Donald Trump may have just appointed one of the leading climate change deniers to head up the EPA under his administration, but amidst the gloomy forecast for environmentalists, there is a small ray of light. On November 10th, a group of 21 young activists, helmed by 16 year-old environmentalist wunderkind Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, successfully won the right to sue the US government over its inaction on climate change. In their suit, the teens accused the government, as well as the fossil fuel industry and other federal agencies, of endangering their constitutional rights to life and liberty via a livable planet.
“Federal courts too often have been cautious and overly deferential in the arena of environmental law, and the world has suffered for it,” Judge Aiken said in her ruling. “This action is of a different order than the typical environmental case. It alleges that defendants’ actions and inactions — whether or not they violate any specific statutory duty — have so profoundly damaged our home planet that they threaten plaintiffs’ fundamental constitutional rights to life and liberty.”
As Motherboard notes, the youth group’s victory will set an important precedent for other federal climate lawsuits.
“My generation is rewriting history,” Martinez told them in a statement. “We’re doing what so many people told us we were incapable of doing: holding our leaders accountable for their disastrous and dangerous actions.”
Pretty impressive for a 16 year-old. Then again, the self-described “indigenous environmental eco-hip hop artist and activist,” already has more than a decade of environmental activism under his belt, including heading up the Earth Guardians activist organization, speaking at the UN and TED talks, and a 2013 recognition as “Youth Changemaker of the Year” from President Obama (he was 13 at the time).