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YOUTH ACTIVIST ALEX LOZNAK ON CLIMATE CHANGE

Alex Loznak is a Youth Activist at Our Children’s Trust and one of 21 young plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the United States that demands a science-based climate change recovery plan. In the spring, the federal government and the fossil fuel industry moved to dismiss the lawsuit but a federal judge in Oregon ruled against the motion.

About a year ago, Alex left his small, rural farm in Roseburg, Oregon to attend Columbia University in New York City as a first year freshman. The very week he left for the east coast, the case against the U.S. government was filed. ClimateYou talked to Alex about his involvement in the climate change issue. To find out more about him, check out Alex’s blogspot.

CY: As a plaintiff in the case against the federal government you had to state how climate change has personally impacted your life. Can you share that statement with us?

AL: Yes. I wrote up a 15-page standing declaration explaining how my family’s farm in Oregon has been severely impacted by climate change. The farm grows hazel nuts and the orchard was showing signs of deterioration. Because of the rising temperatures due to climate change, the summer of 2015 was the hottest summer on record and the two previous summers broke records as well. The Hazel nut trees, which usually don’t need that much water, started dying and we needed to water them on a regular basis to keep them alive. The heat also completely killed off a couple of acres of fir trees on our farm as well.

CY: What else inspired you to become part of this case?

AL:  I think Congress has shown complete disregard to the climate change problem and since the branches of government haven’t done anything, we had no alternative but to turn to the judiciary, which can act more quickly than congress. This is the fastest way for us to get meaningful action from the government. So far, President Obama is siding with the Kochs and their ilk, which are trade groups such as the American Fuel and Petroleum Institute and the National Association of Manufacturers, who joined to oppose our case and have it dismissed.

CY: What kind of support have you found on climate change issues on the Columbia campus?

AL: What has been really cool is that Dr. Hansen, the director of the Climate Science Program here at Columbia, has also been working on our case. There is a strong connection between the University of Oregon and Columbia University, and it’s great to have academics working on the case. I’ve also connected with the Columbia Divest for Climate Justice Group which argues that the university has to divest any of its financial holdings in fossil fuel companies. It’s the most exciting group of student activism on campus. They have had big sit-ins at Low Library.

CY: What are your main concerns about climate change?

AL: Now that I’ve been living in New York City I’m concerned with sea level rise. I wrote a science paper for a sustainable development class that looked at the rate and amount of  sea level rise and the various predictions made by different  organizations about how much the sea is expected to rise by the end of the century. I concluded that we are not in a good place, even if we build numerous sea walls, they will have to get taller and taller. The stakes are high. Do we decide to knock down a building to or allow the base of the building to be under water? They can build sea walls only so high.

CY: How do you feel about climate deniers?

AL:  There were those kind of folks at my high school in Oregon and I really didn’t engage with them. To me, some of them seemed so lost, some believe that there is a conspiracy theory that’s behind climate change. I believe you can’t really get anywhere with folks who think that way and you have to just move on.

CY: Last March you attended the Global Student Leaders Summit in Reykjavik, Iceland, where they discussed the future of energy and the environment. What was that like?

AL: Going to Iceland was a total surprise. The Education Foundation paid for the air fare and that was great. Here I was, a kid from Roseburg, Oregon, who grew up on a rural farm in an low income area and who went to an underfunded high school, who was offered a great opportunity to connect with hundreds of students from all over the world. We gave a talk to about 700 students, which was a good public speaking exercise. I was so energized by all the kids at that conference and it was inspiring to share our legal case with them. It felt like we were turning the tide on climate change.

CY: How important has your blog become and other social media?

AL:  We need to know and connect with climate activists all over the world and we can do it easily through social media. Many of them out there are watching our case and that means we are doing it in solidarity with activists around the world, we are all  standing up to the fuel industry as this case moves forward. If we win, that will start a movement to finally, physically rebuild the energy infrastructure.

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