The Future Is Now Relevant In American Courts

There’s a new tactic for environmentalists using the court system to change the world: argue that the government has a responsibility to protect people. The argument environmentalists can use is broadly known as “public trust” and how it relates to certain institutions and what they do. It is basically the notion that we a citizens entrust our government to keep us safe for now and in the future; by not protecting the environment they are endangering us now and for generations to come.

This public trust tactic has been used in other countries and now it’s winning in the USA. Let’s hope that more and more courts begin to understand that we need to act today to save tomorrow.

In 2008, Wood unveiled a novel strategy for climate activists to use the public trust as a legal tool. She called it “atmospheric trust litigation” and began giving dozens of talks about it. Prior to that, the public trust doctrine, when invoked in court at all, usually was seen through the lens of wildlife and access issues. Wood argued that the public trust doesn’t end at the earth and water, but also includes the atmosphere. And since the government is required to preserve resources for posterity—today’s youth and subsequent generations—it should be legally required to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to ensure a healthful and pleasant environment in the future.

In 2011, environmental attorney Julia Olson formed the Eugene, Oregon–based nonprofit Our Children’s Trust to coordinate with and support law firms that, working pro bono, have filed a flurry of lawsuits based on Wood’s ideas. In all, there have been 18 state and federal climate-change cases with adolescents as plaintiffs. The cases all claim breach of the public trust and try to force states to implement plans for emissions reductions based on science. “They’re all alleging that their futures are imperiled and that [governments are] violating their public trust rights because government continues to promote the fossil fuels regime that is destroying the climate they need for their survival,” says Wood.

Read more.
Thanks to Delaney!

Holding War Criminals to Account

War is a messy business with the victorious side usually cleaning up how it all looks to outsiders. This is obviously problematic, particularly as we ought to hold people accountable for crimes they commit. When one rogue state let’s their war crimes go unpunished it calls into question the international agreements on how to handle the people who committed such grievous acts. In her new books Rebecca Gordon calls on the USA to not let the crimes that have occurred in the war on terror to go unpunished.

In American Nuremberg, author Rebecca Gordon indicts several high ranking U.S. officials for war crimes. Those who helped facilitate America’s torture and assassination programs are named and their crimes are exposed in great detail. Writing the book and naming the war criminals is merely step one for Rebecca Gordon, who is currently a mission to work with several human rights groups to formally charge those officials who have broken human rights laws.

The United States helped establish the international principles guiding the prosecution of war crimes – starting with the Nuremberg tribunal following World War II, when Nazi officials were held accountable for their crimes against humanity. American Nuremberg is a call to put our own officials on trial – those who constantly refuse to apply these same international principles to the War on Terror.

Read more.

Abstinence Only Sex Education Loses Funding in the USA

President Obama has cut funding for abstinence only sex education in the 2017 federal budget. The lack of adequate sex education has led to health crises and too many unwanted pregnancies (which is made worse by places lacking proper rights for women) in the USA. It’s so bad in some of the states that documentaries have been made about the horrible state of sex education, like the 2005 film The Education of Shelby Knox.

Decades of ignorance have led to an increase in health problems in absiteince only sex education areas, so it’s really good to se that Obama is making it harder for those places to teach ignorance.

This is an excellent, evidence-based move towards protecting and educating our youth. Whether or not they are given an abstinence-only sex education, teens are going to have sex. About half of all high school-aged youth reported having engaged in sexual intercourse. Contrary to what conservatives would want you to believe, states where abstinence-only education is emphasized have a higher teen pregnancy rate.

Abstinence-only education is a disservice to our youth. It encourages things such as “virginity pledges,” which are laughably ineffective. Teens who make such a pledge are just as likely to engage in oral or anal sex and have similar STI rates. Virginity pledges don’t work and actually increase the likelihood of risky sexual behavior.

Read more.

Keystone XL is Done, COP 21 Set to Start

You probably already heard the good news about the end of Keystone XL with Obama killing the proposal. This is a good symbolic step in ending the exploitation of the tar sands in Alberta, plus this comes just a few weeks before COP21.

COP21 is the upcoming United Nations climate change conference which is set to run from Nov. 30 to Dec.11. In the light of Keystone being killed it gives people hope that Obama will actually do something about climate change.

On the Canadian side of the border Prime Minster Trudeau (who loves pipelines, sigh) has cast Catherine McKenna as Canada’s minister of environment and climate change. A new title acknowledging that climate change is real and has to be dealt with – a step forward from the idiotic climate approach from the Conservatives previously in power.

Keystone XL being nixed may be just the thing North America needs to show up at COP21. With the pipeline project over, other countries may actually start respecting North America on environmental matters.

TransCanada first applied for Keystone permits in September 2008 — shortly before Obama was elected. As envisioned, Keystone would snake from Canada’s oilsands through Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska, then connect with existing pipelines to carry more than 800,000 barrels of crude oil a day to specialized refineries along the Texas Gulf Coast.

Democrats and environmental groups latched onto Keystone as emblematic of the type of dirty fossil fuels that must be phased out. Opponents chained themselves to construction equipment and the White House fence in protest, arguing that building the pipeline would be antithetical to Obama’s call for cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

Read more.

Light Rail Bringing Massive Change to American Cities

Let’s face it: driving sucks.

Car traffic is bad for everyone and a lot of American cities have caught on to this. As a result, more light rail is being built throughout the USA, recently Pheonix residents voted to back more light rail with a tax hike.

What’s pushing this? It turns out that the awfulness of the commute, more cities adopting good public transit policy, and increased urbanization.

The future of light rail looks bright!

“Light rail” is a broad term that means a passenger rail system with tram-style cars—as opposed to “heavy rail” subways, as in New York and Washington, D.C.—that runs on its own right of way, usually at street level. Light rail cars typically run at 30 to 40 miles per hour at top speed, much less than a heavy rail subway.

In many cities, the building of light rail lines represents only one aspect of broader efforts to solve the public transportation puzzle. Cities are increasingly connecting light rail lines with major nodes of activity and other transportation modes such as expanded express bus services or bike lanes. Phoenix’s light rail connects downtown with Arizona State University in Tempe and Sky Harbor Airport. Charlotte has a light rail system and is now adding a streetcar. Atlanta and Miami have traditional heavy rail transit systems but are investing in other technologies such as streetcars and bus rapid transit. Las Vegas has a monorail along the Strip but is talking about a rail line to the airport.

Read more.