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10/14/2019
Youth safety

It’s a personal decision.

This past week the Alaska Supreme Court heard arguments in a case brought by 12 Alaska youth. The young folk are the face of the lawsuit, which is being handled by Oregon-based Our Children’s Trust.

The lawsuit claims that Alaska’s policy on fossil fuels harms the constitutional right of young Alaskans to a safe climate.

The lawsuit likely is complex, and the validity of its claims won’t be discussed here.

But, it will be noted that Alaska’s wealth is in natural resources, of which the oil and gas reap the most benefits. The state’s financial structure rests overwhelmingly on the extraction of oil and has for about 50 years.

We won’t dismiss the young people’s concerns for the climate. It’s changing and it will affect us all. At the same time as we address it, we should not forget that the climate has always changed. It likely will continue to change.

It’s a phenomenon on a grand scale.

At the same time, we will point out that part of the appropriate response is a personal one.

It’s likely that at least some of the people who filed the lawsuit had to fly into Anchorage for the Supreme Court arguments. The aircraft on which they flew operated with fossil fuel.

It’s also likely that at least some of the people employed a motor vehicle to get to and from the airports they traveled through. Once again, more likely than not, the vehicles required fossil fuel.

And the list goes on. Fossil fuel is in clothing. The lawsuit participants undoubtedly had dressed for the day.

We’ve built a nation — among many nations — dependent on fossil fuel.

We can ask the court to intervene, if that is the appropriate venue. We can approach lawmakers to change statutes regarding policy in terms of fossil fuels.

But to a large extent it takes personal responsibility. The use of fossil fuels is driven by demand. If people require products of fossil fuels, then they will be produced. If not, then the demand and resulting profit from production will decrease.

It’s also noteworthy that any potential danger to the youth in general necessitates personal responsibility. For example, consuming or over consuming certain substances is as much, if not more, of a threat to their well-being, including their rights, as fossil fuels and their ramifications.

Being safe requires good choices by youth. Or by their parents on their behalf — at least until they become young adults.

At the point that the young folk take over as the adult decision-makers, then they will have the capability to change and take responsibility for the issues, from climate change to fossil fuels, the state’s finances and substance abuse.

It will be their responsibility — their personal decisions — to affect their safety.

But, in the meantime, they can choose not to use what is or what they perceive as harmful, including fossil fuels.