By WENDY PARKULO / Staff Writer
Oftentimes children and young adults are chastised for not voting or paying attention to politics but this is certainly not the case for 21 young people who are currently in the process of suing the Federal Government for something they believe very strongly in: climate change. Their major argument is that their generation and their children’s generation have the most to lose from global warming not being properly addressed by the federal government’s current policies. The plaintiffs range in age from nine to twenty and have a multitude of reasons for joining the case such as one child’s home being flooded during uncharacteristic flooding in Louisiana recently that is being attributed to climate change. It is interesting to note that only five of the accusers are adults and eligible to vote. CNN provides profiles of all the plaintiffs on their website.
This lawsuit was put together by the organization, Our Children’s Trust, whose goal according to their website is to “[elevate] the voice of youth to secure the legal right to a stable climate and healthy atmosphere for the benefit of all present and future generations.” The founder of this organization, Julie Olson, a mother of two, is spearheading this case as the leading prosecutor. She became involved with environmental work when she was moved to tears after watching the revolutionary documentary on climate change entitled An Inconvenient Truth. She was pregnant at the time and witnessing the film was a wake-up call to her as to what sort of world she was bringing her child into. Four years after first watching this film she formed Our Children’s Trust to be a voice for children and in turn for the future.
This case has garnered a lot of publicity for the group and has been doing surprisingly well so far. It has not been merely dismissed as “kids just being kids”. It was decided that the case warranted a district court hearing in April. This hearing occurred in Eugene, Oregon on September 13 with Judge Ann Aiken presiding. She is expected to decide within the next sixty days whether or not the case will go to trial. Although the case has made it this far it still has a long way to go. According to a U.S. Department of Justice Attorney “there is simply no right to a pollution free environment.” It is also being stated that it is not the federal government’s fault for failing to stop climate change because other nations and companies out of the U.S. government’s jurisdiction are at fault as well. The children’s counter argument is that their rights to life, liberty, and property are clearly being violated by rising carbon dioxide levels that could very well make our world uninhabitable in several generations.
This is an unprecedented case that could very well alter our nation’s entire outlook on global warming and climate change if successful. The plaintiffs, although young, are very dedicated with a lofty goal of reaching the Supreme Court to plead their case and for their future which are inextricably linked for these kids and teens. This case has the potential to inspire our nation’s children to stand up for what they believe in regardless of their age. Times have certainly changed from the days when children were exclusively “seen and not heard”. These juvenile plaintiffs all have strong voices and are definitely unafraid to use them.