A group of 21 youth plaintiffs from the non-profit law firm Our Children’s Trust issued a lawsuit against the federal government on Nov. 10 in demand of climate action, proving no one is too young to be involved in environmental activism.
The plaintiffs fall between the ages of nine and 20 and are primarily based in Oregon, but also come from states such as Colorado and Florida. Representing Washington is one of our own: Seattle University sophomore sociology major Kiran Oommen.
Kiran Oommen sitting on train tracks last year in Anacortes, Washington to protest oil trains.
“It’s really inspiring to meet kids that are eight or nine years old and know about climate change, know all the stuff and can say ‘Yeah, I’m suing the federal government,’” Oommen said.
The group from Our Children’s Youth has won two hearings so far and has only seen increasing support over time. The plaintiffs filed the lawsuit with the intent of making the government responsible for their efforts or lack thereof—in the realm of climate change and the little they have done to prevent it.
Activists say the federal government ought be held accountable because of the permissiveness that they have shown toward corporations with clear ties to pollution. Not only have they been accused of standing by in the face of damage to the environment, but also actively aiding the process through subsidies and legislature.
“I think [the lawsuit] is good, but the government has a long history of devaluing the words and ideas of the youth,” said Trevor Ka’aihue, a junior computer science major and Resident Assistant for the Engineering our Future learning community.
Though the plaintiffs from Our Children’s Trust have a difficult road ahead of them, most were a part of the fight long before it was covered by the media.
Though a large part of the public is only now hearing about their efforts, it has been a long-standing endeavor on the part of the plaintiffs, spanning multiple years and enduring multiple obstacles in the court system.
These efforts originated from the firm’s attempt to sue the state of Oregon, which later moved up to the federal court. These actions, along with others, have demonstrated a commitment surrounding the cause, as well as the momentum it has gained since the group first began.
Even if they are not plaintiffs, Seattle U students can do their part to help in the firm’s efforts.
Oommen said that one of the biggest ways that students can help push the lawsuit and the goal behind it along is by spreading the word through personal circles and social media. Most of all, he stressed that students use this as an opportunity to reach out to friends and family that are either uneducated or misinformed on climate issues.
“The more people that know about this, more public support we can get, the more the people in power will hopefully realize that this is important to a lot more people that just the 21 of us,” Oommen said.
This movement is timely as part of current national discussion that surrounds issues of the environment and climate change.
President-elect Donald Trump has gone on record saying that he does not believe in the effects of climate change, which has put the subject back in the limelight and may signify how the issue will be treated in our country over the next four years.
“Historically, governments have been known to subsidize money to companies that have had a high impact on polluting local and global ecosystems,” said Jaybee Ragudo, a senior environmental studies major.
The conversation on climate change has also been affected by the Paris Agreement drafted earlier this year, which was intended to reduce the production of greenhouse gasses across multiple countries.
“That type of government favoritism towards this companies that create a lot of pollution in a way devalue the importance of the environment by making it look like it’s okay to do what they do just because they are backed by a legal body, but that isn’t the case,” Ragudo said. “It is our job to let people know that what they’re doing is not alright and fight and keep the government accountable.”
For more information on the Our Children’s Trust law firm, profiles on the plaintiffs and updated information on their lawsuit, visit www.ourchildrenstrust.org.
Carlos may be reached at