The non-profit organization “Our Children’s Trust” has been spreading the word about a new version of an old idea that goes all the way back to the Civilization of Rome, the “Doctrine of Public Trust” (or “Public Trust Doctrine“) that states that the government is a trustee to protect these natural resources (air, water, land) to protect them, for this generation and many generations down the line.
Mary Christina Wood is a University of Oregon Law Professor that has modernized this theory, and published a book on it, “Nature’s Trust.” In it, she explains that it’s because the very government agencies that are supposed to protect our natural resources have been captured by corporate raiders and lobbyists that these agencies treat as clients rather than the polluters they are charged with regulating in the interests of the public.
According to Moyers, this concept, called “Public Trust Litigation” is catching on. As Wood explains in the video (at 2 min 19 sec):
“Every suit and every administrative petition filed in every state in the country and against the Federal Government asks for the same relief, and that is for the government, whether it’s the State of Tennessee, or the State of Oregon, or the Federal Government, to bring down Carbon Emissions in compliance with what scientists say is necessary to avert catastrophic climate change. And so, the remedy in the suits pending is for the courts to order a plan. Simply order the legislators and the agencies to do their job in figuring out how to lower carbon emissions. So the courts would not actually figure out how to do that, that’s the *other* (legislative) branch’s job. It’s just that they’re not doing it, and they probably won’t without pressure, before we pass crucial tipping points.”