Cottage Grove, Opinion

The kids have got it right – and have a right

It is not always that young people make the best decisions. Youth can be about indulgence, risk-taking, and just plain dumb moves that come from naïveté. But in the case of 16-year-old Greta Thunberg, a Swedish teenager and “climate crisis” activist, failure of adults to do the leading has caused the children to start speaking up for their future.
As an 11-year-old, Thunberg became depressed when she perceived that the environmental damage being done worldwide was going to have a huge impact on her future, and so little was being done about it. She stopped eating and talking and was eventually diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, OCD and selective mutism. Starting with her parents, getting them to give up air travel and taking on a vegan diet, she turned her diagnoses into her “superpower.”
Empowered by her success getting her parents to change their lifestyles, she then took her message to Sweden’s Parliament, or Riksdag, in the form of a “school strike for climate.” Sitting outside with her sign with that message (“Skolstrejk för klimatet” in Swedish). She slowly built up a movement as her message got out.
She speaks bluntly and simply: “I want you to act as though the house is on fire, because it is.” She makes the point that “We live in a strange world where children must sacrifice their own education in order to protest against the destruction of their future. Where the people who have contributed the least to this crisis are the ones who are going to be affected the most.”
If this sounds somehow familiar, maybe it’s because it is. In 2015, a group of Oregon students brought suit against the government in Juliana v. United States. The 21 youthful plaintiffs assert that “Through the government’s affirmative actions that cause climate change, it has violated the youngest generation’s constitutional rights to life, liberty and property, as well as failed to protect essential public trust resources.”
As this case winds its way through the courts, little is being done to help preserve something of a future for the litigants.
On Friday, Sept. 20, a group of concerned folks will be trying to help students give voice to their right to have a future in a livable world.
The Global Climate Strike and Rally will take place in Cottage Grove and in many other cities across Oregon and the world. It is a chance for students, parents and concerned citizens to express their support of a future for not only the young people today but for all of humanity and living things on the planet.
The event begins with a rally at All-America City Square/Opal Whiteley Park on Main Street at 10 a.m. where a declaration of Climate Emergency will be read. Petitions supporting the demands of the declaration will be circulated and available for signing; the petitions will then be delivered to the Cottage Grove City Council.
The demonstration will continue in a rally at Bohemia Park from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The event will include speakers, information tables, a children’s area, music, food and a free market. Copies of the Climate Declaration to the City will also be available there for signing. The event is free and open to the public.
Should you let your child skip school for this event? That is a question only you can answer. It will be an unexcused absence. But is there a better lesson for a student in a democratic society? When your government doesn’t have your best interests at heart, sometimes you have to break a few rules and exercise your constitutional rights of peaceful public assembly and petition for redress of grievances.
The date of the event was chosen to coincide closely with the United Nations Climate Action Summit, to be held Sept. 23. Nations of the world are meeting to see what they can do to head off a climate catastrophe. Sixteen-year-old Greta Thunberg will address the summit. She traveled by sailboat across the Atlantic to New York in a carbon-neutral trip so her words will have more impact, after putting her money where her mouth is.
Should you attend the Global Climate Strike on Friday, please consider following Thunburg’s example by walking, biking or carpooling to get there. Bring your own reusable water bottle and durables, and practice “pack it in, pack it out” so as to leave the scene clean.
And please consider the kids and their right for a future. Thank you!

Dana Merryday may be reached at 541-942-7037 and at [email protected]