Latest edition: The Children's Climate Crusade

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Episode Details

Original tape date: January 2, 2015.

First aired: January 12, 2015.

With so many in Congress and state legislatures in denial or simply missing in action, and with the very agencies created to protect our environment hijacked by the polluting industries they were meant to regulate, it may turn out that the judicial system, our children and their children will save us from ourselves.

The new legal framework for this crusade against global warming is called atmospheric trust litigation. It takes the fate of the Earth into the courts, arguing that the planet’s atmosphere – its air, water, land, plants and animals -- are the responsibility of government, held in its trust to insure the survival of all generations to come.

It’s the brainchild of Bill Moyers’ guest this week on the final broadcast of the series Moyers & Company (Note that the BillMoyers.com website will continue). Mary Christina Wood is a legal scholar who wrote the book, “Nature’s Trust,” tracing this public trust doctrine all the way back to ancient Rome. It is, she writes, “a robust set of legal footholds by which citizens can hold their government officials accountable.”

Wood tells Bill Moyers, “If this nation relies on a stable climate system, and the very habitability of this nation and all of the liberties of young people and their survival interests are at stake, the courts need to force the agencies and the legislatures to simply do their job.”

“Climate is not just an environmental issue,” she continues.  “This is a civilization issue.  This is the biggest case that courts will get in terms of the potential harm and in terms of the urgency.” 

Mary Christina Wood teaches law at the University of Oregon and is founding director of that school’s Environmental and Natural Resources Law Program. Her theories are being used in several legal suits filed by the advocacy group Our Children’s Trust.

Guest List

Mary Christina Wood Director, Environmental and Natural Resources Law Program, University of Oregon

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