Skip to main content

ECOWATCH: Children are now becoming climate protectors

August 24, 2023
By Delores Savas

“Only when the last tree has died, the last river has been poisoned, and the last fish has been caught will we realize we cannot eat money.”                                                                                     

– Cree Indian proverb

The above quote has been used before in this EcoWatch column, but it again fits perfectly to describe what is occurring in the world of politics every day. In Florida, polluting the air and water and destroying mangroves, wetlands, aquifers and other inhabitants necessary to a healthy ecosystem continue for the sake of the almighty dollar.                                                                                                                

 However, there has been an awaking by those who will be inheriting the mess we will be leaving for the next generation. They will be faced with the harmful effects of human activities in the environment. These include overpopulation, pollution, global warming, ocean acidification, loss of biodiversity and rising water levelsl in coastal regions.                              

  Many say that extremist groups are capitalizing on the climate crisis, using it like a soccer match, with both sides vying for the winning goal that will reward them and their lobbyists with the grand prize: money and power. But the children of the next generation will be the ones impacted by all of this.

  Thankfully, now there are grassroots movements by the young who are not from extremist groups around the globe and are rising to protect what will be their inheritance. They are suing the powers that be not for monetary compensation or power but to stop the degradation of the environment. 

  An article written by Joseph Bonasia of the Florida Rights of Nature Network told the story of 15-year-old Brice Claypoole, who has fought the threats to wetlands in Manatee County. “He describes the corruption that undermines environmental protections, including those relating to his county’s comprehensive plan, and he decries the reckless, greedy developers who have torn out many of the wetlands, resulting in loss of biodiversity, increased storm damage and polluted water.

  “Every one of Manatee’s current county commissioners,” he adds, “has strong ties to the development industry,” and they are determined to refill their coffers before the next election.

  A young Seminole activist worries about the threat of rising seas to her native land, in an article by the Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) team. Valholly Frank is an 18-year-old who is a part of a group of young people suing the state of Florida to force it to act on climate change. “She worries that climate change could finally push them out. She is concerned about increasingly dangerous storms and how sea-level rise will affect Big Cypress reservation, where she lived as a young child. She says saltwater creeping inland from the ocean threatens wildlife and water supplies there.

 “She says maintaining their communities and ceremonial grounds is very important to the tribe, because historically that land is where Seminoles originally survived.”

On June 2, 2023, U.S. Representative Jan Schakowsky, chief deputy whip and ranking member of the Innovation, Data and Commerce Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, applauded the courageous young Americans in the landmark children’s constitutional climate case, Juliana v. United States. On Thursday, U.S. District Court Judge Ann Aiken ruled that the young plaintiffs can amend their complaint and have their evidence heard in open court.                            

A press release on the case said, “The 21 youth plaintiffs, including 11 Black, Brown and Indigenous youth, now ages 15 to 26 years old, have waited almost eight years after facing incessant and unprecedented efforts by the U.S. Department of Justice to delay or dismiss their case. The Juliana case was one of the most significant targets of the Trump administration’s ‘shadow docket.’ Now, barring continued attempts by the DOJ to delay the case, the youth will finally be able to move forward to trial on the question of whether the federal government’s fossil fuel-based energy system and resulting climate destabilization is unconstitutional.

“It is a foundation doctrine that when government conduct catastrophically harms American citizens, the judiciary is constitutionally required to perform its independent role and determine whether the challenged conduct … is unconstitutional,” said Judge Alken.

  In the last Congress, Congresswomen Schakowsky reintroduced a concurrent resolution seeking to protect the fundamental rights of the nation’s children, given today’s climate crisis. One of these rights is to “recognize that the current climate crisis disproportionately affects the health, economic opportunity and fundamental rights of children.”  

 On March 13, 2020, 16 young people from across Montana also filed their constitutional climate lawsuit, Held v. State of Montana, against the state government. This youth-led climate lawsuit also argues that the state’s fossil fuel energy system degrades and depletes Montana’s constitutionally protected public trust resources, including the atmosphere, rivers, lakes, fish and wildlife for future generations.

 The young in many parts of the world, from Rwanda to Alaska, Hawaii and Florida, have taken up the banner to protect and save Florida for their generation. 

 However, as children have stepped forward to save the environment, Governor DeSantis and his supporters are in the process of adopting a new climate-change curriculum that minimizes teaching about the dangers of global warming and distorts scientific information. 

  This looks like another soccer match in the making, winner take all.