Alan Journet, Cofacilitator of Southern Oregon Climate Action Now
Many climate activists have been watching the efforts of Julia Olson and Our Children’s Trust (OCT) for many years as they assist our youth in holding governments accountable for failure to act to protect the nation’s natural resources, managed in trust for future generations.
I start with the conclusion: this is one of the most powerful and persuasive video efforts I have seen to make the case that our institutions are failing us and that we urgently need action to address the climate crisis.
This video offers an entertaining and informative compilation of video depicting the reasons the young people initially engaged in the action combined with coverage of the ups and downs of the last few years of the campaign ending with a Court deciding that the courts have no authority or ability to establish and monitor a program that would address the climate crisis. Tellingly, we learn the court fully accepted two of the three basic elements required to compel judicial action: that the plaintiffs have been damaged and will be damaged by global warming and that greenhouse gas emissions resulting from human activity are responsible. Despite that, and the courts being the last resort, by a 2:1 vote the three-panel bench declined to act. Following this defeat, an undeterred OCT has filed a motion that would amend their complaint to focus on obtaining a declaratory judgment that the nation’s fossil fuel-based energy system is unconstitutional.
I was particularly struck by the segment that so very effectively responded to the perceived need of the plaintiffs to demonstrate that the government knew of the problem and its cause but simply failed to act. Rather than responding appropriately to the science presented to them, Administration after Administration has for decades assiduously dug its heels in to promoting fossil fuels rather than clean renewable energy. This transparently (now, at least) was undertaken despite frequent placating words from both Republican and Democratic Presidents about how they vowed to protect our climate and environment for future generations.
While it is clear that, as Julia Olson argued, none of this would have happened had it not been for the energy and commitment f the plaintiffs, I think I also evident that none of it would have happened absent the dedication, commitment, and abilities of Julia Olson. Julia’s ongoing energy, enthusiasm, and support for the plaintiffs was conspicuous throughout the film. Kudos to Julia Olson!
As I reflected on the film, the current failure of legislators and state agencies in Oregon to hold the gas companies accountable for the misinformation and disinformation that they use to promote their product came to mind. The depressing realization that legislators, agencies, the culpable corporation executives themselves, and now the courts will not acknowledge and respond appropriately to the climate crisis led me to what seems the only remedy: if our institutions will not hold the perpetrators accountable, then we must do it ourselves. We know that racial justice, gender equality, and LGBTQ rights, for example, have made huge progress over the years. We have seen how rapidly, after years of activist pressure, the change in public acceptance occurred once inroads were made into the public perception of the constitutional requirement for basic human justice. The message, it seems to me, is that those of us who are aware of the urgency of the climate crisis must redouble our effort to develop the public / political will for action on this overarching problem. The data on communication tell us that most Americans simply do not talk about the crisis. It is almost inevitable, therefore, that they will not consider it an issue demanding their attention. Our task, then, is to get out there and talk to people about the problem and what we can do to turn this glacier-bound ship around.
The film is available through Netflix.