Watching Kids’ Groundbreaking Lawsuit with Bated Breath

Thank you to Mother Out Front Jean Cummings for sharing this blog post with us!

As members of Mothers Out Front we are keenly interested in the progress made by climate activists both within our organization and outside of it. And no group is a more natural ally of mothers and grandmothers than youth.

Interestingly, young people have brought us to a critical juncture in the history of climate legal action in the U.S. Twenty-one children and youth have been fighting in the courts since 2011 to force the federal government to take action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, a key contributor to global warming.



Photo Credit: Clayton Aldern/Grist


These strong, courageous, and diverse youth are supported by Our Children’s Trust, a public interest nonprofit law group. They have successfully fought back a number of challenges from government and fossil fuel and industry groups over the past five years. In December of 2017 a U.S. Court of Appeals heard the oral arguments on whether a climate change lawsuit brought by these young people can proceed to trial. Now we await the court’s decision. In addition to the federal lawsuit, this group has brought actions in all 50 states.

In a classic David and Goliath faceoff, the youth are saying that their rights are violated by the government’s failure to act to protect the environment from harmful greenhouse gas emissions. They base their case on the “public trust doctrine” which has been used in the past primarily to protect water and sometimes wildlife rights. This will be the first time the doctrine will have been applied to the public’s right to healthy air.

This isn’t the only lawsuit in the works brought by youth. Other youth groups in the U.S. have filed suits in the states. And several countries, including India and Norway, are addressing legal challenges from youth.

Just as mothers and grandmothers have a special moral authority to speak about the present and future health and wellbeing of their children and grandchildren, young people have a unique interest in that their lives with be impacted hardest and longest by the ravages of climate change. Climate activists in both groups are not willing to allow decision makers to place the profits of industrialists and investment in the status quo ahead of healthy lives and communities.

Mothers, grandmothers, and youth are not blind to the extreme weather events, environmental disasters, spreading infectious diseases, food and water crises, political and social unrest, and species extinction that result and increasingly will result from inaction on climate.

So, we act.

Mothers Out Front takes the fight to our communities and states through a range of initiatives, including reducing dependence on fossil fuels, increasing use of renewable energy resources, working towards net zero energy use in our towns and/or town buildings, lobbying local and state government for climate-favorable legislation, influencing natural gas distribution companies to fix big gas leaks, resisting the siting of compressor stations near children’s homes, and halting new natural gas pipeline construction.

And we applaud and support the youth who leverage the legal process in their fight to protect the climate and assert their rights as citizens to a safe atmosphere and a livable world!


jean_cummings_concordma.jpegMother Out Front Jean Cummings


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  • Linda Hutchins-Knowles
    commented 2018-01-31 17:14:55 -0500
    Well said! Mothers, grandmothers and youth fighting for intergenerational climate justice are a powerful force to be reckoned with. These courageous youth are true heros and we are following their historic case closely.