This week 21 kids stood outside a federal courthouse in Eugene, Oregon to explain why they were suing the United States government. The reasons were varied: a lack snow for skiing in Oregon, beach erosion in Florida, horses dead from dehydration on a ranch in Arizona. The kids’ attorney, Julia Olson of the environmentalist groupOur Children’s Trust, gave an impassioned speech earlier in the courtroom before Federal District Judge Ann Aiken to explain how one Jayden Foytlin (age 13) had lost her home to the floods in Baton Rouge this summer. The cause of all of these tragedies could of course be none other than climate change and the U.S. government was to blame for letting it happen. Furthermore, since the U.S. government had failed to take action the young plaintiffs wanted the Court to order an end to fossils fuels.The debate over climate change goes on. Now I am not a science teacher so I am not going to revisit the ongoing flaws in linking fossil fuels to global environmental collapse. Rather, as someone who has been teaching high school social studies teacher for the past 18 years, I was struck by how little these kids know about history and government. The lawsuit shows an astounding lack of understanding on how the separation of powers is supposed to function and what Constitutional rights these kids seem to think they have but, actually do not not.This lawsuit against the government to stop oil drilling for the purpose of stopping climate change is truly a cause for concern. Not only because it repeats the tired old phrase of global annihilation just around the corner but because it plays fast and loose with Constitution. By asking the Court to take such a broad, and quite frankly, ridiculous interpretation of our founding document, this lawsuit threatens what truly does matter for these kids’ future. What these kids will benefit from most is a system of checks and balances where rights are found in the Constitution and not manufactured and the separation of powers is preserved by judges that judge and not make laws.
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