Who Has the Youth, Has the Future (Part III: Atmospheric Trust Litigation)

More on Alec Loorz and the young people who have taken to the courts. When Loorz was 13, he founded a grassroots movement of young people called Kids vs. Global Warming, a very successful effort through which he has spoken to tens of thousands of his peers and has earned the respect of adult environmental activists. (They appear to be much too busy to keep their website updated.) Having catalyzed a growing youth movement under the umbrella of its “iMatter” campaign, Kids vs. Global Warming is now focusing on the courts.

The federal agencies named as defendants in the federal iMatter lawsuit include the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Departments of Interior, Agriculture, Commerce, Energy, and Defense. (Download a PDF the complaint here.)

Environmental lawyer Julia A. Olson and her colleagues at Our Children’s Trust and Wild Earth Advocates are among those spearheading a campaign of “Atmospheric Trust Litigation,” for which they have also filed suits against the states of Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington.  (click here to download the state complaints)

The legal basis for these lawsuits is to include the atmosphere under Public Trust Doctrine, a new application of an old concept. Our Children’s Trust describes the core concept of the Public Trust Doctrine this way:

“The government has a legal obligation to preserve these trust resources and to manage them for the equal benefit of everyone, not just for the benefit of the wealthy and politically-connected corporations. The government cannot allow the privatization of the atmosphere. The Public Trust Doctrine is well-established in American law and in many other legal traditions throughout the world. The doctrine stretches all the way back to the Roman times, long before anyone understood how important and fragile the atmosphere truly is. Fifteen hundred years ago the Emperor Justininan wrote, “The things which are naturally everybody’s are: the air, flowing water, the sea, and the seashore.” The legal actions apply this deep-rooted doctrine to our modern understanding of the atmosphere, demanding that the government recognize and protect our collective right to a stable, livable climate.” (click here for more)

Question in need of analysis: What effect will the unanimous Supreme Court Decision handed down in late June in American Electric Power v. Connecticut have on these cases and on the stormy relationship between congress and the EPA? Comments encouraged!

Who Has the Youth, Has The Future, Part II (Kids vs. Global Warming Goes to Court)

17 year-old Alec Loorz and a handful of other young people are suing the government. A whole bunch of federal agencies and many states. The legal theory behind the cases is at once common-sense and quite novel: The atmosphere is a “public trust” for future generations, and protecting it is an obligation to future generations.

“The legislative and executive branches of our government have failed us,” Alec said in a recent interview with the New York Times. People have been trying to push for real change at the legislative level for a long time, and nothing has worked. That’s why we’re going after it through the judicial branch of government.”

Before diving my take on how these suits are are connected to the two Supreme Court cases that address emissions of greenhouse gasses, the EPA’s authority over regulating this under the Clean Air Act, and the calls for eviscerating the EPA by GOP leaders in Congress, and politicians seeking the GOP presidential nomination, here are two videos introducing Alec — one when he was 13, and the other last year, when he was 16. (The first is 9 minutes long, and the second one almost 8 minutes. Stay with them if you have the time; it’s worth it.)

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Alec Loorz at 13:

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Alec Loorz at 16, being introduced by James Hansen:

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