On Campus

Supporting Juliana: small crowd, big vision

On a windy Monday afternoon this fall, a group of Eco-Reps and I waited on a train platform on our way back to school. We had just left the John Joseph Moakley courthouse in Boston, where we had attended a rally to show our support for the Juliana vs. United States case. A group of three adults beside us asked about our bright blue posters bearing pictures of people with raised fists and slogans like “Let the youth be heard” and “Fierce urgency of now.” 

When we explained a little about the rally and how the plaintiffs of the case accused the U.S. government of knowing the environmental impacts of burning fossil fuels but failing to protect the citizens from the effects of climate change, the people commended our decision to attend. Even though we only talked for a few minutes, I felt I had made a small but meaningful impact by informing those adults about the case. They seemed excited to learn about it and see that teenagers were taking action.

A few weeks earlier, I had learned about the rally during an Eco-Reps meeting. I immediately decided I wanted to go show my support for the case, and I was lucky to be able to miss a few classes to attend. As our group of six students and two teachers traveled into Boston on the train, I looked forward to joining a huge crowd supporting a cause we all cared about. 

However, when we arrived, I was surprised and a little disappointed: there were at most 100 attendees, and we were almost the youngest people there. I had believed that many more people would have showed up to support the case. In particular, I had been expecting more young people to be there because we are the people living today who will be most affected by climate change in the future. 

Climate change activists like Greta Thunberg—a Swedish teenager who has skipped school to protest for climate change action and whose speech kicked off our Eco Bash last month—have been gaining traction in the media and with teenagers across the world. But even though many people in the Boston area might care about climate change, not very many know about the Juliana case. Even if they do, many were apparently unwilling or unable to miss a few hours of work or school to take action.

At the rally, speakers talked about how the Supreme Court has been attempting to stall the Juliana case.  The speakers all discussed how the case exemplified the need to lobby for government action on climate change. But while we did not march to the Massachusetts State House and bang on its doors, instead gathering in solidarity, that was OK. The small rally showed me other people committed to the safety and wellbeing of ourselves and the earth. Together we connected through our shared beliefs. Our protest song, “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around,” was fitting: we took action and resolved to continue to act despite being a small force. 

After the rally, we talked to some of its organizers, who appreciated our showing up as representatives of the younger generation supporting the case and encouraged us to bring their posters back with us to display at BB&N. A blue banner reading “Give science its day in court” still hangs in the Commons.

Returning to the train station, I felt proud of our little group. We actually took action, even if on a small scale. I was happy. Even though I wish more teenagers had attended the rally, I remember that across the country and the world, people our age are taking action. I hope other people will realize what I learned from the case and the rally: it is important to do something for what you care about. I may not be one of the plaintiffs, but I did and can continue to take action to support them. 

I hope the next climate rally will be as large as I had imagined.

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