May 24, 2014 - Youth Suing Governments for Inaction on Climate Change by Xiuhtezcatl Roske-Martinez
Right now humanity is approaching a crossroad, where the very fabric of our life sustaining systems on Earth are endangered due to the choices past generations have made. When we arrive at this crossroad, we must realize that the decisions made today will determine the kind of world we will leave future generations. I am 13 years old and my generation has inherited a mindset that to be successful means to have the biggest and best of everything, a belief which is powered by the fossil fuel industry. This mindset has put our planet in a place where people are using resources faster than the Earth can regenerate them.
Contemporary lifestyles are causing an ecological collapse in every ecosystem on the planet. Scientists are calling this the 6th largest mass extinction since the time of the dinosaurs. Climate change weather patterns are drastically shifting toward the extreme, creating the biggest crisis ever faced by human civilization. We are seeing increases in floods and droughts, heat waves and cold spells, fires and ice storms, earthquakes and hurricanes, famine and death. These extreme weather patterns have been on the front page of every major news outlet and can’t be denied!
What many people fail to see is that every problem facing humanity is going to be left to mine and future generations. From deforestation to ocean acidification, from our climate and environmental crisis to starvation and war, this is the kind of world the youth are inheriting. Now we come to a pivotal moment in time, where we could experience the collapse of all human civilization as we know it. Except our generation is not going to let that happen. We the Change Generation are rising up all over the planet to help bring forth a healthy, just, and sustainable world to pass on to future generations.
In the light of a collapsing human civilization, our generation has the power to revise history and shift the philosophy of human society, so people will once again consider how our actions today will affect 7 generations ahead. The one question that every person has to ask themselves is, “What kind of world are we going to leave for future generations?”
Here in the United States, youth from all 50 states have taken action to try and reverse the impacts of global climate change by suing our state and federal governments for their lack of compliance and legal responsibility to protect our resources under the Public Trust Doctrine. The Public Trust Doctrine says that all resources are to be protected for future generations and are not to be used, hoarded, or wasted by any single organization, generation, governmental branch, or corporation.
We have an inalienable right to these resources, and our elected officials are not doing their job to protect these resources for the people. We are at a critical point in time where the survival of the human race is at stake because of our climate and environmental crisis. Many people deny the reality of Climate Change, but no one can deny that we are using up our resources too quickly, thus destroying our natural environments and putting all humanity at risk.
Escalated levels of non-violent direct action are going to be necessary, if we are going to reduce Co2 levels and restore the atmosphere. Many scientists say that we have already passed a tipping point. However, if we start reducing our carbon output right now, we can avoid some of the worst-case scenarios that have been projected. Our lawsuits are demanding a Climate Recover Plan, a 6% carbon reduction annually, and massive reforestation of the United States, based on the latest science from former NASA scientist Jim Hansen. This reduction is critical if we want to get back down to a safe point of 350 parts per million (ppm) of carbon in the atmosphere. Never before in human history have greenhouse gas levels been above 350 ppm, and in less than 200 years since the industrial revolution we have skyrocketed to 402 ppm of carbon.
The lack of response to this issue by political leaders has given young people, who clearly see the dire situation Mother Earth is in, no choice but to sue their state and federal governments. These lawsuits are giving young people under the age of 18 across the country an opportunity to raise their collective voices about the flaws in our governmental systems. We may be too young to vote, but our voices will be heard on this issue. This resistance movement is now spreading across the globe, and if we win, our lawsuit has the potential to bring the change we need to avoid a collapsing climate. The youth are waking up the people of the world and guiding us in a direction that demands we be left a healthy, just, and sustainable planet.
Those interested in learning more about legal action, public education, and youth engagement with Our Children’s Trust can visit: www.ourchildrenstrust.org.
Xiuhtezcatl Roske-Martinez is an organizer and performer with Earth Guardians, an organization of dedicated youth from around the world. There are currently Earth Guardians collectives on 5 continents, committed to standing up to protect the Earth, Water, Air, and Atmosphere so our generation and those to follow inherit a healthy, just, and sustainable planet. Earth Guardians are focusing on weaving together the synergy of individual grassroots youth driven projects around the globe to create one international and intergenerational movement for effective change. Watch Xiuhtezcatl give a lecture for TEDx Youth@MileHigh and perform with his brother Itzcuauhtli the songs “Return to Nature” and “Be the Change:”