If we think about it, we can all remember a moment when we realized something was fundamentally wrong with our environment. For me, it was late spring and I was in my front yard in our middle-class neighborhood, in middle America, in the full mid-morning sun. I think I was about nine years old. While I don’t remember precisely what triggered my thoughts it was likely my science class where we were learning about pollution.
While laying on my back on my sloping front lawn, I was staring at the soaring blue sky. I looked and looked and then closed my eyes tight to ensure I would always remember the deep blue color that I saw that day. I did this over and over again because I was scared that someday, because of the pollution, the sky wouldn’t be the same color blue that I knew as a child.
Fast forward to the mid-1990s when I could be found teaching science education amongst the tall Ponderosa pines outside Bend, Oregon. While prepping for a class I ran across an article that shared how the sky in Beijing was no longer blue. Too much pollution. I thought back that day in my front yard and knew that I had to do something immediately because what was once someday, had become now. Since then, I have been working for the protection of environmental and human rights as many our basic rights to clean water, healthy food, adequate shelter, and basic health, can not exist if our environmental and climate systems are broken.
I think everyone that has made it to this part of the story understands the urgency of our changing climate so I am not going to dive into the science of climate change here and instead only quote a 2009 lead article in the journal Nature said that above 350 parts per million of CO2 in the atmosphere – and we are currently close to 390 ppm — we “threaten the ecological life-support and severely challenge the viability of contemporary human societies.”
I hope you’ll take a moment to let these words resonate this year on Earth Day – a day that was established over 40 years ago to call attention to our rising environmental crisis that was happening back then and is only worse now.
We are threatening the ecological life-support of our planet and we are severely challenging the viability of contemporary human societies.
Over the course of the last ten months, I have worked with youth who, like me, realized at a very young age that there is something fundamentally wrong with our planet. They do not need scientific evidence like we adults do. They clearly see the proof all around them. Their eyes are open. They know our Earth is sick. But these youth have many more things I only wish I had at their age. On top of the wisdom and insight to understand that something is wrong, they can articulate the problems and they are standing up, in the streets and in our courts, to do something about how we are treating our atmosphere. They are making a difference. For all of us.
In celebration of Earth Day, I would like to introduce you to Glori Dei Filippone. She is 13-years old. She is from Des Moines, Iowa. And she is many things. Here is her story about how she is standing up to protect all our futures.
Beyond being a big sister, an actress, a singer, an athlete, a person who loves science and reading, Glori is also the youth plaintiff in the 50-state Atmospheric Trust legal effort, an effort brought by courageous youth, like Glori , from across the country. Just like with the climate science, I won’t dive into the legal theory and instead send you here to read more but I want to highlight one key point.
Atmospheric Trust Litigation, or ATL, relies upon the Public Trust Doctrine – a legal doctrine enshrined in every civilized government, which holds governments responsible for protecting the resources we all share in common and depend upon for our very survival, such as air and water. Since the seeds of the Public Trust Doctrine are evident in legal systems world-wide and accessible to lawyers across the globe, the ATL strategy presents a the only globally binding approach that can empower courts to force emissions reductions within the limited time frame that remains before the planet crosses critical climate thresholds. In non-legal terms, the TRUST approach our youth are embracing is so robust because it applies everywhere, equally.
Since ATL is currently the only legally viable avenue to address climate change globally, I so hope you will celebrate Earth Day by joining me and standing with our youth as they hold our government accountable to take care of our atmosphere – a resource we all share and all depend upon for our very survival.
To meet other youth who have shared their stories, click on the titles of the videos below:
- TRUST Alaska and meet Nelson Kanuk, a native Alaskan personally familiar with the impacts climate change pose.
- TRUST Arizona and meet Jaime Lynn Butler, a young Navajo Artist whose world is literally drying up around her.
- TRUST Montana and meet John Thiebes, a young farmer fighting climate change in the agricultural heart of Montana.
- TRUST California and meet Alec Loorz, co-founder of Kids vs. Global Warming and climate change activist in California.