In the face of unprecedented heat, drought, wildfires, smoke, storms, and floods, groups of children and teens across the planet are creating change through litigation; they’re suing their governments to halt pro-fossil fuel government policies, protect biodiversity and clean water sources, and enforce immediate, science-based climate action. From TED-Ed:
“For example, in the winter of 2018, 25 young Colombians, including Indigenous youths, sued their government for failing to reduce deforestation in the Amazon and falling short on climate promises. This suit, as well as others, argued that destructive environmental policies put the plaintiffs’ current and future lives at risk. Climate inaction violates their basic human rights—specifically the right to a healthy environment, health, food, and water.”
“But what do human rights have to do with the environment? Do you have the right to breathe clean air? To live in a world with white rhinos, polar bears, and lemur leaf frogs? What about the right to mangroves and coral reefs?”
How are young people holding their governments accountable for climate change inaction? Does everyone have the basic human right to birdsong? TED-Ed asks, “Should you be suing your government” to help ensure a healthy, sustainable planet?
“The first international document to outline human rights was adopted by the newly-formed United Nations in 1948, against the backdrop of two world wars marked by countless atrocities and barbaric acts. This document, known as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, or UDHR, describes the inherent freedoms that belong to all people, no matter who they are or where they live, and which can’t be granted or revoked. It establishes rights like freedom of thought, political liberties like the right to a fair trial, and socioeconomic and cultural rights, like the right to adequate housing and healthcare. “
While the UDHR itself is non-binding, its formation provided an internationally recognized set of ethics and standards, forming the basis for human rights law. And though the UDHR makes no mention of nature, biodiversity, or climate, advocates argue that the very principles of the UDHR depend on access to healthy ecosystems.
Recent legal verdicts have confirmed this assertion.
Written by Shannon Odell and directed by Lorenzo Mercanti, AIM Creative Studios, this TED-Ed was made with support by the Open Society Foundations, a group of grant-awarding organizations that seek to support groups and individuals working to promote democracy, transparency, and freedom of speech.
• Know Your Rights, a collection of videos at TED-Ed
• Climate Change Litigation Databases from Columbia Law School
• Universal Declaration of Human Rights, an Amnesty International summary
• Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a summary at standup4humanrights.org
• Our Children’s Trust, a non-profit public interest law firm specializing in legal rights to a safe climate
Watch these related videos next on TKSST:
• What do kids want us to know about climate change?
• Natural Climate Solutions: How nature can repair our broken climate
• Chief Oshkosh and a history of Menominee Forest conservation
• Gaylord Nelson and how Earth Day got started