Sue the government

(Come friend Aunt Ruthie on Facebook and let’s hang out.)

At age 12, Alec Loorz watched An Inconvenient Truth for the first time. And, after seeing the documentary in its entirety, Loorz started from the beginning and watched it again.

And that year he became a climate activist, going on to found Kids vs. Global Warming, an organization that coordinated the iMatter Marches on climate change. The group is effective, impassioned, well-organized—everything one could ask.

Loorz turned 18 last month. Six years as an activist—one-third of his life span, spent confronting the most vexing issue of our time—Auntie Ruth has to wonder out loud how the lad sustains himself. Interviewed by The Atlantic, he said, “I think a lot of young people realize that this is an urgent time, and that we’re not going to solve this problem just by riding our bikes more.”

So he and four others are suing the government. Represented pro bono by the Burlingame law firm of former U.S. Republican Rep. Paul “Pete” McCloskey, a co-founder of Earth Day, Alec L., et. al vs. Lisa P. Jackson, et. al includes not only the head of the Environmental Protection Agency as a defendant, but the heads of six other departments (including defense and energy). The National Association of Manufacturers has filed a legal brief, a sign that the suit is being taken as more than a nuisance by the powers that be, and a district court has heard motions from NAM for dismissal.

The Kids vs. Global Warming site draws comparisons between its lawsuit and the use of legal force during the civil-rights struggle, which is apt. “If there is no struggle there is no progress. … This struggle … may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both.” Frederick Douglass wrote this in 1857 about slavery and racism. The quote resonates for Aunt Ruth, except the environmental movement of today has not seen the violence of the anti-slavery and civil-rights movements.

It may someday. May the powers that be leave the teenagers out of it. And may the teenagers, like Alec Loorz, keep on doing.