Has anyone out there heard of the Atmospheric Trust Litigation??
Taking care of our atmosphere is not an option, it is a fundamental responsibility of us all. Our very survival as individuals and as a species depends on it. So, does all the other life on this planet. We are very arrogant indeed, if we think otherwise. (Photo Copyright, Peggy A Rowe-Snyder, 2010)
The Atmospheric Trust Litigation is a lawsuit that has been filed in all 50 states and elsewhere in the world. This litigation assumes that the atmosphere should be held in trust for the public by the government and therefore must be cared for as the government would care for any other resource (i.e. National forest lands, BLM lands, etc.) on behalf of the public. Keeping that in mind, one tactic they are using is to sue on behalf of young people. One reason for this is that young people are the future and represent most completely the future and shows that the governments responsibility to care for a resource is being held In trust for. If the suit succeeds then the atmosphere would have to be redefined as a resource and held in trust in accordance with those existing laws. The hope of the author is that the suit will succeed in pushing the courts to force the government to create viable and comprehensive policy about climate change that is scientifically up to standard.
After some thought, there are similarities between a financial trust and a trust where something is being held, protected, cared for, etc. In a financial trust situation, the monies are being protected by the trustee. The trustee gets to decide just how the money is spent. However, there are laws in place that mandate just how the money is spent, and the trustee would have to justify all the decisions that are made. With all that in mind, a Trustee can NO spend money for him or herself at all. It is NOT their personal slush fund. They can draw a salary or some sort of paycheck for the work they do on behalf of the client, but they cannot, for example, build a new pool in their backyard just using someone else’s money. There are over sites put into place to try and make sure these sorts of ABUSES do not happen.
So, under this reasoning the government does not “own” the atmosphere, instead they are a trustee of the atmosphere and in that role they should (and would be forced to by the new litigation) care for the resource(s) as they would any other resource held in trust.
Having said that, what really made this particular topic very much local to me is when I made the connection between all these national forests and BLM lands that surround me where I live in Southern Oregon. To my east is Winema National Forest, closer in to my east is Umpqua National Forest, to my northwest is Siuslaw National Forest, to my South is Klamath National Forest. I have been in the Deshutes National Forest, and probably any and every forest in Oregon. Where I come from in Northern California there is the Redwoods National and STATE forests. On some level a lot of our local forest land is being protected. And you’d think this is silly, but my guess if they were not protected the timber companies would have done away with them years ago. My guess is that there would be no old growth forests left. Society and especially corporate America does not have a good track record when it comes to conservation and preservation of OUR resources.
So, we do have these forests, and the government doesn’t say we can’t harvest some trees, but they sure put limits on the numbers and sorts of trees that can be taken. They have rules about how far away a tree can be harvest in terms of how close it is to a waterway (any water way). So, in caring for the forests, the government also has to care for habitat for natural fisheries (i.e. salmon), and the ground under the trees, etc. etc. etc.
It seems quite logical to me to try and apply this reasoning to the atmosphere. I love the idea of forcing the government to come up with a plan of action. While they are at it, they can come up with a plan of education. Just like Smokey the bear is meant to educate citizens about the dangerous of fire, and fire prevention and protection from– these same principles should be applied to atmosphere.
All of us breath it! Our pets breathe it. All the wild critters breathe it. We can’t live without a good fresh and clean supply of it. The question in my mind is why hasn’t this been done much sooner…