The lawsuit, filed by Our Children’s Trust in 2015, relies on a novel legal strategy that has yielded victories for climate activists seeking sweeping policy change in other countries. The federal government, under both the Obama and Trump administrations, and the fossil fuel industry have repeatedly sought to have the case dismissed. But federal judges have so far upheld the plaintiffs’ right to a hearing, which means the case could come to trial as early as November.
“What I am interested in is just developing a whole new generation of talent,” Obama told NPR’s Steve Inskeep in an interview on Morning EditionThere are such incredible young people who not only worked on my campaign, but I’ve seen in advocacy groups,” Obama said. “I’ve seen passionate about issues like climate change, or conservation, criminal justice reform. You know, campaigns to — for a livable wage, or health insurance. And making sure that whatever resources, credibility, spotlight that I can bring to help them rise up. That’s something that I think I can do well, I think Michelle can do well.
To Rehabilitate Democratic Party, Obama Plans To ‘Coach’ Young Talent December 19, 20165:00 AM ET
“We are Power Shift” is a grassroots online community acting as a clearing house for the youth climate movement. It provides a “State Networks Toolkit” for those who want to organize regionally.[i] Youth activists interviewed by Kristin Moe at a conference for young environmental and social activists often had “a radically holistic view of environmental justice that differentiates them from past generations of activists.”[ii] They see the environment connected to labor, race, class, immigration and education, the common activist theme of intersectionality. Her article in Yes! Magazine features activists as young as 11 working on local environmental problems such as mining, fracking (Kids Against Fracking was founded by Emma Bray, 14), and the Keystone XL pipeline. Teenagers in Colorado are involved in Our Children’s Trust where young people from all the US states are plaintiffs in a class action suit against their state governments for failing to protect the atmosphere under Public Trust Doctrine.[iii] It’s derived from English Common Law that defines water as a public resource.
[ii] Kristin Moe, “Meet the New Climate Heroes,” Yes! Magazine, October 25, 2013.
Indian student Siddhant founded GreenGaians in 2009. The group organized a campaign in schools and government offices to plant trees. Siddhant added, “More than activism, I prefer to lead by example, trying to follow a green lifestyle.” I asked him what motivated him to be a teen changemaker; “I guess my motivation came from my love for the planet. When children used to watch Cartoon Network, I would watch National Geographic or Discovery. I became a vegetarian when I was nine due to ethical reasons.” Again we see the influence of Western media on children globally. Being a Hindu is another influence, “The respect I have for other creatures has come from my religion. We worship the elements, and therefore respect them.” His parents are both teachers and as an only child they “have always been very supportive in everything I’ve done.” (Also in India, recycled plastic is us used to maker more than 3,000 miles of roads, innovated by Professor Rajagopalan Vasudevan.)
Dutch student Boyan Slat delayed going to university to study engineering to raise money for his plan to collect plastic debris from the Pacific Ocean. Diving in Greece, he saw more plastic bags than fish, so when he was 17, he developed a passive cleanup system. He coordinated a 530-page feasibility study, spoke on TEDx[i] and turned to crowdsourcing to raise $2 million to build the structures needed to collect plastic and recycle it into oil or other materials like the cover of the report.[ii] (Also in the Netherlands, olivine is used as a pebble ground cover because it absorbs carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.) Other young European environmentalists are active in Young Greens party.[iii]
In a study of 71 youth activists in Rio de Janeiro, Mexico City and Chicago most of them had an adult who encouraged them to think independently, helping them feel valued and respected. This support generated a strong sense of self and a sense of being different, feeling they could make a difference even though many adults assumed they weren’t capable. They described themselves as curious, restless, and feeling responsibility for their families and communities. Many were indignant about social injustices they observed, including racism and sexism. Some of them were able to involve their mothers in their political causes. Most of them were involved in leadership groups at school, but many were critical of schools as not listening to students or preparing them for their future. Some were viewed by school administration as troublemakers. They usually felt safer and more empowered in small community organizations, but not religious groups except in Rio.
Maria De Los Angeles Torres, Irene Rizzini, and Norma Del Rio. Citizens in the Present: Youth Civic Engagement in the Americas. University of Illinois Press, 2013.