Julia Olson To Give Stone Lecture on Youth, Climate Justice

Annual Stone Distinguished Lecture Sponsored by UVA Schools of Architecture and Law
Julia Olson

Julia Olson is executive director and chief legal counsel of Our Children’s Trust. Contributed photo

November 5, 2020

Julia Olson, executive director and chief legal counsel of Our Children’s Trust, will address climate justice in a Nov. 16 speech co-sponsored by the University of Virginia School of Law.

She will deliver this year’s annual Lillian K. Stone Distinguished Lecture in Environmental Policy, titled “No Ordinary Lawsuit: 10 Years Towards Constitutional Climate Justice,” at 6:30 p.m. 

For the first part of her 22-year career, Olson represented grassroots conservation groups working to protect the environment, organic agriculture and human health. After becoming a mother, she focused her work on representing young people, and founded Our Children’s Trust in 2010 to lead a strategic legal campaign on behalf of the world’s youth against governments everywhere to combat climate change.

Olson leads Juliana v. United States, the constitutional climate change case brought by 21 youth against the U.S. government for violating their Fifth Amendment rights to life, liberty, property and public trust resources.

The case made news in 2016 when a U.S. District Court of Oregon judge declined to dismiss it, ruling that access to a clean environment was a fundamental right. In January 2020, a Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel reversed and dismissed the case, concluding that the plaintiffs lacked standing to sue. The youth plaintiffs have appealed the dismissal.

Olson and Our Children’s Trust are recipients of the Rose-Walters Prize for Global Environmental Activism. She received the Kerry Rydberg Award for Environmental Activism in 2017 and is a member of Rachel’s Network Circle of Advisors.

The lecture, made possible through a gift from University of Virginia alumni Thatcher Stone ’82 (College ’78) and Frank Kittredge (Architecture ’78), is hosted jointly by the Schools of Architecture and Law. The lectureship is intended to fulfill the intellectual and educational commitments of the two schools by creating an opportunity for students to be educated in environmental policy and the National Environmental Policy Act.

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