Sadness, Anger, Disappointment, and Resolve: #youthvgovFL Plaintiff Talks About Climate Lawsuit

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Valholly is a plaintiff in Reynolds v. State of Florida, the youth climate lawsuit supported by Our Children’s Trust against the State of Florida for knowingly contributing to climate change. This piece originally appeared in the Sierra Club Calusa Group newsletter. It was written by the newsletter’s editor, Joseph Bonasia.

What sort of young adult has the gumption to take on her state government over its inaction regarding climate change?

The sort whose mother is Energy Chair for the Sierra Club Calusa Group and whose father is a member of the Seminole Tribe of Florida. The sort who has spent almost all her young life residing in the middle of the Everglades, which she calls one of the “most diverse and rarest ecosystems” in the world, an ecosystem that is “so full of wonders and beauties, it still takes my breath away.”

Valholly Frank, a 15-year old tenth grade student who certainly knows her own mind, is one of the 8 youth plaintiffs bringing suit against a Florida state government that they don’t believe is protecting one of their inalienable rights: the right to a healthy, biologically diverse, climate-stable planet.

Long passionate about climate change, she thought she’d play a supportive role when she heard about the lawsuit. But when her mother said there was the possibility that she could assume a direct part in it, she jumped at the opportunity. In a phone interview, I asked her why.

“To protect what is rightfully everyone’s,” she said. “People let money-making, greedy people in power use that power to make living for normal people and average citizens intolerable and unhappy in general.” The lawsuit “is not about winning a monetary award. It’s about raising awareness, it’s about why we need to change, how we can change, and that there will be change,” she affirmed. Very specifically, it’s about the state producing “a credible carbon-reduction plan,” a goal that parallels the goals of the federal lawsuit starting a few weeks later in Oregon.

Regarding climate inaction, she described her feelings as “a mix of sadness and anger, creating an overwhelming disappointment.” At school, teachers do not want to discuss the issue even when asked by students, because it is “too controversial.”

“It should not be controversial at all,” she stated, “because it is real.”

She believes that those people who do not admit the reality of climate change do so not out of ignorance, but out of denial. For some people, “business reasons” underlie their denial. For others, it is to avoid “the guilt that they are part of the problem that is affecting so many people in the world.”

But she is “inspired by [her] fellow plaintiffs, just regular kids, who have such a solid resolve to fight against the state government. No matter how old or young one is,” she added,” one can still make change.”

Some people, I noted, might challenge her, asking, “What do you and your family do to combat global warming. Do you walk the walk, or just want others to fix the climate problem?

“We have solar panels on our house which provides most, it not all, of our electricity needs. We also have solar hot water heaters. Both our cars are hybrids. And we do the smaller stuff, too. We recycle, we use LED lightbulbs, we grow some of our own food in our garden, and we buy organic a good deal.”

At a September 8th climate rally, speaking publicly, Valholly declared, “I am in love with this earth, and I am grateful for it.” During our phone interview, I asked her if she would add anything to that statement. After a moment’s reflection she said, “No man, no corporation, no company, no government can take away my right to the beauty this world has shown me.”

Caitlin Howard