Twenty-one kids and young adults, ages 8-19, attended federal court in Eugene, Oregon on Wednesday of this week. Their day in court wasn’t part of a Career Day or “Take Your Child to Work” event — the 21 young people are actually plaintiffs in a lawsuit against President Obama and various agencies in the United States government for not acting quickly or extensively enough to stop climate change. The “climate kids” as the group has been dubbed, say that their generation and future generations will be the ones who will suffer from multiple issues related to climate change. Their official federal complaint: they are being robbed of their right to life, liberty, and property. They also claim that their ages greatly reduce their ability to take part in the political process (especially since most of them aren’t eligible to vote). The suit, which is currently in the pretrial phase, is part of a larger campaign called Our Children’s Trust, which focuses on legal action to create definitive progress toward a stable climate. The effort has resulted in complaints and petitions being filed in all 50 states by young people who believe their future is being compromised by adults in present day.
Photo via Earth Guardians
While President Obama and the federal government have made some progress toward climate change policies, the plaintiffs argue that the gestures are too little and probably too late. The climate kids’ ultimate desired outcome is for the government (including federal agencies such as the Department of Energy and the EPA) to develop a specific plan to stop climate change as well as to develop measures to stop our country from contributing to the problem. The youth, with the guidance of climate change experts including former NASA climate scientist James Hansen (who is also the grandfather of one of the plaintiffs), all expressed how climate change has personally affected or will affect their families or where they live, and they are hoping that their varied stories will compel the judge to hear out the case. One of the most vocal members of the group is 15 year-old Xiuhtezcatl Tonatiuh, who has been a climate change activist for almost 10 years and who attended the recent climate change summit in Paris.
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Unsurprisingly, the federal government and fossil fuel companies are asking that the lawsuit be dismissed with one Department of Justice attorney saying, “There simply is no constitutional right to a pollution-free environment.” Whatever the outcome of this particular case is, it’s evident that today’s youth are not going to simply sit back and watch as the planet is destroyed. Last fall, kids in Mexico scored a huge environmental win against developers. Here’s hoping that this case and others like it offer a compelling reason to make the well-being of future generations a huge priority.