Several youth sue Montana government for ties to fossil fuel companies

Photo credit: Janie Osborne/The New York Times

This week a lawsuit against the state of Montana was filed by 16 young people against the state’s support of the fossil fuel industry. The young people are suing the state, claiming that the government must uphold their right to “maintain and improve a clean and healthful environment … for present and future generations,” which is enshrined in the state constitution.

This is a first in the United States for a court to actually hear this type of lawsuit, although several have been attempted by young people in the past and around the world.

In reaction to it, the state government has tried to block the case, gutted Montana’s Environmental Policy Act, and repealed the state’s entire energy policy in hopes of stopping the lawsuit. This was to no avail, and the judge hearing the case is still moving forward. The politicians in the Montana government have a vested interest in serving the fossil fuel industry because the state holds the largest coal reserve in the country.

It’s important to see young people advocate for their future. Regardless of the decision the court makes though, we cannot rely on the boss’s government, or their laws and courts to save us in the long run. For example, the Brown v. Board of Education decision by the Supreme Court which declared that segregated public schools were unconstitutional took the massive Civil Rights and Black Power movements to enforce the decision. The Supreme Court’s decision was worthless without the organizing of millions. It’s not unreasonable to see the same thing happening if there is a decision in favor of the young people in Montana. It’s already clear how flexible and persistent the Montana politicians are in changing laws, even to prevent this case from happening in the first place. We must learn from history. If we want to have a future, it is clear we must organize ourselves — we are the only ones who can save us!