Kids between the ages of 8 and 19 years old in Eugene, Oregon have taken a stand against the state of the climate and the effects that climate change will have on future generations.
In August, a group of “youth plaintiffs” sued the federal government claiming that inaction on climate change is a violation to the right to life, liberty, and property. Because of this, they demanded that President Obama, seven federal departments, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) react immediately to help preserve the climate for future generations to enjoy.
A spokesperson for the EPA declined to make a statement about the young people’s lawsuit. However, they did agree that the government has a “moral obligation to leave a healthy planet for future generations”. The EPA also pointed out the White House’s Climate Action Plan and Clean Power Plans as ways they are trying to fight against environmental degradation. On the other hand, the young people stated that these plans are “ineffectual” and “demonstrably short of what is needed.”.
The complaints of the young people span across a number of issues that can be seen across the country, and they expect all of them to be treated equally as violations that must be addressed. They are aiming to get show the judge that the development and use of fossil fuels is a violation of the Fifth and Ninth Amendments, and a violation of the public trust doctrine.
The public trust doctrine states that certain natural and cultural resources are preserved for public use; because of this, it is the government’s duty to protect and maintain the resources. The Fifth and Ninth Amendments are a bit trickier. The Ninth Amendment addresses the rights retained by people that are not specifically enumerated in the Constitution. The argument is that the U.S. government knowingly aided in the destruction of the atmosphere, and ignored decades of research that could have help deter the environmental effects humans have inflicted on the planet. According to the lawsuit, this is a violation of the kid’s rights to due process and equal protection.
Oregon isn’t the only place that has youths taking action against environmental issues. In June, an organization called Our Children’s Trust in the Netherlands won a case against the Dutch government. They asked for the courts to enforce more strict cuts to carbon emissions across the country, and the judge agreed.
Taking a stand to protect the environment has become a growing concern with the general public. As time passes and conditions become more aware to the world, we will see how the government and environmental agencies will react and protect the world around us. Nineteen year old plaintiff, Kelsey Julianna, says, “I think we’re taking extreme actions because we need extreme change. But I don’t even think this is that extreme. We’re just advocating for our rights.” These motivated young people are determined to take a stand for what they believe in, and we will see how this case will play out in the near future.