Category Archives: Youth

Gulf Youth Activists say ‘To fight climate change, stop offshore drilling. Now.’

[Note from BenIndy Contributor Kathy Kerridge: We’ve just gone through the hottest summer ever and are seeing severe weather disasters almost daily.  Biden canceled drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.  Now he must stop more drilling in the Gulf.  Please read this excellent op-ed by Gulf Youth Activists.]

Photo by Maria Lupan on Unsplash.

Houston Chronicle, by Armon Alex and Maggie Peacock, September 9, 2023

This summer set all kinds of records, but they aren’t the kind of records we should be proud of.

First, we had the hottest June ever recorded on Earth. July 4 became the globe’s hottest day in history — until that record was shattered in the following days. And here in Texas, we’ve just finished the most extreme summer yet, with weeks straight of unusually high temperatures.

The reality is, we know exactly what’s making these life-threatening heat waves worse and more common: fossil fuel-driven climate change. And despite the widespread data, reports and studies that all confirm the root of the issue, we have leaders in the United States and across the world ignoring the solutions and continuing to push us to the point of no return.

We’ve been given a dire warning — the continued reliance on fossil fuels is incompatible with a liveable future. But despite this clear instruction from the world’s leading scientists, the Biden administration has issued numerous oil and gas permit approvals, including liquefied natural gas projects, the Mountain Valley Pipeline, the Willow project and multiple leases for offshore drilling.

Despite receiving the necessary approvals to begin construction, these projects will cause irreparable damage to the public’s health and the climate. The estimated emissions of the Willow project alone — the equivalent of about 4 percent of U.S. annual emissions — should be enough of a concern to stop all other oil and gas permit approvals. Unfortunately, there’s another looming carbon bomb on the Biden administration’s list.

This month, the Biden administration will release its Five Year Plan for offshore oil and gas drilling in Alaskan and Gulf waters. The draft plan proposed anywhere from zero to 11 potential leases — 10 here in the Gulf of Mexico and one in the Cook Inlet of Alaska — which is in direct opposition to President Joe Biden’s campaign commitments to end new drilling on our public lands and waters.  If Biden and his administration decide to move forward with all 11 leases, the result could be anywhere from the same amount of carbon emissions as the Willow project to 10 times as much.

Even though Biden has the authority to include no new leases in the final plan, many — including us  — are worried that this won’t be the case, especially given recent remarks by the plan’s head. U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said that when it comes to drilling for oil and gas, “I’m not running this department for the progressives who want to keep it (oil) in the ground. This is for the whole country.”

In response to Haaland, we respectfully say that this country cannot afford more oil and gas drilling while we face this urgent moment in the climate crisis. The oil and gas industry doesn’t need access to any more of our public lands and waters; they already hold nearly 12 million acres of non-producing federal land with 9,000 approved but unused production permits. Any new leases for offshore drilling could lock in additional oil and gas production for decades to come — going way beyond Biden’s goal to reach net zero emissions by 2050.

The vast majority of us will not experience any benefits from new leasing in the Five Year Plan. Instead, the oil and gas companies that are driving our planet to destruction and making record-breaking profits while doing so will win from the continued use of fossil fuels. Coastal communities such as ours in the Gulf will still be forced to live with the consequences. We will face the brunt of the pollution — swimming in oil-slicked water, eating contaminated fish, and suffering from devastating consequences to our health and environment.

We cannot continue to accept the status quo of drilling for oil and gas, especially when our communities here in Texas and nationwide face record heat, extreme weather disasters and deadly air conditions exacerbated by the continued use of fossil fuels. Biden must listen to the United Nations secretary-general, who has called for “ceasing licensing or funding of new oil and gas” to avert the most catastrophic climate change impacts. He must heed the call of the majority of Americans who oppose new offshore drilling off of our coasts.

We urge Biden, Haaland and the rest of the administration to choose to accelerate the transition from fossil fuels and finalize a plan with no wiggle room for new leases for offshore drilling. Our oceans, climate, communities and future depend on it.

 Armon Alex and Maggie Peacock are co-founders of the Gulf of Mexico Youth Climate Summit and Youth Leadership Council, and are members of EarthEcho International. They live in Corpus Christi.

Judge rules in favor of Montana youths in landmark climate decision

Sariel Sandoval, member of the Bitterroot Salish, Upper Pend d’Oreille, and Diné Tribes, poses for a portrait in Berkeley, Ca. on Friday, July 28, 2023. Sandoval is one of 16 youth plaintiffs suing the state of Montana over its contributions to climate change. | Amy Osborne / The Washington Post.

The Washington Post, by Kate Selig, August 14, 2023

In the first ruling of its kind nationwide, a Montana state court decided Monday in favor of young people who alleged the state violated their right to a “clean and healthful environment” by promoting the use of fossil fuels.

The court determined that a provision in the Montana Environmental Policy Act has harmed the state’s environment and the young plaintiffs, by preventing Montana from considering the climate impacts of energy projects. The provision is accordingly unconstitutional, the court said.

The win, experts say, could energize the environmental movement and reshape climate litigation across the country, ushering in a wave of cases aimed at advancing action on climate change.

“People around the world are watching this case,” said Michael Gerrard, the founder of Columbia’s Sabin Center for Climate Change Law.

The ruling represents a rare victory for climate activists who have tried to use the courts to push back against government policies and industrial activities they say are harming the planet. In this case, it involved 16 young Montanans, ranging in age from 5 to 22, who brought the nation’s first constitutional and first youth-led climate lawsuit to go to trial.

Though the cumulative number of climate cases around the world has more than doubled in the last five years, youth-led lawsuits in the United States have faced an uphill battle. Already, at least 14 of these cases have been dismissed, according to a July report from the United Nations Environment Program and the Sabin Center. The report said about three-quarters of the approximately 2,200 ongoing or concluded cases were filed before courts in the United States.

Experts said the Montana youth had an advantage in the state’s constitution, which guarantees a right to a “clean and healthful environment.”

Coal is critical to the state’s economy, and Montana is home to the largest recoverable coal reserves in the country. The plaintiff’s attorneys say the state has never denied a permit for a fossil fuel project.

Across five days of emotional testimony in June, the youths made claims about injuries they have suffered as a result of climate change. A 15-year-old with asthma described himself as “a prisoner in my own home” when isolating with covid during a period of intense wildfire smoke. Rikki Held, the 22-year-old plaintiff for whom the lawsuit is named, detailed how extreme weather has hurt her family’s ranch.

Held testified that a favorable judgment would make her more hopeful for the future. “I know that climate change is a global issue, but Montana has to take responsibility for our part in that,” she said.

Attorneys for the state countered that Montana’s contribution to global greenhouse gas emissions is small. If the law in question were altered or overturned, Montana Assistant Attorney General Michael Russell said, there would be “no meaningful impact or appreciable effect” on the climate.

The state began and rested its defense on the same day, bringing the trial to an unexpectedly early close on June 20. In a pivot from its expected defense disputing the climate science behind the plaintiffs’ case, the state focused instead on arguing that the legislature should weigh in on the contested law, not the judiciary. Russell derided the case in his closing statement as a “week-long airing of political grievances that properly belong in the Legislature, not a court of law.”

Gerrard said the change in strategy came as a surprise: “Everyone expected them to put on a more vigorous defense,” he said. “And they may have concluded that the underlying science of climate change was so strong that they didn’t want to contest it.”

Though the state is expected to appeal the decision, experts said the favorable verdict for the youths could influence how judges approach similar cases in other states and prompt them to apply “judicial courage” in addressing climate change. The nonprofit law firm Our Children’s Trust, which represents the plaintiffs, has taken legal action on behalf of youths in all 50 states, and has cases pending in four other states.

Juliana v. United States, a 2015 case brought by Our Children’s Trust that drew international attention, is also back on path to trial after facing repeated setbacks. The case took aim at the federal government, alleging that it had violated the 21 youths’ rights to life, liberty and property, as well as failed to protect public trust resources, in taking actions that contribute to climate change.

Plaintiffs’ attorney Phil Gregory said the court’s verdict could empower youth everywhere to take to the courts to secure their futures.

“There are political decisions being made without regard to the best scientific evidence and the effects they will have on our youngest generations,” he said. “This is a monumental decision.”

Opinion: BUSD election – use disappointment as motivation

The BUSD Election, the unwinding of possibility and what keeps us going

By Ashton Lyle, April 27, 2023

Portrait of Ashton Lyle
Ashton Lyle

According to the Solano County Registrar of Voters, Ariana Martinez has lost her bid to maintain her appointment to the Benicia Unified School District Board of Trustees. As a former Benicia student, I am left with the sinking feeling that follows the unwinding of possibility. It’s hard to believe that even in this small liberal town on the Bay, there are losses. 

I am only 24 years old, but I spent almost 13 years in Benicia, from kindergarten through senior year. I remember the grassroots coalition that came together to prevent Valero’s attempt to import Crude by Rail, which could have resulted in a disaster like we just saw in East Palestine, Ohio. I participated in a march on City Hall with hundreds of Benicia students who refused to let arts funding go without a fight. I know the people of Benicia, and especially its young folks, will turn out when needed.

It’s a reminder that the political process is exhausting. We cannot win every issue on every ballot, and we will continue to feel the sharp sting of disappointment.

The hard truth behind Ariana’s loss is that we failed to pull enough of us together to protect Benicia’s future. It’s a reminder that the political process is exhausting. We cannot win every issue on every ballot, and we will continue to feel the sharp sting of disappointment.

The inevitability of failure in a democracy can wrestle hope from all of us, myself included. In my worst moments, I find the weight of what could have been driving me toward pessimism and passivity. It is the awareness of a better world slipping through our fingers that makes these encounters with political failure so tragic, especially for young people, who have the older generations’ total failure to take responsibility on climate change as their most immediate political experience. In this stalemate, it can be hard to imagine successful activism and civic engagement.

I end up asking myself again and again how I can learn to live with the feeling that our town, state, or country is not progressing but rather sliding backward. For myself, it is essentially a question of sustainability: how do we preserve our activism and even our faith when the results of politics continue to fail us?

This absurd human condition we find ourselves muddled in concerned one of my favorite writers, Albert Camus. It is one of his essays, The Myth of Sisyphus that helps provide a path forward from that valley of cynicism where I have found myself thus far. In this essay, Camus describes Sisyphus, a man undergoing horrific torture as punishment from the ancient Greek gods. Sisyphus labors endlessly, rolling a massive boulder up a hill that he will never summit. 

Sisyphus’s fate is a truly human one. However, Camus does not imagine him tormented, but happy.

Camus explains that Sisyphus smiles because the process of moving his rock gives him purpose. Sisyphus accepts he will never achieve his goal but comes to love each “struggle towards the heights” as meaningful and essentially distinct from the moment the rock inevitably slips from his grasp and rolls down into the valley. It’s a reminder that the act of striving for a better future is valuable in itself.

We must remember to find meaning in the process of democracy.

We must remember to find meaning in the process of democracy. Valuing the exercise of politics reminds us, as Camus said, that fate is in our own hands. The failures and disappointments will come all on their own, but success arrives solely by rededicating ourselves to the democratic process. Activism will not always overcome the odds, but the disappointments we feel in our town can only be seen as failures because our actions have consequences.

There is always more to be done. Our roads are falling apart, Valero releases toxins into our air — and funds into our elections — but casting our votes and making our voices heard remains essential to creating a better future for our community. Action is needed now more than ever because, to paraphrase John Lewis, democracy is an act, and it is continuously under threat by passivity in the face of those who aim only to advance themselves.

The age-old cure for feelings of helplessness and disappointment is action . . . 

If I can urge anything to the young and old of our town it is to use disappointment as motivation to get even more involved in what makes Benicia great. Volunteer or donate to a local nonprofit (such as the Kyle Hyland Foundation), send messages or call potential supporters for a politician you really believe in, and of course stay informed by reading news outlets such as the Benicia Independent. The age-old cure for feelings of helplessness and disappointment is action, and there are plenty of good causes to work for in Benicia.

[BenIndy Contributor Nathalie Christian: This post will serve as our final announcement regarding BUSD election results. I was not eligible to vote in this election, but 4,110 other Benicians were. Of them, 1,060 chose to cast ballots. That’s a voter turnout of 27%.  Compare this with the ~60% turnout for our last general election. While the results remain uncertified, Amy Hirsh is the clear winner of the vacant board seat. That said, I’m not sure there were any real winners in this special election, especially when our schools — and the students they serve — suffered most from its massive, unnecessary cost. —N.C.]

Solano County: vaccine ready now for 12-15-year-olds and new guidance on sporting events

By Roger Straw, May 13, 2021

Today Solano County added an update of its own and links to new CDC and CDPH guidelines.  Here they are:

Solano County – vaccines ready now for adolescents:

(5-12-21) CDC panel recommends Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for adolescents 12-15 years old
Following CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices’ recommendation to use the Pfizer vaccine for 12-15-year-old adolescents, Solano County will begin administering the vaccine to this age group starting May 13, 2021. For a list of upcoming vaccine clinics in Solano County, see the list of upcoming mass vaccine events.
Get Vaccinated, Solano!
We all have a role to play in reducing the spread of COVID-19 in our community. Wear a mask, wash your hands, keep distance from others outside your own household, and most importantly, get vaccinated to protect yourself and those around you from COVID-19.

California Department of Public Health – guidance on sporting events:

(5-12-21) CDPH Community Sporting Events guidance

Centers for Disease Control – endorsing vaccine for 12-15-year-olds:

(5-12-21) CDC adopts ACIP recommendation to endorse the Pfizer vaccine among 12-15-year-old adolescents