Young Americans for Climate Justice: Hope for the Future
Monday, June 24, 2019 at 2:54PM
Kyle Holberg in climate change action, ecological justice, ecology, environment

Viewing the court proceedings on the park’s large screenBefore attending the June 4th rally in support of a climate justice lawsuit,  I spent some time reviewing background details about the 4-year-old case, Juliana v. United States

In June, 2015, the non-profit organization Our Children’s Trust, on behalf of 21 children and teenagers, filed a constitutional climate-related lawsuit against the government. The suit maintains that the U.S. government, despite knowing that the burning of fossil fuel contributes to climate change, continues to promote and subsidize its extraction and use. These actions, the plaintiffs claim, violate their “…fundamental constitutional rights to life, liberty, and property.” Furthermore, the suit states that “(t)he overarching public trust resource is our country’s life-sustaining climate system, which encompasses our atmosphere, waters, oceans, and biosphere. Defendants must take affirmative steps to protect those trust resources.” To do so, the plaintiffs are asking the Government “…to prepare and implement an enforceable national remedial plan to phase out fossil fuel emissions and draw down excess atmospheric CO2 so as to stabilize the climate system and protect the vital resources on which Plaintiffs now and in the future will depend…”

At the federal courthouse in downtown Portland, Oregon, both parties to the lawsuit appeared before a three-judge panel from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. At Director Park, just a few blocks away, I joined hundreds of other supporters, many from various faith communities, to watch the hour-long oral arguments on a huge screen set up to livestream the proceedings. The hearing was in response to yet another motion filed by the Government asking that the case be dismissed. The plaintiffs are hopeful that the judges will rule in their favor. If so, the case can then proceed to trial, barring any future motions by the Government. In her closing remarks, Julia Olson, lead attorney for the plaintiffs, told the judges that “…when our great-grandchildren look back on the 21st century, they will see that government-sanctioned climate destruction was the constitutional issue of this century.”

After the hearing concluded, 17 of the 21 youthful plaintiffs and their attorneys walked from the courthouse to the park and spoke to the assembled supporters.  The attorneys and several of the youth plaintiffs shared their thoughts about progress in the case and their hopes for a livable future.

Do we have a constitutional right to some reasonable measure of climate stability? A group of young Americans certainly believe we do. Let’s hope they prevail.

To learn more about the case and its young plaintiffs, visit the ourchildrenstrust.org and youthvgov.org websites.

Article originally appeared on OneEarth sustainability amid climate change (http://theoneearthproject.com/).
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