Today, SEA (Sea Education Association) Class S-311, Oceans & Climate, welcomed Rikki Held, SEA alumna, via Zoom to share more about her experience serving as the lead plaintiff in Held vs Montana.
Rikki sailed with SEA Class S-305, Oceans & Climate, from San Diego, CA to Pape'ete, Tahiti in Fall 2022. Reflecting on her time aboard the SSV Robert Seamans, Rikki shares that "SEA was a time for me to focus, reflect, and share a remarkable experience with inspiring people working together to learn, explore, and care for our ship and each other. It helped further my interest in the sciences and in understanding and communicating about our vital earth systems, as well as our societies within those systems."
Held vs Montana is the first constitutional climate trial in the United States that accused the state of Montana of violating the state constitution which guarantees residents the “the right to a clean and healthful environment.” On August 14, 2023, a Montana judge ruled in favor of 16 Montanan youths that state agencies were violating their rights through fossil fuel development.
Rikki grew up south of Broadus, Montana on her family’s ranch in the Powder River Basin and credits her interest in environmental science to growing up in Montana and to the USGS hydrologists that visited her ranch each summer. Throughout her lifetime, Rikki has witnessed the impacts of climate change firsthand from low air quality and dangerous particulate matter from regional wildfires to erosion of the Powder River from rapid ice melt.
At the end of her first semester at Colorado College, a family friend directed Rikki to Our Children’s Trust and the case they were putting together to address Montana’s violation of the state constitution. When asked about her motivation for getting involved, Rikki noted that everyone is impacted by climate change, and it is important to keep telling our stories. For Rikki, the experience of connecting with other youth with diverse backgrounds from across the state and uniting in their passion was immeasurable.
After Rikki’s presentation, S-311 students had the opportunity to ask questions about how this case will set precedence in upcoming trials like Juliana vs. United States and Navahine F. vs. Hawaiʻi Department of Transportation; how students can get involved; and more about her overall experience. Acknowledging that she does not have all the answers and that talking about climate change can be stressful, Rikki reiterated the importance of young voices and directed SEA students to Our Children’s Trust as a great resource.
SEA is grateful to Rikki for taking the time to meet with this semester’s Oceans & Climate students and sharing what it is like to witness and be part of how the courts might address climate change concerns and environmental rights.
Good luck in the Peace Corps, Rikki!
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