With Trump pulling out of the Paris agreement which in some ways was no surprise, but still a huge disappointment, it is heartening to read and see how many people, states, cities and towns are mobilizing in spite of this unfortunate act. There is still sanity on all sides of the aisle as we face now and in the future rising sea levels, droughts, super storms…the list goes on.
I recently attended the annual Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL) conference. It was my second time at such an event which lasts three days – two days are composed of speakers, panel discussions and breakout workshops and the third day we go on “the Hill” to meet with mostly staff in the Representative and Senate offices from both parties. It’s a time to develop and cement relationships that have been building for the past 8 years with the mission of passing a carbon fee and dividend bill in Congress. It’s a relatively slow process, but it’s definitely progressing as the organization is also growing and bearing new fruits of accomplishments. https://citizensclimatelobby.org/
I have found dedicated and caring people in the CCL which gets translated into very disciplined and focused actions. There is both an urgency to accomplish set goals as well as an expanded vision that knows change can and will happen and it may and often does take a lot of patience and persistence.
The executive director of CCL, Mark Reynolds, made a promise last year that this year we would pass a carbon fee and dividend bill. Well, it’s about halfway through the year – not looking likely a bill will pass – and yet Mark said he would not back down from this promise. When he said that I thought of people like Martin Luther King Jr and Mahatma Gandhi. They also did not back down and they also had big dreams.
At the beginning of the conference, we heard a quote by Alex Steffen, a writer and speaker on sustainability and the future. He wrote, “Optimism is a political act. Those who benefit from the status quo are perfectly happy for us to think nothing is going to get any better. In fact, these days, cynicism is obedience.”
I love that quote. Optimism in this case does not mean being a Pollyanna in any way, but not settling for the status quo and not falling into the trap of cynicism which can so easily be an excuse not to act. And as Steffen says, an act of obedience.
Of the many speakers and workshops that were informative and inspiring, I was particularly moved by one speaker, Lou Helmuth, who is a lawyer and one of the advocates for Our Children’s Trust.
Our Children’s Trust, https://www.ourchildrenstrust.org/ is an organization whose mission, on behalf of youth, is to “secure the legal right to a stable climate and healthy atmosphere for the benefit of future generations…They give young people, those with most at stake in the climate crisis, a voice to favorably impact their future.”
They are currently representing 21 youths between the ages of 9 and 21 from across the United States. These youths filed a climate lawsuit against the Federal government in the US District Court for the District of Oregon in 2015. Climate scientist James Hansen is also acting as plaintiff serving as a guardian for future generations and his granddaughter. Their complaint states that the government’s affirmative actions in causing climate change (promoting fossil fuels and emissions of greenhouse gases) has violated the youngest generation’s constitutional rights to life, liberty and property, in addition to failing to protect essential public trust resources.
Lou Helmuth, who told us about the current success of this small, but very significant group, choked up at times when speaking about these young people. We saw films of the group and heard them testify. One girl was only eleven years old and spoke with such eloquence and intelligence about the plight of our planet.
These kids “get’ the urgency of our crisis in a way many adults seemingly don’t. What kind of world is it where the youth have to fight for a clean and viable world to live in? At the same time this fight inspires such optimism because what kind of human being would not be touched by the young people’s concern and want to join in and help?
On June 8th, 2017, Judge Ann Aiken of Oregon denied the request of the Trump Administration to repeal the right of the youth’s lawsuit against the government. This decision means that the youth now have their case heading to a full trial. It is just the beginning but this case could eventually go to the Supreme Court. It may take time, but that is its direction.
It’s a landmark case; one of a kind that at this point may not even be known or taken seriously by many people, but it has immense weight. There is a sense of destiny; a sense that this case will win in the end.
These kids, and their advocates, like David against Goliath, are dreaming Big and backing it up with persistent action which inspires and gives tremendous hope.