Meet the Youth Climate Activists Suing the U.S. Government

By Julia Woods, Development Assistant, Global Greengrants Fund

This was originally published on the Global Greengrants Fund blog.

Across the United States, a group of powerful, determined citizens are standing up and actively holding the government accountable for the future of our shared planet. They are fighting for their most basic constitutional rights to a healthy environment, and they aren’t backing down. The best part? Most of them are in middle school.

From Alaska to Florida, from the Marshall Islands to Boulder, Colorado, a powerful groundswell of youth climate action is gaining speed. Meet Our Children’s Trust, a driving force behind the U.S. Federal Climate Lawsuit.

Using a $10,000 grant from Global Greengrants Fund, the group filed the lawsuit Juliana v. U.S. in the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon in 2015, together with organizational plaintiff, Earth Guardians. Their complaint states that through the government’s affirmative actions that cause climate change, it has violated the youngest generation’s constitutional rights to life, liberty, and property, as well as failed to protect essential public trust resources.

The lawsuit has endured its fair share of hurdles; the U.S. government under former President Obama along with representatives from the fossil fuel industry filed to have the lawsuit dismissed.

But in a groundbreaking decision in November 2016, Federal Judge Ann Aiken advanced the case to trial. This victory has garnered nationwide attention from the likes of The Washington Post, National Geographic, and well-known climate scientist James Hansen. The case could give the Trump Administration a run for its money in what many are calling the biggest trial of the century.

One particularly notable voice in this fight is 17-year-old indigenous environmental activist, hip-hop artist, and Youth Director of Earth Guardians: Xiuhtezcatl Martinez. On the power of youth in addressing climate change Xiuhtzecatl says,

“When it comes to climate change, youth are the future. We are the ones who will be experiencing the consequences from generations who came before us. We have the potential to think outside-the-box when it comes to effective solutions. Hearing youth voices in the conversation on climate change is essential to finding and implementing solutions, demanding actionable solutions from those in office, and leading grassroots efforts from the ground up.”

We are inspired by the wisdom of Xiuhtezcatl and the other faces behind the Juliana vs. U.S. climate case, and continue to stand in solidarity with their efforts.

What next?

The youth plaintiffs in this case, currently aged 10-21, and their attorneys are now gearing up for the trial scheduled to take place on February 5, 2018.

Young people can create the future we all want. Our children and grandchildren will inherit our mistakes. Investing in their solutions today is the most powerful way to create a sustainable world tomorrow.

Here at Global Greengrants Fund, we believe in and empower the next generation of youth leaders with a vision for change. Aside from Xiuhtezcatl and Our Children’s Trust, we’ve also supported youth-led climate projects in Kenya, the Philippines, and Ecuador.

Our future is in their hands, and because of them, our future looks bright. Global Greengrants Fund is honored to support these young leaders on the front lines of the global environmental movement.

Photo: Our Children’s Trust

Julia Woods

Julia’s passion for environmental sustainability, human rights, and mission-driven organizations led her to Global Greengrants Fund in October 2016. Prior to joining the Greengrants team, Julia worked for a renewable energy cooperative and an education-focused nonprofit in Los Angeles. She holds a B.A. in Political Science from Loyola Marymount University.