Gratitude For Environmental Activism (Rev. Lou Snead)
Celebrating Environmental Activism
Gratitude seems to be common response for people of faith across many religious traditions. In the Judeo-Christian tradition, for instance, we find prayers of gratitude and thanksgiving being offered to God for all the marvels of creation, from the sky (Psalm 19) down to humanity (Psalm 139). But, gratitude is not limited to self-acknowledging religious people alone or only to what God has done with creation. Deep gratitude can also emerge out of our recognition that there are people around us who care deeply about protecting the health of our planet on which we are so heavily depend. Many of us know the feeling of being grateful when someone displays an act of kindness, or offers an encouraging word, or does a good deed. When it comes to environmental issues today we have to be alert to those among us who are speaking up on the behalf of all of us to discover a measure of unanticipated gratitude.
I found myself recently experiencing such gratitude when I attended an environmental rally held by 28 university students in our small town in Texas, who were expressing their own deep concerns about the future well-being of the earth. These college students invited our community to join them in this expression of concern about the degradation of our planet from global warming. There was no need among these young people to question the science of climate change or the environmental problems associated with the burning of fossil fuels. They were all intensely unified around the one simple belief that human activity is having a detrimental impact on the health of the earth and our government should be doing something to address this serious health issue for the sake of future generations. These students were asking us to join them in supporting a national legal effort to sue the U.S. government over not doing enough to protect the earth from unnecessary harm being done by excessive fossil fuel use. We learned at their rally that a lawsuit was filed in 2015 by 21 youth plaintiffs, identified as Juliana, et al versus United States of America, against several of its executive branch positions and officers, including President Donald Trump and former President Barack Obama. The plaintiffs are represented by the non-profit organization, Our Children's Trust, and on behalf of future generations represented by climatologist James Hansen.
This lawsuit claims that our government is violating the youths' rights by allowing activities that harm the environment to continue to take place and by arguing that access to a clean environment is a fundamental right of citizens of this country. They are asking in this judicial case for the government to adopt effective methods for reducing carbon dioxide emissions to mitigate against the adverse effects of global warming.The lawsuit is an attempt to use our legal system to address climate change issues based on a public trust doctrine and the larger international responsibility of our government to control and monitor natural resources in the interest of public benefit. Since the lawsuit was filed, the U.S. government has attempted numerous times to have the case dismissed on the grounds that these young citizens have no legal standing, are making unprecedented claims, and are seeking “drastic and extraordinary remedies” to adverse climate system changes. Thankfully, this case brought by 21 young people is currently awaiting rescheduling of the District Court trial following the Supreme Court's recent dismissal of the government's request to stay the trial.
I came away from this youth-led rally feeling thankful for the level of understanding and concern these students have about caring for the earth. On days when I start to think that our nation's leaders are indifferent to growing environmental problems, young people like these college students give me hope and a needed boost to my own effortsto try to make positives change on behalf of this good earth of ours. And, even more surprising, given all the political rancor we hear today about global warming and climate change denying, I find myself being grateful for our judicial process where the U.S. court system so far has allowed the lawsuit that 21 young people initiated in 2015 to have its day in court.
Rev. Lou Snead is a regular contributor to AllCreation.org.
Read more of his excellent works here.