A group of Colorado kids filed suit last week against the State of Colorado, Governor John Hickenlooper, Colorado Department of Health and Environment, Colorado Air Quality Control Commission, and Colorado Department of Natural Resources as part of a coordinated effort to force action on climate change.
Similar suits have been filed in all 50 states and against the federal government.
In conjunction with the legal actions, youth marches are being held all over the world this week, including more than 60 in the United States, culminating with Denver’s march, Saturday, May 14th.
The march will begin at 12:00 Noon at Cuernavaca Park (20th and Platte Street, near REI) and proceed 2 miles before ending at Civic Center Park with speakers, music and other entertainment. Organizers says they expect the combined marches to be the largest-ever mobilization of youth against climate change.
Speakers will include the actress Daryl Hannah, Congressman Jared Polis and possibly Governor John Hickenlooper. Entertainment will be provided by Flobots lead singer Johnny 5, possibly accompanied by other members of the band.
10-year-old organizer Xiuhtezcatl Roske-Martinez said he expects between 5000 and 10,000 people to take part in the Denver event. Asked how he was attracting such top-flight entertainment and so many marchers, he said, “We have connections.”
Indeed, the group counts Willie Nelson, Ted Turner and Robert Redford among its supporters.
“This is something new – no climate litigation in the past has ever gone back to the first principal that the government must protect the public trust,” said Ashley Wilmes, an attorney for the plaintiffs. “The large body of litigation brought under environmental statutes is too narrow for the crisis at hand. Science, not politics, defines the fiduciary obligation that trustees must fulfill – it’s the most common sense, fundamental legal footing for the protection of our planet.”
Xiuhtezcatl Roske-Martinez, a 10-year-old leader with the Colorado-based Earth Guardian group, is one of the plaintiffs. “Our future is in jeopardy because of the environmental and climate crisis. Our Earth won’t even be worth inheriting because of the decisions that the leaders of our country are making,” said Roske-Martinez. “We are in a planetary crisis, and it’s time for them to wake up and help us fight for our future and the future of their own children.”
He told the Colorado Independent, “We hope that by doing this, the government will realize we are in big trouble and will do something to protect the atmosphere.”
A press release said the legal actions of the groups rely on the long established legal principle of the Public Trust Doctrine that requires the government to protect and maintain certain shared resources fundamental for human health and survival.
“The public trust law in our country and around the world says that common resources like water and air are held in trust by the government for the people and for future generations,” said Julia Olson, Our Children’s Trust executive director. “Lawyers around the nation are providing legal assistance to young people to help them protect their future, since the government has abdicated that responsibility.”
The goal of the legal and administrative actions is to force reductions in carbon dioxide emissions and implementation of reforestation programs that will counter the negative impacts of climate change. The youth plaintiffs and petitioners are receiving legal support from Our Children’s Trust, an organization dedicated to protecting the Earth for current and future generations.
In Colorado, the group says some of the expected economic, health and environmental impacts of climate change include reduced summer water flows, pine beetle destroyed forests, more massive wildfires, a shortened ski season, frequent heat waves, increased illness from insect-born diseases, loss of endangered species, and diminished water supplies.
“Young people will be affected most by climate change and by our government’s inaction. We can’t vote, and we don’t have money to compete with lobbyists,” said Alec Loorz, the 16-year-old founder of iMatter. “We do, however, have the moral authority and the legal right to insist that our future be protected.”