Friday, May 11, 2012
Taking the Grups to Court
What do you do when — despite intelligent argument, reason, logic, science, common sense — you can't see eye-to-eye?
In this country, you sue.
I read a fascinating story this week about a group of teenagers who are basically suing the United States because of the country's inaction on the issue of climate change. As reported in The Atlantic, the suit Alec L. et. al vs. Lisa P. Jackson et. al demands that the Environmental Protection Agency reduce carbon dioxide emissions by six percent per year going forward. The plaintiffs (five high school students) argue that under "the public trust doctrine," the government should be forced to step up, accept responsibility and affect change.
There are several "progressive" adults involved in the case as well, including a former congressman and co-founder of Earth Day and the founder of an organization called Our Children's Trust. And, an international precedent was set in the Philippines in the 1990s, when 43 children demanded (and won) the cessation of logging in an ancestral forest.
This week, a federal judge will determine whether or not the current U.S. case moves forward. As you can imagine, there are plenty of business interests that would like to see it to go quietly away.
What I love about this is the idea that young people might have the right to preemptively accept stewardship of a resource or way of life that their parents' generation is essentially "pissing away." After all, there are so many decisions being made on our children's behalf; many of them may result in dire consequences. There are enormous expenses — outlays of money, diminished health and happiness — today's tweens and teens will have to absorb.
Isn't it wonderful material for the old Twilight Zone TV series (not to be confused with today's Twilight Saga books, although Bella should certainly consider suing Edward for sucking out her personality)? Imagine citizens of the future traveling back in time to prosecute politicians, corrupt business executives and war criminals. To hold them accountable for the repercussions of their actions.
What, for example, might my daughter someday think of the Wall Street barons who created today's crippled economy?
How will her peers feel about the mounting national debt they will inherit?
Does the exorbitant cost of healthcare equate to shorter, less healthy lives for our future generations?
And, will the current attack on women's reproductive rights spill over into other freedoms and equalities earned over time by disenfranchised groups?
There has been an acknowledged generation gap for more than half a century. Maybe it's time that our younger citizens seize some power. Or, at least, exercise their First Amendment right to petition.
I'm reminded of another TV series from the 1960s, Star Trek. Did you ever see the episode in which the Enterprise crew lands on a planet inhabited by children? These teens and tweens and kids despise and fear those they call "Grups." Captain Kirk and company quickly realize that Grups are actually grownups. The adult population has died out (after going mad with the help of some serious stage make-up) because of a virus that attacks when a person reaches adolescence. Luckily, dewey-eyed teen Miri (Kim Darby), like so many female characters before and after, has fallen for Captain Kirk. She helps him convince the others that they must be vaccinated. The children are saved! (Although the not-so-totally-happy ending includes the reintroduction of adult authority and the return to school for the planet's truants, but that's another story.)
So I ask you. Conservative or Liberal, Democrat or Republican ... what is the legacy we are leaving our children? Debate doesn't seem to work. Neither does scientific evidence or statistical projections. Sure, the Grups have a lot of excuses for inaction.
But, this week, a group of kids are saying, "Yeah, yeah. Tell it to the judge."