not letting it heal, and eventually, it will not be able to heal.