We Got This

by Jim Poyser

Somewhere amid the miasma of news, from climate denial in the White House to tsunamic waves of revelation and accusation of sexual harassment and abuse, one story needs to be dragged into the light: Juliana vs. U.S.

This legal action is brought by Our Children’s Trust against the federal government. Originating back to the Obama Administration, this suit features 21 young plaintiffs who argue that, according to the OCT press release, their “constitutional and public trust rights are being violated by the government’s creation of climate danger.”

In other words, we have known the repercussions of fossil fuel emissions for 40 years or more — even oil companies were actively researching climate impacts in the 1980s – but instead of moving toward a clean energy economy and conservation mentality, multiple presidential administrations have ignored the pleas of climate science and citizen common sense.

Again, this suit originated in the Obama era, when not nearly enough was being accomplished regarding climate change. Now, in the Trump era, it is tempting to think the Apocalypse Party is in full swing as dark money interests maximize their powerhold. 

The Trump Administration understandably wants to avoid this lawsuit, and their Writ for Mandamus will be heard on Dec. 11 at 10 a.m. in San Francisco before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Juliana vs U.S. has passed numerous legal hurdles, and if they win again, they may be destined for a face-to-face confrontation with the Trump Administration.

Imagine the scenario: 21 young people, backed by science and moral persuasion, fighting for a chance at a livable future.

Follow their adventure here, including live-streaming the trial here.

If you’re like me, you are on a rollercoaster of emotions every single day, from horror to hope to certainty and back again. There was a time in fact, just a few years ago, that the legal actions of Our Children’s Trust was the only thing that brought me hope. Now, my role at Earth Charter Indiana is to aid and inspire a youth movement in Indiana, capable of transforming Hoosier hearts and minds regarding the need to act on climate change. 

And it’s working. Active youth throughout the state have formed groups and clubs to address climate issues in their respective towns, working in collaboration with local officials to address sustainability and stewardship. Three groups of youth have inspired their cities to adopt Climate Recovery Resolutions.

Their clarity and commitment keeps my rollercoaster ride from coming off the tracks.

As my son is fond of saying, whenever I express concern over our chances, “We got this.” 

And why not? By believing youth can win, we stand the chance of making progress. By shaking our heads in surrender, then we ensure our demise. 

In the Social and Economic Justice pillar of the Earth Charter, it states: “Guarantee the right to potable water, clean air, food security, uncontaminated soil, shelter, and safe sanitation, allocating the national and international resources required.” 

Our Children’s Trust plaintiffs are attempting to guarantee exactly that.

Two other news stories deserve your attention: 

  • Today (Nov. 20), Nebraska’s Public Service Commission votes on permitting Keystone XL pipeline. Will an oil spill in South Dakota impact that decision?
  • Speaking of tar sands oil, the “necessity defense” has been approved in the trial of pipeline activists shutting down two crude oil pipelines temporarily on Oct. 11, 2016. In other words, they can defend themselves with the argument they had no other legal alternative in addressing the climate crisis.

This Thanksgiving give thanks to the brave people on the front lines of this struggle. Together, we got this.

Jim Poyser