Will Children Save The Planet?

Every day, it seems, there is more news about this administration’s attack on climate science, its roll-back of efforts to reduce the carbon emissions that are causing the planet to warm–not to mention regulations intended to ensure that the nation’s water supply is potable and its air breathable.

The Trump Administration’s efforts to protect the bottom lines of fossil-fuel companies are in defiance of mounting evidence about the dangers posed by our changing climate.

Serious disruption to the Gulf Stream ocean currents that are crucial in controlling global climate must be avoided “at all costs”, senior scientists have warned. The alert follows the revelation this week that the system is at its weakest ever recorded.

Past collapses of the giant network have seen some of the most extreme impacts in climate history, with western Europe particularly vulnerable to a descent into freezing winters. A significantly weakened system is also likely to cause more severe storms in Europe, faster sea level rise on the east coast of the US and increasing drought in the Sahel in Africa.

The new research worries scientists because of the huge impact global warming has already had on the currents and the unpredictability of a future “tipping point”.

With Republicans in control of Congress (at least until next January, and beyond if the predicted “blue wave” fails to materialize), political intervention to protect the environment is unlikely.  Just as the NRA’s iron grip on GOP lawmakers has prevented passage of sensible gun legislation, campaign donations by the Koch brothers and other fossil fuel interests ensure a lack of meaningful Congressional action any time soon.

Enter the children.

A trial date of Oct. 29 has been set for a landmark climate change lawsuit brought by a group of young Americans despite the Trump administration’s efforts to halt the case.

Juliana v. United States was filed in 2015 on behalf of 21 plaintiffs who ranged between 8 to 19 years old at the time. They allege their constitutional and public trust rights are being violated by the government’s creation of a national energy system that causes dangerous climate change.

The trial will be heard before U.S. District Court Judge Ann Aiken in Eugene, Oregon, according to Our Children’s Trust, the non-profit group supporting the plaintiffs. Aiken joined the court in 1998 after being nominated by President Bill Clinton.

The lawsuit was filed when Obama was still President, and a few days before the Trump administration took it over, Obama’s Justice Department lawyers admitted the accuracy of several of the plaintiff’s scientific claims– including the claim that carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations are now greater than 400 parts per million. They also admitted that fossil fuel “extraction, development and consumption” causes those emissions.

The children’s suit asserts that government’s failure to adequately address climate change imperils their future. The Trump Administration has tried–and failed–to get the case dismissed, or the trial postponed.

“It is a relief to see that the Court understands how imperative it is to get this trial underway as soon as possible, despite all of the delay tactics the U.S. government continues to try to use,” Sophie Kivlehan, 19-year-old plaintiff from Allentown, Pennsylvania said. “I am so excited to have an official trial date on the calendar again so that we can finally bring our voices and our evidence into the courtroom!”

These youngsters–like the teenagers who survived Parkland–aren’t waiting for adults to take action to protect them. (They have evidently weighed the prospects of adults acting like adults, and concluded–reasonably enough–that those prospects are dim.)

The emergence of these young activists lends weight to the hotly debated arguments of researchers who posit that about every eight decades “a new positive, accomplished and group-oriented” civic generation appears, sometimes dubbed the “we generation” in contrast to the “me generations” that preceded it. The “we generation” is “non-cynical and civic minded” and its members believe in the value of political engagement.

These amazing kids may save us all.


  1. Our kids will be challenging the status quo in lots of areas. I just got an updated list of impaired waterways in Indiana–it would save money if they just provided a list of those which aren’t loaded with E Coli. We can thank our food production and desire to eat meat as the problem.

    Since the government refuses to perform its duties as stewards of our natural resources, the effort to clean up this mess will be extremely costly. Does anyone think the polluters will be around to clean up the mess??

    I can remember stopping at several creeks on our way to fish along the Missisinewa River less than 10 miles away. We’d get plenty of minnows.

    Today, our waterways carry animal waste laced with steroids and antibiotics. Once the sun comes out and the water warms, the blue-green algae bloom.

    Once again, our racist white culture loves meat even though it’s killing us and the planet we inhabit.

    The WE generation will be faced with years of cleaning up this mess and all the dirty operators will file bankruptcy or just close down. Taxpayers will get the bill with an already enormous federal deficit.

    George Orwell is more like Nostradamus because he projected how human beings would progress (if you call it that). We’ve already seen a few movies about young people saving the planet/world. I expect Hollywood to produce many more.

    The action will come once we accept what we’ve become and I don’t see any signs of it creeping into the mainstream. Those who talk about our horrendous state are called #Snowflakes.

    CHANGE is a difficult business. The messengers get blasted, censored, jailed, and even persecuted.

  2. I am rooting 150% for the success of those young people who have chosen to stand up and fight for positive change.

    The Parkland students have been quiet for the past couple weeks, but I am hoping it is because they are busy planning an even more aggressive assault on the NRA.

  3. Good story. Here in Indiana, kids guided by Jim Poyser, former editor of NUVO and now Executive Director of Earth Charter Indiana, have been working with city councils around the state, including Indianapolis and Carmel, to get resolutions passed that set goals for energy sustainability. Check out EarthCharterIndiana.org for more information on their exciting work around the state, or I could get together with you some time and fill you in.

  4. Todd,

    “The action will come once we accept what we’ve become and I don’t see any signs of it creeping into the mainstream. Those who talk about our horrendous state are called #Snowflakes.

    CHANGE is a difficult business. The messengers get BLASTED, CENSORED, JAILED, and even PERSECUTED.”

    At what age does the above REALITY set in? I’m afraid those brave young kids aren’t aware of what is in store for them.

  5. Right at the time Trump/Pence are at their weak point, we run away, cop out, or whatever you want to call it, instead of moving toward engagement.

    Absolutely no CIVIC COURAGE. It’s a planetary disgrace.

  6. The Trump administration appealed the judge’s decision to let the trial go forward, but was rebuffed by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. So the case will probably end up in the Supreme Court. One can only hope that Justice Kennedy will retire and that the Democrats in the Senate find a way to stall his replacement’s confirmation. Then, a four-four vote may allow a decision in favor of the students to prevail.

  7. I’m counting on our young leaders, and I’m optimistic about the affect they’ll have on the future of this planet.

  8. This will be their first lesson in reality civics. Even if they win their case. the courts have scant power to force action by the executive branch. They can end some practices, but even if the courts mandate change, Congress still has to pass bills and the executive branch still has to write regulations and carry out enforcement. The children must be prepared to run for office and they must be prepared to cling to and fight for their principles for decades.

  9. Sheila,

    “The emergence of these young activists lends weight to the hotly debated arguments of researchers who posit that about every eight decades “a new positive, accomplished and group-oriented” civic generation appears, sometimes dubbed the “we generation” in contrast to the “me generations” that preceded it.”

    That argument is based on a society, for the most part, that is going in a positive direction. That’s the opposite of our society, it’s falling apart almost on a daily basis.

  10. I’m beginning to see Donald Trump in a new light. Maybe when a society becomes as FEEBLE as this one, a dictator is the only medicine available.

    fee-ble (fe’ bel) adj. -bler -blest [< L flere,weep] 1. weak, infirm ( a feeble old man) 2. Without force or effectiveness ( a feeble attempt)—fee'ble-ness n.—fee'bly adv.

  11. I guess no one thought of taking a direct approach to the issue of fossil fuel-climate change before. I wonder if their suit will impact the regulators who have remained silent or disengaged while the coal industry and their associates have dodged regulations in the name of profits?

  12. daleb,

    “I wonder if their suit will impact the regulators who have remained silent or disengaged while the coal industry and their associates have dodged regulations in the name of profits?

    Late last night, I viewed a documentary on PBS. It was about the pollution in the waterways in many parts of West Virginia as well as the more publicized problem in Flint, Michigan. According to the Investigation [led by a water scientist from Purdue U.] the regulators didn’t remain silent, those at the EPA and CDC actively engaged with the leaders of the coal industry in West Virginia in preparing false reports as to the seriousness of the problem.

  13. It would be foolish for the older generation to assume that the young people can bring these positive changes alone. These young leaders will need the older generations’ support— emotional, political, and financial. The kids may be able to jolt us from our complacency, but we all will need to work together, and VOTE, to bring about meaningful change.

  14. No. They like us must go through whatever is coming our way(.) The Planet will heal itself, whether we are around after that healing might very well depend on just how lightly we proceed to walk upon Mother Earth.

  15. Hoping for the “Blue Wave” in November reminds me of history books I have read about early, medieval and renaissance era Christians waiting for the end of times. These rapture waiters pointed to various “signs”. Somehow the “Blue Wave” will deliver us from evil.

    The Senate on Thursday confirmed a former coal industry lobbyist as the second-highest official at the Environmental Protection Agency, putting him next in line to run the agency if embattled administrator Scott Pruitt is forced out or resigns.

    Like Pruitt, Wheeler has expressed public skepticism about the consensus of climate scientists that the continued burning of fossil fuels is the primary cause of global warming.

    “Before the Trump administration, it would have been inconceivable that a coal and chemical industry lobbyist with a long history of hostility toward environmental policy would be the No. 2 at EPA,” said Ken Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group.

    The Senate confirmed Wheeler Thursday 53-45. Three Democrats — Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Joe Donnelly of Indiana and Joe Manchin of West Virginia — joined with Republicans to support Wheeler.

    Will Children Save The Planet? Well we now know Joe Donnelly will not.

    Once again Joe Donnelly joins the Republicans, like he did when voted for Neil Gorusch.

    Republicans and Democrats in Congress have finally found something they can agree on, and it’s not immigration, or gun control, or health care. They’re easing some rules for banks. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) – “Republicans AND Democrats are gutting the rules on Wall Street,” she declared.

    Donnelly joins Republicans in move to roll back regulations on banking industry.

    The Financial Times pointed out that banks that stand to benefit from the legislation — namely, those with assets within sight of the $50 billion range — appear to have increased donations to Senate Democrats who support the bill. Individuals connected to Signature Bank, a regional bank, have donated $112,000 to senators so far in the 2017-’18 election cycle, eight times as much as it did during the entire 2015-’16 election cycle. Sens. Heitkamp and Donnelly, two of the bill’s co-sponsors, have been the biggest recipients of the Signature-linked Democratic donations.

  16. True, Peggy. Winning in court (if reason does) is just the first step in obtaining environmental relief in our tripartite form of government. We can expect greedy capitalists who prefer money today over survival tomorrow to fight tooth and nail to blunt the judicial outcome in the halls of Congress and, of course, the Oval Office, and trouble is, we may be so far down the trail of environmental destruction that the issue will have become moot as our oceans become cesspools and our air unbreathable. We thus need relief as quickly as possible before the degradation becomes irreversible.

    I recall reading years ago about potential changes in the Gulf Stream and the consequent return of walruses and polar bears to Northern Europe (though at the current rate of extinction there may not be any walruses and polar bears to make such a southerly migration). Per the article, if the Gulf Stream significantly changes course or just goes away, it would not be the first time. Such a change would obviously have a profound effect on our civilization and a reversal of the current south to north migration in both hemispheres, which would be hampered by the accelerating growth of population and enormous social and economic displacement. Think chaos.

    However, it appears the kids are riding their white horses from the west to save the greedy and ignorant in the castle (apologies to Sir Walter Scott), so if there is time and if reason prevails, and if the issue isn’t mooted by nasty environmental events in progress, maybe humanity can still dodge the bullet (though that’s a lot of “ifs”). Trump and his greedy backers (stripped of diversions) are nothing more than economic Luddites, but to paraphrase a minstrel, “The times they had better be achanging” – or else – and time is not on our side.

    Our task is to throw the Luddites out this November in an election that is not only important but quite possibly one that is existential since, among other things, we may be at an environmental tipping point (if not already in our wake). So will our kids and kids everywhere in some global cooperative save the future? Time (and resolve) will tell.

  17. Those of us who hang around science bars know that the science supporting the huge costs of long term massive enhancement by man of the greenhouse effect are unequivocal and now, undeniable. Is there anyone now who can deny the weather is changing all over from what we built our civilization according to?

    Here’s the rest of the story. Every year FEMA and other insurers will pay higher costs for recovery. It’s already billions. Private insurers will continually avoid the impact by relying on the government more and more until taxpayers feel the pain which coincidently will hit about the time that the costs of the Republican tax cut rolls over us. When the costs become absolutely unbearable we’ll conclude that it would be cheaper to fix the problem rather than just pay for the damages. Then will begin our retreat from the shores, our rethinking of where we live and where our farms are and what would make our infrastructure more robust. People might even leave Southern California for safety reasons.

    Then we’ll get serious about shutting down coal plants in favor of solar and wind and building the modern grid. Of course it will be way too late by then.

    Oil will already be in the process of being replaced by shared, autonomous electric vehicles because why own autos at all? The convenience factor will no longer be true.

    We will survive as a country but the debt we’ll have to take on will make today seem like the good old days. And some of us will know that it was avoidable. We will realize it is the high cost of living on lies, the cost of oligarchy.

    To me science has always paid it’s way by increasing our understanding of reality, how the universe really works not what best serves man. We have decided over the last few decades that the truth is inconvenient often, so let’s just lie to each other more. That of course has the effect of concentrating wealth, some are just so much better at lying than others, even though way more wealth gets spent because of the lies than if we lived on truth.

    Eventually moral poverty overtakes fiscal concentration and the house of straw collapses.

    Welcome to the new America.

  18. They’ll only save it if they control population.

    I never hear anyone talk about this, but population control is THE issue for sustainability. Zero-impact human civilization is impossible. Of course part of managing a sustainable civilization is minimizing its impacts to the environment, but the ONLY long term solution is population reduction.

    Religion has to die. National sovereignty has to die. The right to reproduce has to die. Billions who are alive today have to die.

    Good luck with that.

Comments are closed.