Friday, June 30, 2023

An Open Letter to Senators Thune and Rounds:

Dear Senators,

Shame on you! Shame on you and most of your colleagues! When will you and the other old men in Congress and state legislatures across the country, wake up to the cries of the young for a healthy environment; a climate fit for their generation and those that follow?

A trial was concluded last week in Montana. It was brought against the state and its agencies by a group of 16 young people, arguing that Montanas’ enthusiastic support of fossil fuels violates their inalienable right, enshrined in Article II of the state constitution, to a “clean and healthful environment.”

You know it’s not just Montana. It’s a national problem. The challenge is always before us in South Dakota, as pipelines are want to criss cross our state and we have to be diligent to protect our sacred lands from the continuing threat of mining and pollution.

The case in Montana was brought way back in March of 2020. In the more than three years it took to come to trial, the climate in Montana and elsewhere has only gotten worse. At the same time, the Montana legislature busied itself passing legislation to protect their fossil fuel economy and undercut the trial; essentially removing any meaningful environmental restrictions on their coal, oil and gas industries. It took five days for the youth to present their case; only one day for the state, although they paid big bucks for their “expert” witnesses. The major argument of the state seemed to be, it wasn’t “their” problem, but a global one. (Pass the buck!) In the meantime, Montana has the largest recoverable coal reserves in the country and the Bakken Foundation has billions of dollars of untapped oil and gas.

Senators, climate change is a problem you and other government officials increasingly place on the backs of the young. A recent study found that 59 percent of those surveyed younger than 25 understand climate change as a constant worry. 39 percent say it impacts their daily lives. One of the Montana 16 suffers from asthma, made worse by Montana’s increasing wildfires, and more recently, several days of smoke from wildfires in Canada. Others speak of the loss of wilderness, the drying up of rivers, the loss of an indigenous way of life. It’s the young people who have become increasingly frustrated, angry and despondent, as they witness the ravages of climate change, and as decision makers like the two of you continue to support the fossil fuel economy with legislation, subsidies and environmental ignore-ance. You ignore it!!

The Montana 16 were greeted each day on their way to court by other young people, who formed a path for them to walk through as they entered the courthouse. Why are there so few adults cheering them on? Why are the major activists and critics of fossil fuels the young? And when will you decision makers begin to listen?

For instance, Senators: the World Bank has concluded that if governments like the United Sates, redirected the dollars spent propping up fossil fuels, industrial agriculture and commercial fisheries, to green and climate friendly projects, we would be in a significant position to address the climate crisis. “People say that there isn't money for climate but there is—it's just in the wrong places," said Axel van Trotsenburg, senior managing director of the World Bank. "If we could repurpose the trillions of dollars being spent on wasteful subsidies and put these to better, greener uses, we could together address many of the planet's most pressing challenges."

Are you listening Senators? We will certainly continue to need larger and larger sums to recover from fires, flood, hurricanes and tornados; not to mention derechos. We may even put the private insurance business out of business. It’s not available in some parts of the country. Even here, in a relatively stable environment, our  property insurance jumped $800 this year, double the jump of the previous year, which was double the jump of the year before that.

The scientific evidence has been pouring in for years. We need to reduce the carbon in the atmosphere. Greta Thunberg is no longer a teenager., the major youth led organization acting on climate change, was formed in 2007. The Montana 16 are aging. And scientists are warning that 2023 could well be the hottest year ever recorded. We have had record ocean temperatures in May and record air temperatures in June. Governments are not fulfilling their climate treaty obligations.
Of course, some will suffer more than others, as is always the case. Senators sit in air conditioned offices and walk cooled hallways and vote in comfort in legislative halls. They don’t sit in sweltering or smoke filled D.C. parks to greet their constituents or read up on new legislation.

How long, O Lord, how long; must the young pay for their elders sins?

Rev. Carl Kline

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