by Bruce Dunlavy (My blog home page and index of other posts may be found here.)
It is time once again to catch up with the exploits of my young friend Xiuhtezcatl Martinez. [You can read earlier posts about him by clicking on his name on the home page.]
At the age of sixteen, Xiuhtezcatl has already been a leading advocate of environmental responsibility for a decade. He is a veteran speaker, rapper, and organizer who has traveled the world inspiring a new generation of Earth activists.
Image credit: childrensclimateprize.org
A tireless worker, Xiuhtezcatl has addressed the United Nations, the Paris and Rio de Janeiro conferences, and numerous other world climate change meetings, and has visited multiple continents to spread the message of the future. He will be touring New Zealand and Australia in January to encourage action there, with more to follow in the rest of 2017.
As I write this, Xiuhtezcatl is in Sweden, both to continue his countless public appearances and to accept the latest in a line of significant honors. In addition to appearing as a featured guest on Sweden’s most significant television talk program, Skavlan Nightly Show (you can watch his appearance here), he will accept the prestigious Children’s Climate Prize, the latest in an abundance of honors conferred on him. The Prize, including a 50,000-kroner award (about $6,000) is designed to honor the young person (ages 10 – 16) who has done the most to serve the cause of climate change awareness and action.
Here in the United States, a remarkable court case in which Xiuhtezcatl is one of 21 young plaintiffs has cleared a significant barrier and generated excitement and anticipation throughout the environmental action community. The case, Kelsey Cascadia Rose Juliana, et. al, v. United States, centers on a lawsuit to compel the United States to take action on climate change. The plaintiffs cite government inaction as a denial of young people’s right to life, liberty, and all the accoutrements of those by failing its responsibility to ensure a safe and livable future, and by abandoning the governmental requirement to provide proper stewardship of the environment. Up against the combined forces of the Federal government and the fossil fuel industry, the plaintiffs looked to have little chance of success. A limitless source of money and an unending supply of free (i.e., taxpayer-funded) lawyers gave the defendants the upper hand.
Last week, though, on November 10, the good guys won a resounding victory. Federal District Court Judge Ann Aiken issued a 54-page decision affirming an April ruling by another judge which denied the defendants’ petition to dismiss the case. In short, this case will proceed to trial. It may prove to be the most important environmental case of our time, as it will determine whether the USA government has a duty and an obligation to provide for the well-being of future generations. To put it bluntly, if the plaintiffs win this case, the United States will be ordered to give a damn about our environmental future.
Xiuhtezcatl Martinez is not the only young person fighting the battle for a safe, healthy, and sustainable future. His co-plaintiffs, his organization Earth Guardians, the thousands of followers, and committed youth all over the world are working, organizing, and just plain talking to get the message out and to demand responsible action.
Yet there are millions more who have not heard the message, or have heard it and not heeded it. I must confess to being baffled by those who cannot accept the reality of the situation or who are willing to accept long-term pain for short-term gain. I can understand the response of my fellow old people who see no point in doing anything for the future because the future hasn’t done anything for them. I don’t agree with it, but I understand it.
I cannot, however, understand the response of young people who are not just apathetic about environmental responsibility – particularly climate change action – but actively oppose it. If there’s anyone who should give a rip about the future condition of the Earth and all its tumbledown effects on food supply, human migration, habitat sustainability, sea-level rise, international conflict, the spread of disease, international conflict, and the rest, it’s young people.
When the full consequences of uncaring profligacy are visited upon humanity, I and my generation will likely already be dead. Those who are today in their teens, twenties, and thirties should join in taking responsibility for the future of our world. They should be leading the fight for environmental justice. It is not enough to admire the work of Xiuhtezcatl Martinez; young people must do the work of Xiuhtezcatl Martinez.
So I say to you young people today: you have a big job, and you don’t have very much time. We – especially you – need to take on the task of caring for the future of humanity.
Who will assume the responsibility, if not you? When is the time, if not now?