Bill Moyers and Atmospheric Trust Litigation

By Jim Carey

Most of us are aware that on September 21, 2014, over 400,000 people marched in NYC demanding that the world’s governments “protect” the earth from the continual massive destruction caused by the fossil fuel industries. In addition, 96,863 persons have pledged to resist and be arrested if President Obama and the Congress legislate approval of the Keystone pipeline. Few of us are aware of the 2011 lawsuits brought by Our Children’s Trust. At the heart of these lawsuits is the “doctrine of public trust,” which states that the government is the trustee of the natural resources that support our survival. The beneficiaries of this trust—which cherishes the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the land we live on—are the present and future generations.

Bill Moyers and Atmospheric Trust Litigation
Mon, Mar 16, 1pm
TV Room
Quinta Loreto Hotel
Loreto 15

In July 2012, Pennsylvania’s Chief Justice Ronald Castille ruled against the Commonwealth and in favor of anti-fracking by stating that the Pennsylvania State Constitution guarantees the inalienable right of citizens to clean air, and pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic, and esthetic values of the environment. This “doctrine of public trust” is inherent in the social contract that governments make with their citizens. In Eugene, Oregon, the young people came together to create the Youth Climate Action Now (YouCAN) Eugene Campaign to advocate for their right to a safe and stable climate system. They attended every city council meeting for a year to present testimony and voice their concerns about the negative effects of climate change in Eugene. In July 2014, the city council, recognizing their duty as trustees of the environment, passed the most progressive climate recovery ordinance in the US.

This “atmospheric trust litigation” is outlined in University of Oregon law professor Mary Christina Wood’s book Nature’s TrustEnvironmental Law for a New Ecological Age. The demand is to bring down carbon emissions to avert catastrophic climate change. The remedy is to have the court order and sanction the legislatures (local, state, and federal) to do their constitutional job now before we pass the crucial tipping point of the planet’s destruction. Her interview with Bill Moyers brings to mind what Reinhold Niebuhr said: “Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; therefore we must be saved by hope. Nothing which is true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history, therefore we must be saved by faith. Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore, we must be saved by love.” Our hope is that the young and their loving energy will save the planet. A discussion follows after our films. Our events are free.


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