Nicole Zelniker, World & Nation Editor
December 4, 2015
After experiencing a disappointing defeat for climate justice, 13-year-old Hallie Turner has decided to keep fighting.
“It’s an issue that I’m always going to continue trying to make a difference in,” said Turner in a phone interview with the Miami Herald. “There’s lots of next steps that can be taken.”
On Nov. 25, North Carolina ruled against Turner’s petition, which demanded North Carolina cut emissions by at least 4 percent yearly.
“We’ve created so many of the emissions,” said sophomore Students for Climate Justice Co-President Anna Lichtiger. “At the current trajectory we’re (following) we’re going to increase temperatures by five degrees Celsius by 2100.”
Originally, the North Carolina Environmental Management Commission ruled that Turner’s petition was incomplete, stating that North Carolina laws do not allow the creation of environmental laws that are stricter than the United States federal government.
Though environmental activists applaud Turner’s efforts, many were also skeptical from the start.
“I’m happy to see legal challenges wherever they occur, (though) this one strikes me as more symbolic than effective.” said Associate Professor of History Damon Akins.
Turner is not the only one battling her state for stricter environmental regulations. A group of teenagers who call themselves iMatter are leading marches, creating lawsuits and making speeches in order to demand change when it comes to climate justice.
Since 2007, iMatter has organized in places like Illinois, California, Oregon and Texas. All of the iMatter leaders are under 18.
“It’s cool that (they are) taking the initiative,” said Lichtiger. “You don’t need to be an expert to change things.”
Many see Turner’s age as detrimental to her cause. However, it could also be an advantage according to Professor of Geology and Earth Sciences Dave Dobson.
“People who are college age and (older) who start talking about global warming and (working) for some kind of change can get shouted down really easily,” said Dobson “You look really, really bad if you call a 14-year-old girl an idiot.
“Once she’s 20 … the Rush Limbaughs of the world start calling her a hippie activist and dismissing her.”
Turner is also setting an example for her peers and making connections that could make or break the fight for stricter regulations regarding climate.
“The next generation is not taking no for an answer,” said Conservation Trust for North Carolina Special Projects and Grants Coordinator Caitlin Burke in a phone interview with The Guilfordian. “It’s about trying to get access … working with others (and) being educated.”
Regardless, because not many people Turner’s age know much about climate issues, much less want to go out and fight for it, Turner is going above and beyond.
“I love the fact that there’s a 13-year-old standing up for what she believes in,” said Associate Professor of Justice & Policy Studies Will Pizio. “It’s making the news, and that’s a good thing.”
Though Turner’s lawsuit did not amount to anything legally, Turner has not been deterred.
“I’m going to keep fighting for this issue for as long as it’s relevant, until we don’t have to worry about this,” said Turner in an interview with Al Jazeera America.
Many believe that to create further change, the first step is to acknowledge that we should be worried about our environment.
“We’re a ticking time bomb and no one’s paying attention,” said Visiting Assistant Professor of Biology Will Mackin. “I feel like I’m watching an episode of MacGruber.
“We’ve known what to do for a long time, and it’s very frustrating for a lot of scientists and conservationists.”
In North Carolina, several aspects of the climate are at stake, including sea level rise, an increase in tropical storms and a rise in emissions. The U.S. is also facing increased pollen count, drought and floods.
“A lot of countries have … an expectation that the environment be protected,” said Professor of Geology and Earth Sciences Marlene McCauley. “It’s a basic human right. Climate change then becomes a basic human rights issue.”
These policy changes, however, will not occur overnight.
“Policy change is … slow and incremental,” said Pizio. “Change takes people to want change. Those who want change need to help make change.”
Others who hope to do just that should contact Our Children’s Trust or iMatter to get involved.
“Climate change is too urgent for any of us to sit quietly while the state fails to take significant action,” said Turner in an interview with The News and Observer.