A rally is organized for this afternoon by supporters of a lawsuit brought against the federal government by 21 children, including a Fairbanks teenager. The case known as Juliana versus the United States, charges the federal government with violating the children’s civil rights and safety by not doing something about climate change.
One of those kids is Nathan Baring of Fairbanks. He flew to Eugene Oregon where the case was supposed to go to trial today in federal court. But ten days ago, the US Supreme Court froze the discovery and trial processes for this case, even though it is not being heard in that court. Such an “administrative stay” is an extraordinarily rare procedure. Comments were sought last week and over the weekend from the U.S. attorneys representing the Justice Department, but calls were not returned.
Baring says the lawsuit was originally filed against the Obama administration.
“We’re growing up with this case in the background, I was 15 when I started, now I’m 19. All we’re really asking is that youth have a voice and a role to play in determining the future that they are going to inherit.”
Baring says even though the trial won’t begin today, the plaintiffs have gathered at the courthouse to show their support. Some of his family flew from Fairbanks to join him in Oregon, others will be speaking at a rally this afternoon in downtown Fairbanks.
The youths claim the federal government’s promotion of fossil fuels threatens the survival of future generations and violates their constitutional rights. The court papers mention ocean acidification, rising sea levels, drought, and wildfires affecting food, physical and emotional health, and their enjoyment of the outdoors.
“I was born and raised in Fairbanks, and because of that, I guess I don’t think consider myself a super traditional environmental activist. I’ve always been focused on local issues -- what I see as my Arctic identity, the cultures that are being lost due to various climate impacts. A lot of it stems from research being done in our backyard, our own local university.”
The lawsuit also argues the government violated the public trust doctrine, which holds the government responsible for protecting public resources for public use.
Other Alaska rallies are scheduled today in Sitka, Homer, and Anchorage. The rallies are put on by an organization called “Our Children’s trust,” not to be confused with the Alaska Children’s Trust.
The Fairbanks rally begins at 4:45 this afternoon in Golden Heart Plaza.