Young activists are getting hot over climate change, and representatives of the environmental groups iMatter and Earth Guardians who are plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed against the federal government will also be leading a march to the State Capitol Building on Saturday. That event is part of a week-long effort involving over 125 marches across the globe.
At noon on May 14, three Denver youths will lead a crowd of what's predicted to be between 5,000 and 10,000 people from Cuernavaca Park to the Capitol, where they'll listen to speakers ranging from local youth leaders to Jonny 5 of the Flobots to Congressman Jared Polis.
"What the kids are trying to do is get in the streets and get the word out and get more people involved," says Tamara Rose-Roske, director of Earth Guardians. "They want the message to have an effect on the state level so that the atmosphere becomes a public trust that is protected. It's really a call from the young people that their future is in jeopardy."
Over forty partner organizations, such as the Sierra Club and Greenpeace, are involved with the march, in which iMatter and Earth Guardians will push an environmental movement that focuses less on details such as lightbulbs and hybrids.
"iMatter is a different kind of environmental push and campaign in that it's not focusing on one specific issue," says Alex Budd, an iMatter leader and one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit. "It's focusing on the cause of the problem, which is our society and our relationship with the natural world. That's what really needs to change, not just where we get our energy from or how much we drive or whether we recycle.
"Right now it's more a relationship of dominance and consumption," he continues. "As long as we look at the natural world as something to be exploited and consumed and turned into commodities, we will slowly turn the planet into a trash pile of the waste of our industrial economy. That's what needs to change: the perception that humans are somehow above the natural world, that we're not part of the ecosystem that is our planet."
While changing attitudes is an important part of the movement, they're also pushing for tangible change. And that's where the lawsuit, filed against the federal government and all fifty states, comes in. Eighteen-year-old Budd is joined by Xiuhtezcatl Roske-Martinez, eleven, and Cecelia Kluding-Rodriguez, seventeen, as plaintiffs in the suit.
"The lawsuit is based on the idea of public trust," says Budd. "Public trust is a resource that doesn't belong to anyone in particular, it belongs to everyone. The biggest examples of these are air and water. We're pursuing legislation and policy to help maintain a healthy earth."
The lawsuit is looking for policy changes that would reduce CO2 concentration in the atmosphere to 350 parts per million, which has been deemed the safe upper level, by the end of the century; the level currently sits at about 400 parts per million, Budd notes. The plaintiffs are also asking for at least a 6 percent reduction in global CO2 emissions every year.
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"Legislation is going to have to be part of solving the climate crisis, but we need all the voices and all the bodies to show support, take action and hold our leaders accountable," says Budd. "We need people in the streets. We want to highlight and celebrate some of the leaders in Colorado who are taking action to preserve our planet for the future and moving towards this new way of thinking about our relationship with the world."
Marches started on May 7 and will continue through the summer, culminating with a march on Washington, D.C., next year.
"This is not an event, it's a movement," says Rose-Roske. "And it's the beginning of a youth movement that we're going to see grow into something that will be huge and can potentially be a change that ignites compassionate people to wake up and stand up for the future of these kids and generations to come."
To register for the Denver march, click here.