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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 5th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

 www.cnn.com/2017/04/29/politics/s…

April 29.
The kids suing Donald Trump are marching to the White House
By John D. Sutter, CNN
Updated 4:04 PM ET, Sat April 29, 2017

John D. Sutter is a columnist for CNN Opinion who focuses on climate change and social justice. Follow him on Snapchat, Twitter and Facebook or subscribe to his email newsletter.

Washington (CNN)A 16-year-old walked up to the microphone.

“The state of the planet is unraveling all around us because of our addiction to fossil fuels,” Xiuhtezcatl Martinez said at the steps of the US Supreme Court this week. “For the last several decades, we have been neglecting the fact that this is the only planet that we have and that the main stakeholders in this issue (of climate change) are the younger generation. Not only are the youth going to be inheriting every problem that we see in the world today — after our politicians have been long gone — but our voices have been neglected from the conversation.

“Our politicians are no longer representing our voices.”
So, what’s a voiceless kid to do?

How about sue President Donald Trump and his administration — and then march to the White House?

Martinez is one of 21 young people taking Trump and members of his administration to federal court over inaction on global warming. On Saturday, several of these “climate kid’ plaintiffs — the youngest is 9 — will walk alongside the chanting and sign-pumping adults at the March for Climate, Jobs and Justice in Washington. That demonstration is a call for a clean energy revolution, and it’s expected to draw thousands. Perhaps fittingly, local forecasts call for potentially record-setting temperatures above 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Demonstrators plan to converge on the White House.

Yes, it’s easy to tire of protests in the Trump era, with this rally coming right on the heels of last week’s March for Science and not so long after the Women’s March. Talk is cheap. But these climate kids deserve your attention.

Jamie Lynn Butler, 15, from Cameron, Arizona, said her family had to move off of a Navajo reservation because of searing droughts. One of the family’s horses died from dehydration, she said. “Because of drought on the reservation and climate change there’s less and less water. I don’t want the next generation, and this generation, to keep losing things because of how we treat the planet.”

Jacob Lebel, 19, lives and works on his familys farm in Roseburg, Oregon. As farmers, the drought and heat waves (associated with climate change) make it harder to work. The fire season has just been crazy he said. We could lose everything.

Jayden Foytlin, 13, saw her home in Rayne, Louisiana, flood this year in a deadly storm directly linked to climate change. “I’m being affected, my generation is being affected, Louisiana is being affected by climate change,” she said.
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"We are in a climate emergency," Journey Zephier, who lives in Hawaii, said at a press conference in March. "The federal government and fossil fuel industry have known for over 50 years that their actions and the burning of fossil fuels would result in destabilizing the Earth's climate system."
Photos: Meet the kids suing the President
“We are in a climate emergency,” Journey Zephier, who lives in Hawaii, said at a press conference in March. “The federal government and fossil fuel industry have known for over 50 years that their actions and the burning of fossil fuels would result in destabilizing the Earth’s climate system.”
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12 of 17

Isaac Vergun, photographed at age 14, of Beaverton, Oregon, said it bothers him when he sees people driving cars that are bigger than they need. “It hurts me,” he said. “Even if they did a little something — like not buy that car — that would make a difference.”

Hazel Van Ummersen is from Eugene, Oregon. She and her family “reduce their carbon footprint by gardening, recycling, buying local products, biking, and walking,” according to court records.

“The Arctic is being affected more than twice as fast as the Lower 48” states, said Nathan Baring, 16, from Fairbanks, Alaska. “We have the technology to make the change. It’s the politics that’s keeping us from it.”

“I’ve always been interested in my birth country,” said Miko Vergun, 15, who was adopted from the Marshall Islands, in the Pacific. She now lives in Beaverton, Oregon. “I want to be able to go back — but that would be really difficult right now because of climate change. It’s possible the island will disappear” because of rising sea levels.

“Even though I try to protect my natural resources and the climate system by biking, gardening, recycling, educating others about climate change, and practicing vegetarianism, I cannot protect the climate system for myself, and my family,” Sahara Valentine of Eugene, Oregon, said in a court filing.

“I chose to join the case because it sounded like something I could actually do,” said Nick Venner, photographed in 2016 at age 15, from Lakewood, Colorado. “I think we have a really good chance of winning. It’s hard for legal experts to deny the rights of young people. We are the future. They will be long gone before the long-term effects (of climate change) ever hit them. It’s about my kids. It’s about their grandkids.”

Kelsey Juliana, 20, from Eugene, Oregon, has been involved in legal action over climate change for years. “It’s a systems change we’re asking for. And who are we asking it for? Everyone on the planet, especially the youth, the most unheard, the most disenfranchised,” she said. “Almost all the kids in this case haven’t voted ever — and cannot vote. That’s something I certainly think about, as one of the few who can vote.”
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“We live on a barrier island,” said Levi Draheim, 9, from Florida’s Space Coast. “If the sea rises, our (home) could just be underwater. And a couple of our reefs … they’re just almost gone. I can’t even go to the beach. It gives me nightmares.”

Tia Hatton, 19, from Bend, Oregon, said she had to convince her family it was a good idea for her to take on the federal government. “I was late knowing about climate change. I lived in a conservative community. It wasn’t until my senior year of high school that I started thinking about it when the snow levels dropped in Bend. I’m a Nordic skier. All of a sudden, the puzzle started fitting together.”

“You feel like there’s no point in fighting,” said Aji Piper, 16, from Seattle. “But you have this knowledge. So you still fight against this because it’s the only thing you can do.” He said it’s frustrating when people think he’s only repeating information adults have fed to him. “I’m not regurgitating any of this information,” he said. “I’m not stupid. These facts are overwhelmingly in one direction.”

Climate change is “something I worry about,” said Avery McRae, 11, of Eugene, Oregon. “If we don’t do something now, we have a very bad future ahead of us.”

“I do a lot of outdoor activities that will be affected by climate change,” said Zealand Bell, photographed at age 12, from Eugene, Oregon. “I ski, raft, hike — all sorts of stuff. We go up to Willamette Pass (to ski), and the last few years it’s barely been open because of the lack of snow. It does sort of make me mad, but mostly I’m sad. We’ve affected our climate so much. We’ve done all of this.”
Hide Caption

Victoria Barrett, 17, from New York, said she’s involved in the climate change lawsuit because “it’s pertinent to literally the existence of humankind.” “We’re some of the people to be like, ‘Yo, cut it out with that.’ And if you don’t do it, we’re going to sue you to do it. … It’s really important to posterity what we’re doing.”

Jamie Lynn Butler, 15, from Cameron, Arizona, said her family had to move off of a Navajo reservation because of searing droughts. One of the family’s horses died from dehydration, she said. “Because of drought on the reservation and climate change there’s less and less water. I don’t want the next generation, and this generation, to keep losing things because of how we treat the planet.”

Jacob Lebel, 19, lives and works on his family’s farm in Roseburg, Oregon. “As farmers, the drought and heat waves (associated with climate change) make it harder to work. The fire season has just been crazy,” he said. “We could lose everything.”

Jayden Foytlin, 13, saw her home in Rayne, Louisiana, flood this year in a deadly storm directly linked to climate change. “I’m being affected, my generation is being affected, Louisiana is being affected by climate change,” she said.

“We are in a climate emergency,” Journey Zephier, who lives in Hawaii, said at a press conference in March. “The federal government and fossil fuel industry have known for over 50 years that their actions and the burning of fossil fuels would result in destabilizing the Earth’s climate system.”

Isaac Vergun, photographed at age 14, of Beaverton, Oregon, said it bothers him when he sees people driving cars that are bigger than they need. “It hurts me,” he said. “Even if they did a little something — like not buy that car — that would make a difference.”

Hazel Van Ummersen is from Eugene, Oregon. She and her family “reduce their carbon footprint by gardening, recycling, buying local products, biking, and walking,” according to court records.

“The Arctic is being affected more than twice as fast as the Lower 48” states, said Nathan Baring, 16, from Fairbanks, Alaska. “We have the technology to make the change. It’s the politics that’s keeping us from it.”

“I’ve always been interested in my birth country,” said Miko Vergun, 15, who was adopted from the Marshall Islands, in the Pacific. She now lives in Beaverton, Oregon. “I want to be able to go back — but that would be really difficult right now because of climate change. It’s possible the island will disappear” because of rising sea levels.

“Even though I try to protect my natural resources and the climate system by biking, gardening, recycling, educating others about climate change, and practicing vegetarianism, I cannot protect the climate system for myself, and my family,” Sahara Valentine of Eugene, Oregon, said in a court filing.

“I chose to join the case because it sounded like something I could actually do,” said Nick Venner, photographed in 2016 at age 15, from Lakewood, Colorado. “I think we have a really good chance of winning. It’s hard for legal experts to deny the rights of young people. We are the future. They will be long gone before the long-term effects (of climate change) ever hit them. It’s about my kids. It’s about their grandkids.”

Kelsey Juliana, 20, from Eugene, Oregon, has been involved in legal action over climate change for years. “It’s a systems change we’re asking for. And who are we asking it for? Everyone on the planet, especially the youth, the most unheard, the most disenfranchised,” she said. “Almost all the kids in this case haven’t voted ever — and cannot vote. That’s something I certainly think about, as one of the few who can vote.”

“We live on a barrier island,” said Levi Draheim, 9, from Florida’s Space Coast. “If the sea rises, our (home) could just be underwater. And a couple of our reefs … they’re just almost gone. I can’t even go to the beach. It gives me nightmares.”

Tia Hatton, 19, from Bend, Oregon, said she had to convince her family it was a good idea for her to take on the federal government. “I was late knowing about climate change. I lived in a conservative community. It wasn’t until my senior year of high school that I started thinking about it when the snow levels dropped in Bend. I’m a Nordic skier. All of a sudden, the puzzle started fitting together.”

“You feel like there’s no point in fighting,” said Aji Piper, 16, from Seattle. “But you have this knowledge. So you still fight against this because it’s the only thing you can do.” He said it’s frustrating when people think he’s only repeating information adults have fed to him. “I’m not regurgitating any of this information,” he said. “I’m not stupid. These facts are overwhelmingly in one direction.”

Climate change is “something I worry about,” said Avery McRae, 11, of Eugene, Oregon. “If we don’t do something now, we have a very bad future ahead of us.”

“I do a lot of outdoor activities that will be affected by climate change,” said Zealand Bell, photographed at age 12, from Eugene, Oregon. “I ski, raft, hike — all sorts of stuff. We go up to Willamette Pass (to ski), and the last few years it’s barely been open because of the lack of snow. It does sort of make me mad, but mostly I’m sad. We’ve affected our climate so much. We’ve done all of this.”

Victoria Barrett, 17, from New York, said she’s involved in the climate change lawsuit because “it’s pertinent to literally the existence of humankind.” “We’re some of the people to be like, ‘Yo, cut it out with that.’ And if you don’t do it, we’re going to sue you to do it. … It’s really important to posterity what we’re doing.”

Jamie Lynn Butler, 15, from Cameron, Arizona, said her family had to move off of a Navajo reservation because of searing droughts. One of the family’s horses died from dehydration, she said. “Because of drought on the reservation and climate change there’s less and less water. I don’t want the next generation, and this generation, to keep losing things because of how we treat the planet.”

01 climate kids Nick_Venner_1802 climate kids Kelsey_Juliana_6403 climate kids Levi_Draheim_404 climate kids Tia_Hatton_2205 climate kids Aji_Piper_3606 climate kids Avery_McRae_3107 climate kids Zealand_Bell_3208 climate kids Victoria_Barrett_709 climate kids Jamie_Lynn_Butler910 climate kids Jacob_Lebel_1811 climate kids Jayden_Foytlin_3912 climate kids Journey_Zephier_2413 climate kids Isaac_Vergun_614 climate kids Hazel_Van_Ummersen_1515 climate kids Nathan_Baring_2216 climate kids Miko_Vergun_2417 climate kids Sahara_Valentine_26
Instead of bemoaning the Orwellian satire that has become the American news cycle, these kids are doing something. They’re suing on behalf of the future.
Their lawsuit, which was filed in federal court in Oregon, initially targeted then-President Barack Obama and his administration. Last year, it survived motions by industry and government to dismiss the case. It has taken on new significance in the first 100 days of Trump’s tenure. The President has famously called climate change a hoax, and members of his Cabinet have equivocated on the science, injecting doubt into a long-held scientific consensus that humans are causing the planet to warm by burning fossil fuels and pumping heat-trapping pollution into the atmosphere.
The administration’s efforts go well beyond rhetoric. Trump ordered a review of the Clean Power Plan, Obama’s signature climate legislation. He aims to open federal lands and ocean for fossil fuel extraction. Coal jobs are coming back, he crows. Nevermind that millions of people around the world die each year from diseases linked to air pollution — much of which comes from coal.

A sign is prepared before the march.

The administration is reportedly mulling pulling out from the Paris Agreement, an international accord designed to push the planet out of the fossil fuel era. Federal monuments and parks are under review; funding for regulators is on the chopping block.

All of this is likely to lead to more pollution and therefore more warming — more wildfires, longer droughts, rising seas, mass extinction. This is the polluted and dangerous world we are creating, and it’s what’s chasing activists into the streets.

The climate kids could help change the tide.

They’re arguing on constitutional grounds that their rights to life, liberty and property are being violated by runaway climate change. Their attorneys also say these kids and others are being discriminated against as a class of people.

Since they’re young, they will live longer into the climate-changed future.

They’re people like Levi Draheim, who at 9 years old is the youngest child plaintiff. He’s a bubbly kid with wild curly hair who lives on the coast of Florida, a place threatened by rising seas. As the Earth warms, the oceans expand and ice melts. Draheim told me he dreams frequently that his home is underwater. Those dreams have only become more frequent since Trump’s election, he said.

The kids suing Trump and his administration are among thousands expected to gather this weekend in Washington.

“It was really highly disturbing to me that (adults) would choose somebody who doesn’t believe in climate change — and is not going to,” he said. “It’s scary having someone who doesn’t believe in climate change being our president and shutting down the (Environmental Protection Agency), or trying to. It is so anti-preventing climate change.”

Draheim isn’t old enough to vote, of course. But Saturday’s march — and the court case — give him and other kids a voice. Julia Olson, an attorney and founder of Our Children’s Trust, the nonprofit helping to bring the lawsuit, told me she expects the case to go to trial later this year. In court, she told a Washington crowd, “alternative facts are perjury.”
Experts in climate law say the suit may be a long shot but remains significant.
“The case is important, in my mind, from a symbolic and ethics perspective,” said Deborah Sivas, director of the Environmental Law Clinic at Stanford Law School. “It often takes the law a long time to catch up to changing moral sensibilities. It only does so when people are willing to press innovative, outside-the-box arguments. My hope is that we will be able to look back on this case as an early, first mover of a changing jurisprudence.”

Stickers supporting the kids’ cause.

“After several years with little success, environmental plaintiffs have now won climate change cases in several countries ?based on constitutional, human rights and international law grounds, as opposed to the more traditional statutory grounds — the Netherlands, Pakistan, Austria and South Africa,” Michael Gerrard, director of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia Law School, said in an email. “The Oregon case now joins that list, and its symbolic importance has added weight now that Washington is run by climate deniers.”
Olson, the attorney for the kids, said the case is not symbolic and can win. Those who say otherwise “are denying the capacity of humans to take care of democracy and take care of the planet,” she said.

I spent a couple days this week with the climate kids. I heard about their visits to Washington museums and to see the Constitution. I watched as they sang and danced at DC Metro stops, playing Kendrick Lamar simultaneously on two phones to get twice the experience. I talked to them about their hopes and fears about this case, about why so many American adults — 47% according to a Yale survey — don’t understand humans are causing global warming. They explained why they’re marching and speaking here even at a moment when they worry adults might not listen.

An audience in Washington listens Friday to a presentation by kids suing the Trump administration over climate change.

“Most people know climate change is happening, but they push it aside so they can continue living their lives,” said Isaac Vergun, 15.
“It’s not their fault,” chimed in Zealand Bell, 13. “They don’t know better.”
Their hope and generosity are infectious. Their parents and attorneys didn’t put them up to this. (I’ve talked with kids who had to convince their parents to let them do this.) The kids are genuinely concerned their generation will inherit an irreparably messed-up world.
The truth is that we adults need these climate kids.

We need them more than thousands of adults marching on Saturday.

We need them as a moral compass.

And we need them to remind us that our actions will echo for generations to come.
“They’ll be adults by the time they get to court,” Cherri Foytlin, one of their parents, joked as we watched several of the kids speak alongside US senators Thursday at the Supreme Court.
I hope not. But if so, they’ll be better adults than most.

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