Originally published at CNN on April 29, 2017, by John D. Sutter.
The kids suing Donald Trump are marching to the White House
Updated 4:04 PM ET, Sat April 29, 2017
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.”
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.
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.
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.
“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.
“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.”
“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.
“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.