Can our children survive toxic chemicals, climate change, assault weapons, COVID-19, and idiots?

The eight plaintiffs suing Florida's government over climate change. Photo by Our Children's Trust

You would think that Americans don’t love their children by the way we treat them.

We turn a blind eye to the companies that discharge chemicals into the water and air that harm our babies and young children. We ignore the need to cut our carbon emissions even as the planet grows hotter and the weather more extreme, knowing that we are making the planet dangerously inhospitable.

We even are ranking the welfare of our economy above the health of our children as we make them go back into the classroom this fall while the pandemic worsens.

The simple act of wearing a mask to protect them is too much for many. We insist on owning military-grade weapons even though our children are killed by them in their classrooms and they are traumatized by “active shooter drills.” We continually cut education and health care budgets for our children.

What is wrong with us? Have we lost all concept of the need to protect our children and ensure a safe future for them? A recent article in Medium, “How Freedom Became Free-dumb America” calls us idiots. It says that for the Greeks, an “idiot” was a person who was only interested in private life, private gain, private advantage, who had no conception of a public good, common wealth or shared interest. To the Greeks, such a person was the most contemptible of all.

My friends, that is us.

Over the past three years, it has been impossible for even the most interested person to keep track of all the regulations and programs that have been eliminated or weakened by our federal government. The Union of Concerned Scientists has documented them and you can see the list here.

One change is that the current administration has overruled the Environmental Protection Agency’s scientists in order to allow the continued use of chlorpyrifos, an agricultural pesticide derived from nerve agents used in WW II.

There is ironclad evidence that even a small amount of exposure to chlorpyrifos can inhibit children’s brain development. The EPA banned its use in homes 20 years ago, but this action allows its continued use on our food — on our children’s food.

Another change is that the EPA is defying a court order in order to maintain the use of perchlorate. The American Academy of Pediatrics, multiple independent scientists, and many states have weighed in, urging EPA to set a strict standard for perchlorate in drinking water. They have been ignored.

There is more. You can read about it in the Union of Concerned Scientists report, “Endangering Generations: How the Trump Administration’s Assault on Science is Harming Children’s Health.” To order a copy, go here.

In Florida, eight children ranging in age from 12 to 20 are participating in the Our Children’s Trust climate change lawsuit against Gov. Ron DeSantis and other state officials, to protect themselves from climate change.

These children have already faced down monster hurricanes, waded through streets flooded with saltwater even on sunny days, and seen their favorite coastal spots buried under tons of sand. They are worried. One child fears that with sea level rise, her tribe will lose its home as well as its tribal identity. Another has already been forced to abandon her home in South Florida because of a monster hurricane.

There is no doubt that climate change will pose additional risks to all our children throughout their lives. A May 30, 2019, article in the New England Journal of Medicine said that climate change is the greatest public health emergency of our time and is particularly harmful to fetuses, infants, children, and adolescents.

The Our Children’s Trust lawsuit asks our government to secure the children’s legal right to a safe climate and a healthy atmosphere. It is based on the truths that our children have a fundamental right to life and that all life depends on a stable climate that is capable of sustaining life.

On June 1, Circuit Judge Kevin Carroll denied these eight young Floridians the right to proceed to trial on their claims against the state for contributing to climate change. The judge said they made a compelling argument, but he decided the court was being asked to solve a political question.

For the record, climate change is not a political issue. It is a scientific fact. It is a health issue, a safety issue, a food issue, an issue of national security, and an economic issue. Moreover, the children are right: Climate change should be understood as an issue of legal rights. They have the right to a stable climate.

A young girl, Charlotte Stuart-Tilley, 13, has taken the need to respond to climate change to the Florida Capitol steps. For more than a year, in hot and cold weather, she has been there on Fridays with her signs, friends and a few adults asking our governor to address the climate crisis. This young girl shouldn’t have to do this. Our government should be safeguarding our children.

Wake up. If our children are not safe, none of us are safe. Step up, speak out, and vote for officials who want to protect our children, or call yourself an “idiot.”