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Kelsey Juliana, a University of Oregon student, filed a lawsuit against the United States' use of fossil fuels. 

Global warming has been an urgent issue for years, but the U.S. government has yet to take proper action. Across the country, groups of children are protesting against fossil fuel burning and have even filed a lawsuit against the United States government. The youth presence in the ever-developing climate crisis is a necessary factor for change. 

Juliana v. United States is a lawsuit filed in 2015 by Kelsey Juliana, a University of Oregon student. Juliana is fighting for the U.S. to stop the use of fossil fuels entirely. She was 19 years old when the lawsuit was filed and she’s supported by 21 plaintiffs, the youngest of which is merely 11 years old. 

The plaintiffs claim that the continued use of fossil fuels and the overall phenomenon of global warming infringes on the youth’s constitutional rights to life, liberty and property. Juliana’s take on this issue is extremely unique. Humanity as a whole has been well aware of the detrimental effects of global warming for years through media campaigns, news outlets and plenty of other sources.

Juliana and her plaintiffs shed light on a different angle of the issue, however – one that depicts the use of fossil fuels as limiting their constitutional rights as Americans. Not only is this a new perspective on an aging issue, but it’s also one with a higher probability of convincing voters and government officials that instant change is vital. No one should have to fight for our constitutional rights, and hopefully, this case can prove that.

Thankfully, young activists are present in far more places than just the United States. 16-year-old Greta Thunberg has taken Sweden by storm with her climate activism at such a young age. Thunberg has presented her own Ted Conferences speech, as well as speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland this past May. She protested school outside the Swedish parliament in hopes to bring awareness to the growing issue of global warming. Thunberg’s goal was to raise media awareness surrounding the climate crisis in hopes of educating the public and urging the government to make changes; and with nearly 2 million Instagram followers, she is doing just that. 

Not only is Greta Thunberg a role model for students her age to educate themselves on current world issues and follow their passions, but she’s also a role model for adults. Often times, people use their platforms to spread materialistic messages consisting of product advertisements and posed photographs rather than current world issues. Something to be learned from Greta Thunberg and Kelsey Juliana is that time is running out.

The time is now to make a change – there’s no other option. Celebrities and government officials need to use their platforms for good. Parents and teachers need to educate younger generations on the current climate crisis because at the rate it’s moving currently, current efforts are simply not enough. While reducing meat consumption and using public transportation can help global carbon emissions, government regulation must come into the equation to make significant progress towards a greener earth. It’s embarrassing that the American youth are advocating stronger and seeing more progress in their fight against climate change than seasoned officials. 

Thunberg’s and Juliana’s passion to make this world a better place is extremely admirable, and a perfect example for future generations. While their progress is inspirational, it also evokes a sense of failure. These children have been failed by our government leaders on issues they find fundamental to their rights as Americans and they are taking matters into their own hands. Though their progress is inspirational, their fight is far from over. 

Maddy Piovano is a junior media arts and design major. Contact Maddy at piovanml@dukes.jmu.edu