People are protesting worldwide
Something is happening on a global level
Normal people are filing claims against their leaders and governments, protesting inaction on climate change. Have you heard about this? These court cases claim that this inaction violates their fundamental rights and puts their future in grave danger. Let us have a look at what that means.
People all over the world are getting tired of hearing their leaders talk about change but taking no action. Agreements are signed but are not followed up on. In the meantime all around us, the urgency of taking actions is more than evident. People are seeing this and are speaking up.
Have you heard of ClientEarth? They say that our climate is in crisis, that we have to act now because nature is in immediate danger.
Wikipedia describes Client Earth as a non-profit environmental law organization founded in 2008. Currently, they have offices in London, Berlin, Warsaw, and Beijing. Coldplay is a patron of the organization and in June 2019, David Gilmour of the band Pink Floyd pledged to donate 21.5 million U.S. dollars, which he had obtained from his guitar collection sale. I found that this sounded interesting so I investigated some more.
The Torres Straits
Prior to the closure of the last ice age, the land between Australia and Papua New Guinea was a connecting landmass. It extended 150 km north of Australia and was the home and habitat to aborigines of Australia.
With the warming of the planet and the ending of the last ice age, what was a stable landmass was inundated with seawater and converted to a shallow continental shelf and 270 islands, collectively called the Torres Straits. Because of this historic connection, there are many birds and mammals found in New Guinea, which have a close genetic link to corresponding species found in Australia.
The dire situation of the islands
The situation on these islands is getting critical. Take for example the island of Masig, an island only 3.5 meters above sea level. The sea tides are getting higher every year, causing the wells of sweet water to become undrinkable, crops are ruined and coconut trees are toppled, roots included.
The weather has changed so much and the water level gets only higher, that these people have literally been robbed of the land they have lived on for thousands of years. There were many intentions of creating barriers to the sea with sandbanks and even cement dikes, but this did not help.
People of the islands are claiming their rights
A group of indigenous people has presented a formal denouncement against the Australian government, to the United Nations. They accuse the government of not taking sufficient action to reduce carbon emissions and eliminating or reducing the erosion of their homeland, which violates their basic human rights. Including the conservation of their ancestral culture.
They cannot just pick up their personal belongings and move somewhere else, says Client Earth, the environmental legal organization representing this group of indigenous people.
This is not the first time something like this happens in the world. The official rebellion of the people of the Torres Straits forms part of a worldwide movement. There are many more groups which denounce their leaders and governments for not taking care of the habitat they live in. Australia was more intent on giving permits to new mine projects and was kind of taken by surprise.
The plaintiff requires the government to stick to the Paris Agreement of 2016, and that a project of seawalls are put into place to save the islands.
I was thinking, this sounds a lot like what the Dutch have done with their famous Afsluit Dijk. The construction of this Dijk started in 1927 and was finalized in 1932. It is 32 km in length and 90 meters wide and isolates what used to be the Zuiderzee, now called the IJsselmeer. It keeps the North Sea from flooding out a large portion of Holland. Even if the United Nations cannot force any country to do something, I think that just by making these cases known to the public will help immensely.
The foundation Urgenda in Holland
There are more people who fight for a healthier environment. Take as a good example, the Dutch lawyer Marjan Minnesma, who in 2015, reached a historic victory. Her foundation, Urgenda, is comprised of 886 Dutch people, who were literally fed-up with the empty promises of the Dutch government. They started legal action and won.
The government of Mark Rutter went to the International Court of den Haag but lost the case. The judge dictated that a reduction of at least 25% of green house gases before the year 2020 were necessary to somehow guarantee the safety of Dutch society.
The Oregon case
Nearly at the same time, on the other side of the ocean, a lawyer in Oregon, Julia Olson, became the legal representative of a group of 21 young people between the ages of 11 and 22 years. They wanted to call into court, the federal government. They claim that they are already suffering the effects of a diminishing of their environment.
Jaime, who was still a minor, together with his family had to abandon his home in the Navajo Reserve in Cameron, Arizona. This happened in the year 2011 and the reason is that their natural water sources were drying out.
Then we have the case of Jayden, 15 years old at that time, who lost his home due to severe inundations in 2016. When Sandy hit New York in 2012, the school of Vic in White Plains had to shut down. These young people argue that the State has broken their constitutional rights, to life, to freedom, and property, committing acts that are knowingly destroying, putting in danger, and harming the environmental system.
The Trump Administration, following the lead of the Obama Administration, claims that there does not exist a right to having a climatic system which sustains human life. Twice they have been able to stop the process. It appears they are afraid that the voices of these young people are being heard.
Luckily, a judge in Oregon recently dictated that these voices have a right to be heard and therefore can present the complete case against those who cause them harm. This legal case is known under the name: Juliana against the United States.
The big European case
In Europe, there is also a famous case called Peoples Climate Case.
Here, 10 different families, some of which have included their children, have brought an action in the EU General Court, with the urgent petition that the EU reduces greenhouse gases and emissions. These families come from Portugal, Germany, France, Italy, Romania, Kenya, Fiji, and the Swedish Sami Youth Association Saminuorra.
The reduction of 40% of the 1990 levels by the year 2030 seems to be insufficient. It will not create an environment where the fundamental rights of a healthy life, occupation, and property are guaranteed. A lot more needs to be done and it seems that governments, on the whole, do not want to acknowledge this fact and therefore do nothing or too little.
What happens here has an effect on a global scale. On the other side of the world people also suffer the consequences of inaction. If the weather conditions get better it will be so for everybody, independent of where you live. Only if on a global level, everybody cooperates, then there is a chance, we and future generations can make it.
It is good to see that people worldwide speak up. All these court cases on different levels and in different countries show that the world population is getting more than tired of seeing what is happening with their habitat. Recently I came across a different but also global movement you might not have heard of yet.
This is not on a legal level, but instead uses consumers and their shopping power. Have a look at this as it might resonate with you.
We have to join one way or the other. We should help save our planet on as many levels as is possible. This is our only home.
Source: Newspaper SUR, 22, June 2019, article by Iciar Ochoa de Olano
Photo Source: Pixabay
Young children should be told about what is happening in the world. Luckily there exist a lot of good books for different age groups. You might like to have a look at the following post.