Parents & Grandparents Fasting for The WA Climate Kids: Fighting for their Future

July 14th, 2016

24 people have fasted for 3 days in advance of today’s public hearing on Washington’s Department of Ecology Inadequate Draft Clean Air Rule! Please come and speak out! Current information is available from this Facebook page:
https://www.facebook.com/WAClimateKids/

Here are various news media articles about the fasting and today’s events:

On Twitter look for:

You can also get some updates and pictures from:

WA Kids on the Clean Air Rule Draft of June 2016

Published on Jun 5, 2016

Watch and share this video on YouTube.

Watch to find out what Washington kids think about the ‘Clean Air Rule’ Draft the WA State Department of Ecology has released, after a King County Superior Court Judge ordered them to do so by the end of 2016.

Sign the MoveOn Petition!
http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/demand-the-best-climate/

More information on the lawsuit
http://ourchildrenstrust.org/state/Washington

More information on the Clean Air Rule
http://www.ecy.wa.gov/climatechange/carbonlimit.htm

Contact Governor Inslee TODAY: 4% Now or Bust!

Let’s get this out so the Governor hears from as many people as possible this week. Everybody needs to flood Olympia with calls in support of a 4% (or more) path to climate stability, the only way to protect kids’ constitutional rights to Washington’s air and water in the future. Petitions, calls, congratulations, to the Governor for winning superpowers to accelerate the emissions reduction 3x faster than the proposed Clean Air Rule. He can do what no other governor in history could do, act urgently to limit pollution quickly enough to protect children’s rights (and he must set emissions targets higher if he plans to avoid violating those same rights).

Call 360-902-4111 or use this Web form to write Governor Inslee!

Sign and share this petition!

This Week’s Landmark Climate Lawsuit articles:

  • Huffington Post:
    Washington State Kids Score Huge Legal Win In Climate Change Lawsuit
  • Think Progress:
    Judge Sides With Kids Suing The Government Over Climate Inaction: ‘These Kids Can’t Wait’
  • The Stranger:
    King County Judge Makes Historic Ruling Against Washington State in Climate Change Case
  • Forbes:
    Kids Win Again In Lawsuit Blaming Gov’t For Not Fighting Global Warming
  • Ecowatch:
    Massive Victory for 7 Kids in Climate Change Lawsuit in Washington State

We need this on the Today Show. If we teach people what this case means, (kids now have rights to nature, air and water, in a changing climate, state government has a constitutional obligation to preserve those resources on a path to climate stability) then it becomes a defining moment in the Governor’s term, and he will act to cut emissions quickly.

This victory recognizing kids’ climate rights and ordering the government to act faster is the happiest climate news you will get in 2016! Celebrate and share!
Let’s convince the Governor that this is his golden ticket into history. Send out to everyone and every network you know. The cement is still wet on the draft Clean Air Rule. But by next week, the Washington Department of Ecology may be committed to a rule that violates children’s rights. If we mobilize enough support quickly, we could celebrate the nation’s best draft climate rule at the end of this month. #ClimateRecovery #350orBust

 

Michael Foster

The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade one never expects to sit.         –Nelson Henderson

On Wed, May 4, 2016, Michael Foster wrote:

We won big. We ALL won! Celebrate for a moment.

Imagine if, as President Obama and the EPA prepared the Clean Power Plan, the courts intervened to direct EPA to act urgently to protect the human rights of youth to air, land and water in a changing climate.
That’s just what happened in Washington State on Friday when Seattle kids returned to court in an administrative case with Ecology and won it all. This year the court has granted them rights under the Washington constitution to the resources essential to life, our atmosphere, land and water.
victoryinWA
Celebrate Victory for climate in Washington!
Governor Inslee is the first and only Governor to ever receive the gift of a judicial mandate to lead on climate to protect childrens’ rights, because on Friday it happened unequivocally for the first time in US history. His golden ticket came in a dramatic ruling from the bench, as the judge reasoned, “…these kids can’t wait. Polar bears can’t wait. the people in Bangladesh can’t wait. While I do not have jurisdiction in those matters, I do have jurisdiction in this court and that is why I am taking this action today.”
It sounded just like a page from one of Inslee’s climate speeches! What a perfect gift for the man who worked so hard only to see his own carbon legislation held hostage in a fossil-fueled Senate. Now he holds the unique privilege of being the first governor directed by the judge to direct Ecology to re-write the Clean Air Rule as the strongest in the nation, to protect our children’s resources.
That’s poetic justice. Congratulations Governor!
Kids presented Ecology the best available science on emissions limits to protect their resources, (4% a year in Washington, 6% globally) coupled with carbon sequestration (roughly 1 billion trees in Washington, 1 trillion globally).
Ecology presented no science to support their current targets (about 1.5% annually only covering 60% emissions), which they themselves deem “inadequate”.
With this judicial milestone linking human rights and ecology, the Dept of Ecology will construct a game-changing climate recovery rule, a model for the USA and the world. The Rule can still be re-drafted this month with new targets before it is released to public hearings.
It’s the first, best moment for our governor to lead on his strength as a climate champion. IF he chooses to make a bold move in an election year, Governor Inslee can declare “we are mobilizing against pollution to protect children’s rights” with a judge’s order in his hand. “4% Now or Bust!”
His dream come true, fixing climate for Washington kids.
Should industries attempt to block the new Rule, constitutional human rights of children prevail. With such a clear proposed rule, we might see emissions change course before the next legislative session and Olympia put a price on carbon. This changes everything.
  • Celebrate the court granting the constitutional rights of our children to inhabit a livable climate.
  • Celebrate the court defining the obligation of governments to preserve our land water and air for people in the face of immediate, colossal disruption.
Ecology will use their new powers to complete a strong Rule which protects the plaintiffs’ rights to future resources as the judge ordered, or face legal action for wasting more precious time that these kids can’t lose.
As plaintiffs Aji & Adonis sing,
“Think about the future generations, 
think about the lives they’ll live, 
think about our children’s children’s children. 
What to them do you give?”

 

Is Governor Inslee the leader to truly change history? We’re about to find out. We’re lucky to have an executive who understands climate science in the Governor’s mansion. One way or another, we stand to witness a pivotal moment of the 21st century in May.
Michael Foster

King County Judge Makes Historic Ruling Against Washington State in Climate Change Case

Sydney Brownstone reported the following article in the April 29th, 2016, edition of The Stranger SLOG:

A King County Superior Court judge has reversed a ruling that gave the Washington State Department of Ecology the opportunity to decide when to cut statewide greenhouse gas emissions. Because of a lawsuit filed by eight Washington State kids, Judge Hollis Hill has ruled that the threat of climate change is so urgent that the state must be placed on a court-ordered deadline to hold polluters accountable now.

The decision was the first of its kind. Earlier this year, Judge Hill found that the state had a constitutional responsibility to protect its citizens—including the children who filed the lawsuit—but that dictating an additional greenhouse gas rule-making process wouldn’t be necessary. After all, in July of last year Governor Jay Inslee had directed Ecology to come up with a rule to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

One of the plaintiffs, 10-year-old Adonis Piper, showed off his notes at a court hearing. Photo Credit: Sydney Brownstone
One of the plaintiffs, 10-year-old Adonis Piper, showed off his notes at a previous court hearing. Photo Credit: Sydney Brownstone of The Stranger

That changed when Ecology withdrew the draft rule in February of 2016 in order to take more time to confer with stakeholders. When that happened, the kids’ lawyer, Andrea Rodgers, asked the judge to change the earlier ruling in favor of the state based on two criteria: one, that the state had misrepresented the facts, and two, that extraordinary circumstances deemed it necessary.

Judge Hill didn’t think that Ecology committed fraud or misrepresentation by committing to a rulemaking process and then withdrawing a draft rule later. But she did agree with the kids’ lawyer that climate change constituted extraordinary circumstances.

“Ecology doesn’t dispute that current science establishes that rapidly increasing global warming causes an unprecedented risk to the earth, to the land, sea, and atmosphere, and all living plants and creatures,” Judge Hill said. Then the judge used Ecology’s own words to demonstrate the “extraordinary” circumstances, reading back a quote from 2014 warning of “serious economic and environmental disruptions.”

Judge Hill continued:

The reason I’m doing this is because this is an urgent situation. (…) These children can’t wait, the polar bears can’t wait, the people of Bangladesh can’t wait. I don’t have jurisdiction over their needs in this matter, but I do have jurisdiction in this court, and for that reason I’m taking this action.

Now the state must come up with a rule to cut greenhouse gas emissions by the end of 2016. In addition, it must make recommendations to the legislature next year to update the state’s greenhouse gas reduction goals based on the most current science.

In order to demonstrate how climate change posed an immediate threat to Washington citizens—and how the state had failed to protect them from it—lawyer Andrea Rodgers cited the Quinault Indian Nation’s plan to relocate its ancestral village of Taholah away from the coastline because of rising sea levels. “People think that this is something that’s going to happen down the road when our friends, and our family, and our people in Washington are literally being relocated,” Rodgers said.

As for the judge’s ruling on extraordinary circumstances, “It’s not climate change that’s the extraordinary circumstance, it’s that this agency hasn’t done what it’s legally obligated to do for almost 30 years,” Rodgers told me after the courtroom let out. “And [Judge Hill] recognized that a court has a responsibility to step in and protect the rights of young people that are being harmed by climate change. This is world-changing and it’s amazing.”

The kid plaintiffs and their friends inside the courtroom were similarly stoked.

“I think it’s our biggest victory so far,” 12-year-old Athena Fain said.

“I mean, [Ecology] are our ‘elders,’ so to speak, and they’re supposed to guide us and help us, and it kind of feels like we’re guiding them to help us,” 14-year-old Gabe Mandel added. “So we’re totally thankful that amazing Judge Hollis Hill ruled in our favor.”

A spokesperson from the Department of Ecology stressed that the state was already taking climate change seriously. “We’re already working on an aggressive schedule trying to put this policy in place, and we’re going to stay on that schedule,” Ecology spokesperson Camille St. Onge said. “It’s our top priority as an agency. We understand how vital it is to protect our air, and our water, and our land for future generations.”

UPDATE: Governor Jay Inslee released a statement on Judge Hollis Hill’s ruling.

Below:

This case is a call to act on climate, and that call is one that has been a priority for me since taking office. Our state is helping lead the way on climate action in our country.

It appears the court is essentially reaffirming the need to do what we’ve already committed to doing, which is putting a policy in place by the end of the year that reduces carbon pollution in Washington state.

In a way it is gratifying that the court has also affirmed our authority to act, contrary to the assertion of those who continue to reject action on climate change and ocean acidification. Hundreds of people have participated in the creation of our state’s Clean Air Rule and the draft will be out in just a few weeks. People can also view the webinar held earlier this week in which over 500 people participated.

I’m fully committed to making sure we do our part to protect our air and water for our children in the years ahead.

3 Youth Plaintiffs from Our Children’s Trust met Bernie Sanders!

Our Children’s Trust posted to its members this wonderful photo and quote:

Bernie’s smile says it all, and so do his comments just before greeting Sahara, Avery and Hazel:
“Climate change is real. And for the sake of our kids and our grandchildren, we are going to have to have the courage to take on the fossil fuel industry and tell them that their short term profits are not more important than the future of this planet.”  – Bernie Sanders, April 28, 2016, Springfield, OR

Our Heroic Movement was Featured on the Front Page of the Seattle Weekly

On Tuesday, February 9th, 2016 the Seattle Weekly published Sara Bernard’s wonderful front page article on our Seattle chapter of Plant For The Planet! Read it online and also listen (via SoundCloud) to Ambassadors Joey and Grace discuss challenges they face in getting policymakers to take action on climate change, and the frustrations they feel. The text of the article is as follows:

It’s a Friday night at the Good Shepherd Center in Wallingford, and Joey and Grace, ages 9 and 11—tiny, wiry, and ebony-haired—are tumbling over each other to tell me what they know about climate change. Their introduction to the concept is pretty difficult to pinpoint, though, since it’s always been there, “like all those other facts,” says Grace.

“It’s just, like, a regular thing,” adds Joey.

Still, for my benefit, the siblings cast their minds back to the old days, when they knew about climate change, but they didn’t know that much about it.

“We knew it was caused by people burning oil and gas, but we didn’t understand what it meant,” offers Grace.

“We didn’t know how it works, we didn’t understand the effects, we didn’t understand how fast it was happening,” Joey says at a rapid clip. “We thought it happened in, like, 150 years, the big effects?”

“Something like that,” says Grace.

But now they’re aware that “the big effects are already somewhat happening,” says Joey. “There’s natural global warming . . . but this isn’t natural.” And then, with some gravitas: “If we don’t make some big changes by 2020, it won’t matter how much we try to help after.”

They share their feelings about that.

“Frustration . . . anger.”

“Frustration . . . annoyance. And kind of like . . . nobody getting it!”

“And a little bit this desperate need, like, ‘We need to do something! Why won’t you understand that?! Whyyyy?!’ ”

We’re at the tail end of a monthly meeting of the Seattle chapter of Plant for the Planet, an international environmental club with 34,000 young members in 50 countries who have collectively planted more than 14.2 billion trees. There are snacks and games, as you’d expect at a kid meeting—muffins, cookies, carrot sticks, a swift round of hide and seek, some dashing about and shrieking and breathless laughter.

But mostly it’s quite serious. Moderated by the group’s 13-year-old president, Gabe Mandell, the young activists are celebrating the myriad climate wins of 2015—Shell is out of the Arctic! Obama vetoed Keystone XL!—and planning their next tree-planting workshops and retreats, as well as discussing the climate news of the day, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a controversial trade agreement that could allow multinational corporations to skirt carbon policies.

These are the kids, aged 8 to 14, who’ve trained to become “Climate Justice Ambassadors”—the official title of every member of Plant for the Planet who participates in a day-long “Academy”—giving ebullient speeches to their peers at school and at climate events. They’ve shown up at Shell, Keystone, oil train, and Gates Divest protests; they’ve testified at climate conferences and hearings; they’ve urged the Seattle City Council to put warning labels on gas pumps. They’ve also spent time with Governor Jay Inslee and former Vice President Al Gore and been featured in the HBO documentary Saving My Tomorrow; they’ve planted 11,000 trees and started a state-level challenge to plant a billion. They’ve co-hosted workshops and trainings all over the Puget Sound area and inspired the creation of a Plant for the Planet chapter in Portland. They’re about 375 strong since their inception in early 2013, with a few dozen active members. And eight of them were plaintiffs in a highly publicized lawsuit petitioning the Washington State Department of Ecology to develop a carbon-emissions rule for the sake of their fundamental rights—a lawsuit that they almost won.

“A lot of the times when I hear bad things about [climate change], I start to cry, and I feel pretty depressed,” says Sierra Gersdorf-Duncan, an 11-year-old fifth-grader so gripped by the crisis of ocean acidification that she’s been interviewed for a Philippe Cousteau documentary on the topic. But that kind of climate despair, she says, in herself and others, is “what we need to change. We have to tell them, ‘You’re right, these terrible things are happening, but we can do something about it.’ ”

If you, like Sierra, are 11 today, you were born not long before Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans. Then, nearly every year of your existence, the world has seen epic climate-related disasters: Hurricane Sandy, Typhoon Haiyan, massive flooding in Pakistan, Pacific islands slipping underwater, Alaskan villages toppling from coastal bluffs, endless drought in California, and catastrophic wildfires in Washington. Every year seems to surpass the last as the “hottest year on record”; 2015 just beat out 2014 for the highest global average temperatures ever recorded, and 15 of the planet’s 16 hottest years occurred after 2001.

Also, if you are 11, you were born just before the release of Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, which marked a sea change in public perception around the concept—in this country, anyway—making “global warming” and “climate change” household terms as well as the stuff of political debate. More recently, you saw one of the largest international summits ever convened on this or any topic, and President Obama has been making climate speeches almost since you could speak.

By some accounts, we are beyond predictions and have entered the age of climate consequences. The entire lifetime of today’s children falls into that age. In 2050, the year that some of the more dire climate scenarios could begin to unfold, an 11-year-old will be 45.

“It affects us personally,” says 9-year-old Joey. “Most grownups will not be around long enough to see the big, awful effects I was talking about. For us . . . we’ll be middle-aged. We’ll be fully alive and have to worry about it.”

The kids’ passion has made an impact on the local climate movement. Put onstage, they frequently pull grand, tearful statements—and sometimes actions—out of our elected officials.

“Everything stops when the kid opens their mouth,” says parent and activist Michael Foster, creator of Plant for the Planet in Seattle. He’s taken these kids to a slew of climate events, he says, and without fail, when the kids speak, adults listen. “Whoever is sitting on that panel, behind that table, doodling their notes on their pad . . . The pencils go down. They make eye contact. They are paralyzed, not breathing, until that kid finishes.”

Kids speaking up for themselves, for the planet they’ll inherit—it’s effective. 350 Seattle has been known to call these kids their “secret weapon.” But it’s not just some cheap ploy to fill out a climate agenda: The weapon works because the kids care, too.

Tim Deppe, a Climate Ambassador who just turned 10, says all the bad stuff he hears about climate change doesn’t make him sad. “Not sad, no,” he says. “Passionate.”

The journey to Plant for the Planet in Seattle began with a single Google search.

In late 2012, Foster trained with Al Gore’s Climate Reality Leadership Corps, and since his children were in fourth and sixth grade at the time, he figured he’d do a slide show for their science class. But the talk he’d prepared was pretty grim, and he wasn’t going to just slap on some sweet nothings at the end. “I cannot end a talk with, ‘But we’re gonna build a whole bunch of windmills, so you guys are going to be all right,’ ” he says. “That’s such a lie.”

So he plugged “children save the world” and “climate” into a Google search bar and the top hit was a video put together by a German wunderkind named Felix Finkbeiner, who at age 9 decided that the best way to get around the climate crisis was to plant trees. Today the 17-year-old has been named the 2015 “European of the Year” by Reader’s Digest, addressed the United Nations, and launched a global organization with the goal of planting a trillion trees by 2020. (There are about three trillion trees on the planet today, but we’re still losing an estimated 15 billion every year to agriculture and development.)

Planting trees: It’s a simple concept for kids to grasp, and it’s one possible solution to climate change, since forests are huge carbon banks—they absorb planet-warming CO2 while pumping out oxygen. It also gives children something to hold onto in the face of “all this gloom-and-doom Al Gore stuff,” Foster says. He folded Finkbeiner’s video and call to action into his science-class presentation, and it was a total hit. Kids cheered, teachers wiped their eyes. “I was like, ‘Oh my God,’ ” he recalls. “‘I’ve got to do this slide show more.’ ”

Foster has since presented to about ten thousand kids in Seattle, by his estimation, and gotten on the phone with Finkbeiner, who chastised him for not having started a Seattle chapter of Plant for the Planet sooner. He’s also been a major connector for climate activists working with kids, as well as for local politicians—he’s brought Mayor Ed Murray as well as House Speaker Frank Chopp and representative Jamie Pedersen (D-Seattle) to various Plant for the Planet events. His two daughters were also the named plaintiffs in Zoe & Stella Foster v. Washington Department of Ecology, the kids’ climate-change lawsuit. It was one of many state-level lawsuits filed by Oregon-based nonprofit Our Children’s Trust—a way to force action on climate change through the courts by using a legal principle called the “public trust doctrine” (and a secret weapon called “children”). Getting on board with that, Foster says, was easy: He stumbled across an Our Children’s Trust video and recognized a Carkeek Park landmark behind Andrea Rodgers, one of the attorneys working on the cases, who, it turned out, lived in Seattle. He called her and said, “ ‘I need to talk to you.’ And she said, ‘Is this Michael Foster? I need to talk to you!’ It’s a pretty small network of climate activists working with kids around the country.”

The kids got their final day in King County court last November; they’d been petitioning the Department of Ecology to create a carbon-emissions rule based on the best available climate science since summer 2014. While they lost their case in the end, Judge Hollis Hill nevertheless created a legal precedent that thrilled climate activists: the idea that the Washington state constitution should in fact protect the atmosphere for future generations. According to Judge Hill’s ruling, the only reason she dismissed the kids’ case was because the Department of Ecology was already developing a similar rule. Notably, Ecology is developing that rule because Governor Jay Inslee ordered it to last summer—11 days after he spent 90 minutes listening to five of the kid plaintiffs asking him to do just that.

Meanwhile, Senator Doug Ericksen (R-Ferndale), chair of the Energy, Environment, & Telecommunications Committee, has sponsored SB 6173, a bill that would overturn Ecology’s ability to make a carbon rule without the help of the legislature. The proposed rule, said Ericksen in a statement, “gives manufacturers a perverse incentive to leave the state of Washington.” The bill passed his committee and is now in the hands of the Rules Committee, which may send it to the Senate floor for a second reading.

“The problem is we’re fighting a propaganda war,” says 11-year-old Grace. “Who can get people to listen more—the oil corporations or people like us?”

She sighs, acknowledging that there are plenty of other problems in the world that she feels sympathetic to, but that we don’t have a spare planet on which to solve those problems. “Honestly, if we don’t do something about climate change now,” she says, “we’re not going to have a chance to worry about the rest of it.”

According to Michael Foster, climate change is a “time crime.” We’re stealing the future from our children by burning fossil fuels with abandon, and we won’t really know it—we won’t know quite how much we’ve stolen—for decades.

It is also, in his view, kind of like second-hand smoke. “I grew up in Texas at a time when everybody smoked everywhere,” he says. “I remember everywhere I went stank, and that’s just how it was. It was like sucking on a tailpipe, just cigars and whatever, all the time. And the idea that I could be a kid in a world of people who are just smoking around me, everywhere, all the time, and know what they’re doing to me? That’s crazy-making.”

That’s why he wants to create an infrastructure for these kids—give them a platform so that “grownups take them seriously, and so they’re not feeling so crazy and isolated and alone with the knowledge that they have.”

Sure, it’s often people like Foster who’ve put that knowledge in these kids’ heads in the first place, but they live in this world too, and they’re listening. 11-year-old Sierra is very, very worried about the ocean’s dying diatoms, for example, but explains that Plant for the Planet “gave me a thing to do about it. The effects [of climate change] are very depressing, but once you get involved, it doesn’t seem that hard because you have all these other people supporting you.”

While some of the kids are interested in science or enjoy being mini-celebrities—it is nice, as former Planet for the Planet president Wren Wagenbach told me, to have somebody “listening to you, for once”—they often have very strong emotional connections to the issue, too. Last summer, 12-year-old Jenny wrote Governor Inslee a letter describing her attachment to a lake and a waterfall in a forest in China: She’d go every year to visit family, but one year when she returned, the forest had been cut down and turned into oil-slicked pavement.

For Grace, it’s about compassion. “If someone’s upset or hurting or angry, it’s like it’s coming off them in waves and I feel it too,” she says. “But it’s not just people I’m actually in direct contact with . . . it’s like, every hurricane, every flood: It hurts.”

It’s not just guilt, then, that makes climate-caring adults lose themselves in the kids’ speeches. It’s also because they’re kids—so optimistic, so emotionally raw, so guileless. They put things in simple terms; they force us to interrogate our own assumptions; and they are utterly convinced that this is a problem we can fix.

Foster paraphrases a sentiment that he heard both Governor Inslee and Al Gore express at a fundraising luncheon in December 2014, following a three-minute call-to-action speech delivered by then-9-year-old Abby. “It’s not because we’re doing this for her,” he says, and he is crying now. His voice trembles. “It’s because she embodies the spirit of who we have to become.”

Adds Foster: “It’s speaking truth to power, and saying, ‘You need to be over here with me. You need to be a little more like me. You need to be a little more bold, a little more courageous. You have to do the impossible.’ ”

As I wrap up my conversation with Joey and Grace, Grace insists several times that I include one very important piece of information in this article. “We need funding,” she says. Planting trees, alas, isn’t free. But “it’s only one dollar per tree! It’s not much!” I promise to mention it. Parents grab their kids’ things, someone plays a riff on the piano, tiny hands grab extra cookies and tiny sneakers squeak as a dozen or so children skip off into the wet night.

Just outside the door, Gabe Mandell reels off some of the intricacies of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. “Do you want me to tell you the two worst things about it?” he asks, then launches into an explanation of the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) provision, which would allow corporations to sue governments over laws they find too restrictive in private trade tribunals, and if they establish the tiniest subsidiary in a country that has lax carbon or public-health laws, they can opt to abide by those laws, instead of the countries they do most of their business in.

He then takes care to remind me—although, at this moment, I’m quite convinced—that this is not just kid stuff.

People “look at us and they just see a bunch of kids planting trees, or whatever,” he says, exasperated. “I think we really need to get it out that we are an organization that is dedicated to fighting climate change! We’re doing things. We’re not just a bunch of kids getting together on a Friday. We’re a bunch of kids getting together and trying to do solutions that many grownups aren’t.”

Sara Bernard writes about environment and education, among other things, for Seattle Weekly. She can be reached at sbernard@seattleweekly.com or 206-467-4370. Follow her on Twitter at @saralacy.

Washington Court Recognizes Constitutional and Public Trust Duty to Protect the Atmosphere for Present and Future Generations

Attorney Andrea Rodgers, right, with some of the plaintiffs in a climate lawsuit before a meeting earlier this year with Gov. Jay Inslee. Photo Credit: Our Children’s Trust

From Our Children’s Trust on 11/20/2015:

Late last night, eight Washington youth received a groundbreaking ruling from Judge Hollis Hill in their climate change lawsuit. In this landmark decision, Judge Hill declared “[the youths’] survival depends upon the will of their elders to act now, decisively and unequivocally, to stem the tide of global warming…before doing so becomes first too costly and then too late.

The court confirmed what the Washington petitioners and other young people we work with across the nation have been arguing in the courts, that “[t]he state has a constitutional obligation to protect the public’s interest in natural resources held in trust for the common benefit of the people.”

Gabriel Mandell, a 13-year-old Washington petitioner reacts to Judge Hills decision:

“It’s incredible to have the court finally say that we do have a right to healthy atmosphere and that our government can’t allow it to be harmed. This ruling means that what the Department of Ecology does going forward in its rulemaking has to protect us, the kids of Washington, and not just us, but future generations too, like my children and those to come. Now they can’t decide to protect short-term economic fears and ignore us because we have constitutional and public trust rights to a stable climate!”

The court also validated the youths’ claims that the “scientific evidence is clear that the current rates of reduction mandated by Washington law. . . cannot ensure the survival of an environment in which [youth] can grow to adulthood safely.” The judge determined that the State has a “mandatory duty” to “preserve, protect, and enhance the air quality for the current and future generations,” and found the state’s current standards to fail that standard dramatically for several reasons.

This Washington decision establishing constitutional public trust protections for the atmosphere, together with the decision earlier this year doing the same in New Mexico, evidences a wake-up by the judiciary that our collective right to a habitable future is at stake and must be protected by the courts before it is too late.

Read our full press release.
Thank you for your continued support and for enabling us to secure this important decision and more to come!

Victory for today’s young people and all living things to come. Now take action!

KING5 News Video

This time next week, Washington could become the first state in the union committed to walking the path back to 350 CO2 in our children’s lifetime. By Wednesday July 8th, the Department of Ecology must respond to the court in the historic victory, Zoe & Stella Foster v. Ecology.

Please contact Dept of Ecology and the Governor’s office today with congratulations and encouragement. This landmark ruling means Ecology under the Governor’s direction and judge’s order must exercise their sole authority to regulate and reduce carbon pollution “to protect our state’s resources and the children who depend on them.”

It’s a great day for Washington State once Ecology decides to do the right thing for our children. Call now and get your friends to call too!

Congratulations to everybody.

From Our Children’s Trust:

6-24-15
Dear Friends,

In a no-nonsense decision that calls out bureaucratic delay in the face of urgent and dire climate consequences, a judge in our Washington case just sided with the 8 youth petitioners, and ordered the state to reconsider its denial of the youth’s petition for emission reductions in accordance with current science. Please read the 4-page decision and press release.

Importantly, the judge ordered the state to consider the youth’s scientific evidence and to respond to the need to bring atmospheric carbon dioxide levels to below 350 ppm by 2100.

The State must notify the court in two short weeks whether it will amend or affirm it’s denial of the youth’s petition in face of the court’s and the youth’s scientific evidence.

Congratulations to our youth petitioners of Plant for the Planet Academy and our outstanding WELC attorney leading the Washington case, Andrea Rodgers.

   To Our Children’s Trust,

or donate to “Climate Change for Families” near the bottom of the website, or to Plant-for-the-Planet.
Thank you!

VICTORY! Washington State Youth Win Unprecedented Decision in their Climate Change Lawsuit

Youth Plaintiffs outside King County Courthouse for Oral Arguments May 15, 2015
Youth Plaintiffs outside King County Courthouse for Oral Arguments May 15, 2015

Judge Orders Washington Environmental Agency to Consider Youth-Proposed Carbon Dioxide Reductions

Seattle, Washington – On Tuesday, King County Superior Court Judge Hollis Hill issued a landmark decision in Zoe & Stella Foster v. Washington Department of Ecology, the climate change case brought by eight young citizens of Washington State. In her decision, Judge Hill ordered the Washington Department of Ecology (“Ecology”) to reconsider the petition the eight youth filed with Ecology last year asking for carbon dioxide reductions, and to report back to the court by July 8, 2015, as to whether they will consider the undisputed current science necessary for climate recovery.

Last June, the young petitioners filed a petition for rulemaking to Ecology requesting that the agency promulgate a rule that would limit carbon dioxide emissions in Washington according to what scientists say is needed to protect our oceans and climate system. The youth also asked Ecology to inform the Legislature that existing statutory greenhouse gas reductions must be revised based on current climate science. On August 14, 2014, Ecology denied the petition without disputing the underlying scientific bases for petitioner’s plea. Arguing that they have a fundamental right to a healthy environment, and that they are faced with increasing harms posed by climate destabilization and ocean acidification, the young petitioners filed an appeal of the denial to vindicate this right on behalf of themselves and future generations.

“The effect of this decision is that for the first time in the United States, a court of law has ordered a state agency to consider the most current and best available climate science when deciding to regulate carbon dioxide emissions,” said Andrea Rodgers of the Western Environmental Law Center, attorney for the youth petitioners. “The court directed Ecology to apply the agency’s own findings that climate change presents an imminent threat to Washington and demands immediate action. The ball is now in Ecology’s court to do the right thing and protect our children and future generations.”

In a footnote to her order, Judge Hill explained her plain reasoning for rejecting Ecology’s plan to delay action, referencing a December 2014 report from Ecology: “Ecology suggests no change in greenhouse gas reduction standards until after an international climate conference scheduled in Paris in December 2015, thus delaying action for at least a year from the date of the report or one year and five months after the report’s original due date. Neither in its briefing nor in oral argument of this appeal did the Department seek to justify this suggested delay. The report itself states that after the Paris conference Washington would be better informed how the state’s limits should be adjusted.”

“Kids understand the threats climate change will have on our future,” said 13-year-old petitioner Zoe Foster. “I’m not going to sit by and watch my government do nothing. We don’t have time to waste. I’m pushing my government to take real action on climate, and I won’t stop until change is made.”

The court’s opinion acknowledges that climate change is currently happening and will have devastating impacts on the natural environment of Washington. Citing Ecology’s December report, the court wrote: “Washington State’s existing statutory limits should be adjusted to better reflect the current science. The limits need to be more aggressive in order for Washington to do its part to address climate risks.”

Ecology has recognized that “we are imposing risks on future generations (causing intergenerational inequities) and liability for the harm that will be caused by climate change that we are unable or unwilling to avoid.” Current climate science finds that atmospheric carbon dioxide levels must be reduced from the current global annual mean concentration of 401 parts per million, to 350 ppm by 2100 in order to achieve climate stabilization and protect our oceans from catastrophic acidification.

“This encouraging court decision reminds us that there is still good basis for optimism about legal strategies that aim to require governments to draft an action plan consistent with a more stringent mitigation target than the ones that are commonly discussed,” said the youth’s expert, NASA climate scientist Dr. Pushker Kharecha. “I hope the Department of Ecology realizes that such a plan would be more achievable than they think in this case, and that they will therefore choose to amend their decision accordingly.”

“This is a decision of immense national significance,” said Julia Olson, executive director of Our Children’s Trust, the nonprofit spearheading similar cases around the country. “Judge Hill acknowledges the urgent and dire acceleration of global warming, refuses to accept any more bureaucratic delay, and mandates that the State consider and act in just two weeks time on the youth’s scientific evidence that atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide must be reduced to 350 ppm. This judge understands the role of the judiciary to enforce citizen’s rights to fair evaluation of their grounded petitions and the critical urgency that government act substantively and without delay to protect the state’s resources and the children who depend on them.”

“The court’s decision brings a feeling of triumph,” said 14-year-old petitioner Aji Piper. “But I know there is still a lot of work to be done. We may have one a battle, but we’re still fighting a bigger war.”

The legal geniuses of Our Children's Trust making history in Seattle for Oral Arguments, May 2015
The legal geniuses of Our Children’s Trust making history in Seattle for Oral Arguments, May 2015

The youth petitioners acted with the help of Our Children’s Trust, an Oregon-based nonprofit orchestrating a global, game-changing, youth-driven legal campaign to establish the right to a healthy atmosphere and stable climate. The legal effort advances the fundamental duty of government today: to address the climate crisis based on scientific baselines and benchmarks, and to do so within timeframes determined by scientific analysis. Our Children’s Trust is a nonprofit organization advocating for urgent emissions reductions on behalf of youth and future generations, who have the most to lose if emissions are not reduced. OCT is spearheading the international human rights and environmental TRUST Campaign to compel governments to safeguard the atmosphere as a “public trust” resource. We use law, film, and media to elevate their compelling voices. Our ultimate goal is for governments to adopt and implement enforceable science-based Climate Recovery Plans with annual emissions reductions to return to an atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration of 350 ppm. http://www.ourchildrenstrust.org/ The Western Environmental Law Center is a public interest nonprofit law firm. WELC combines legal skills with sound conservation biology and environmental science to address major environmental issues throughout the West. WELC does not charge clients and partners for services, but relies instead on charitable gifts from individuals, families, and foundations to accomplish its mission. http://www.westernlaw.org

NOAA, Global Greenhouse Reference Network, Global CO2 for April 2015 (http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/trends/ 1 global.html).

Dr. Pushker Kharecha is a climate scientist at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (http://www.giss.nasa.gov/ 2 staff/pkharecha.html) and Columbia University Earth Institute (http://www.earth.columbia.edu/eidirectory/displayuser.php? userid=1860).

Sign Isaac’s “Divest Beaverton” Project

Tonight at 6pm, Beaverton, OR City Council will hear Isaac make his first public request to DIVEST from fossil fuels. A project he began over a year ago. Go Isaac! You can support him below after you read his first-person account here:
Power Past Coal holds people's hearing on Pacific Northwest coal exports
(Photo by: Alex Milan Tracy)
It’s been a busy year, but for my Bar Mitzvah Project I am doing a bunch of stuff to help stop and reverse Climate Change.Isaac Vergun at the United Nations Environmental Programme sponored Plant for the Planet Academy in Seattle
Isaac at the Plant-for-the-Planet Academy in Seattle, 
devoted to planting 1,000 billion trees for climate justice.

My main project is a campaign with 350.org to get the City of Beaverton, Oregon to divest from fossil fuels and nuclear power. Please sign my petition, even if you do not live in Beaverton. Most people who will be reading this live, work, or shop in Beaverton, but what my city does affects the rest of you too, so please sign!

http://campaigns.gofossilfree.org/petitions/divest-the-city-of-beaverton-from-fossil-fuels-and-nuclear-power

What I Am Asking the City of Beaverton and Others To Do

Based on the 350.org divestment toolkit I am asking the City of Beaverton to:

  1. Immediately freeze any new investments in fossil fuels.
  2. Divest from direct ownership and any commingled funds that include fossil fuel public equities and corporate bonds within 5 years.

Instead of investing their money into fossil fuel companies, we can reinvest in companies who are making solutions to climate change.

There are 200 publicly-traded companies which hold the vast majority of listed coal, oil and gas reserves. These are the companies from which I am asking our institutions to divest. As 350.org says, my demands to these corporations are simple, because they reflect the stark truth of climate science:

They need to immediately stop exploring for new hydrocarbons.

They need to stop lobbying in Washington and state capitols across the country to preserve their special breaks.

Most importantly, they need to pledge to keep 80% of their current reserves underground forever.

Why Should the City of Beaverton Divest?

The mission of the City of Beaverton is to be looking out for the public good. It is well known for the quality of education and work to get solar adopted. One big action of  “looking out for the public good” is divesting from fossil fuel companies, because these companies are putting us at risk for: less access to water, droughts, uncontrolled forest fires, etc. Mayors and other local leaders need to take the lead because the action of the federal government has been stalled, so the local communities need to take action. Divestment is the moral choice for governments who care about their people. Beaverton taking action to solve the climate crisis will help to make sure that the city’s investments pay off in the future.

I am also having a contest for people helping me to get signatures. Ask me if you’re interested in helping! We’ll try to post more soon! Thanks!

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