Earth Island Institute logo, tap or click to visit the Institute home page

Go Back: Home > Earth Island Journal > Latest News > Post and Comments

Latest News

Why I’m Suing the Government of United States

Brower Youth Award winner Alec Loorz on his suit to protect the climate

I am 16 years old. This morning I filed a lawsuit against the United States of America, for allowing money to be more powerful than the survival of my generation, and for making decisions that threaten our right to a safe and healthy planet.

 Alec Loorz

Our parents’ and grandparents’ generation have created a problem. They’ve developed a society that depends on burning fossil fuels, like coal and oil, to survive. They never realized that there were any huge consequences to running our lives with fossil fuels. But now, we do.

Our addiction to fossil fuels is messing up the perfect balance of nature and threatening the survival of my generation. If we continue to hide in denial and avoid taking action, my and I generation will be forced to grow up in a world where hurricanes as big as Katrina are normal, people die every year because of heat waves, droughts, and floods, and entire species of animals we’ve come to know disappear right before our eyes.

This is not the future I want. And I know that we still have a chance to turn this picture around. But, it’s going to take more than changing lightbulbs and buying hybrid cars. I believe it will take nothing less than a revolution... a revolution in our entire culture and way of thinking, so that we value nature and the future of my generation with every action we take.

And I believe this revolution needs to be led by youth. It’s our future we’re fighting for, and we are some of the most creative, dedicated, and passionate people on the planet. We have the moral authority to look into our parents and leaders eyes and ask them, “Do I matter to you?”

Also, as youth, we are the last group of people in the US who don’t have any official political rights. We can’t vote, we certainly can’t compete with rich corporate lobbyists... So we are forced to simply trust our government to make good decisions on our behalf.

However, it’s become clear that our government has failed us, by not protecting the resources on this planet we need to survive. Even though scientists overwhelmingly agree that CO2 emissions are totally messing up the balance of our atmosphere, our leaders continue to turn their backs on this crisis.

The time has come for the youngest generation to hold our leaders accountable for their actions.

Today, I and other fellow young people are suing the government, for handing over our future to unjust fossil fuel industries, and ignoring the right of our children to inherit the planet that has sustained all of civilization. I will join with youth and attorneys in every state in the US to demand that our leaders to live and govern as if our future matters.

The government has a legal responsibility to protect the future for our children. So we are demanding that they recognize the atmosphere as a commons that needs to be preserved, and commit to a plan to reduce emissions to a safe level.

The plaintiffs and petitioners on all the cases are young people. We are standing up for our future.

But we will not only stand up in the courts. We will stand up in the streets as well.

Starting this Mothers’ Day weekend, the youngest generation will rise up and march in our communities. We will unite together with a powerful voice to call for action on climate change, and demand that our society lives as if our future matters.

We will let the world know that climate change is not about money, it’s not about power, it’s not about convenience. It’s about our future. It’s about the survival of this and every generation to come.

The iMatter March is a series of more than 100 marches in states all across the US, and in over 25 countries worldwide, including Columbia, Gambia, Germany, Thailand India, on Mount Everest (!!!) and there’s even one being planned by the son of an oil executive in Kuwait.

And it’s about more than just these events. This is a movement. A mass movement of young people standing up with a unified voice to tell the ruling generation that we will no longer just sit idly by as they make decisions that threaten our future. We matter. Our future matters.

Thomas Jefferson once said, “Every generation needs a new revolution.” Well this is ours. The time has now come for the youngest generation to make a stand for our future.

This is our revolution. This is our time.

Alec Loorz is the 16 year old visionary of the iMatter campaign and founder of Kids vs Global Warming, a project of Earth Island Institute. A climate change activist since he was 12 years old, he has spoken to nearly 200,000 people in over 200 presentations, keynotes, and panels. Representing his generation, he advocates for and inspires youth to lead the way to a sustainable and just world. to march in your community.

Email this post to a friend.

Write to the editor about this post.

Subscribe Today
cover thumbnail EIJ cover thumbnail EIJ cover thumbnail EIJ cover thumbnail EIJFour issues of the award-winning
Earth Island Journal for only $10








By MARC on Fri, February 10, 2012 at 5:37 am

Can’t have it both ways, Raul and others .  Where to start?  You are clearly not availing yourselves to the science.  I You folks trust science every day to drive, seek medical care, fly and so much more.  What is different when the international body of scientists attempt to warn humanity of an existential threat to Humanity?  The facts are clear thou will no doubt dismiss them.  In defense I offer the latest paper from the Stockholm Memorandum of May 13-16 presented to the United Nations by 18 Nobel Laureates.  Of course facts will not be able to intrude on your views.  Alternatively you would benefit from a quick search of “Ocean Acidification” for Oceanographers’ views of CO2 pollution. 
As for the plight of Muslim women I do not recall anyone supporting oppression of anyone.  Another fact that you might ponder is that the rich currently control over 90% of the worlds wealth and are doing their damnedest to control the rest.  They care not who or what they trample in their quest. Look around.  Perusing sustainability does not preclude making a profit it presents numerous opportunities not the least of which is a long term survival path for humanity. One more thing.  You might check hoe nuclear id working out for Japan.

By Leif Knutsen on Sat, May 21, 2011 at 1:55 pm

Well said @ Raul.
pffft to most of the rest of you. Especially the “what about women” post… LMAO!! Muslims don’t include women.. you have no clue to how these people of OTHER Countries destroy our planet. Go after them.
Maybe we should sue God for the Ice age or the dinosaurs and prehistoric vegatation for polluting the earth with their remains??? That is NOT pollution, it is our evulotion. A revolution is not needed to make the world stop using its resources to better man kind. A revolution is needed to keep the lazy people from being the blood suckers of the country and taking every dime they can without working a day in their life. Do you believe that God helps those who help themselves? Do you even believe in God??? I believe God created evolution… hows that for radical. We need to take care of the planet, yes, but for YOUR generation to be comfy cozy, benefiting from EVERYONE elses hard work while you “sue” for the supposed “harm” done to you???. Really people, this is a kid with way too much time on his hands and perhaps I am just as foolish for giving him the dignity of response. I am one of the “RICH” in our society… I am a BAD person for having made a… hold on… a…. PROFIT from my vocation. I pay more money in taxes than most people make in 5 years. I am helping those POOR people (the few) lol yeah right!!! This is the most ridiculous arguement from a kid who has NO CLUE. He is not “commendable”. He is a mere reflection of how the brain washing media works their magic to create a socialistic environment that works to their advantage. How much pollution does the music/entertainment/computer industry make? hmmmm.. can’t be much.. right? I actually believe the Oil/coal and nuclear energy industries are cleaning the planet by using the “fermentation” of the original compost pile called earth… lol   the end. Hope to see you all on election day, but please, vote for the government that you want to represent you. Not one the one you want to sue.  xox

By can't have it both ways on Fri, May 20, 2011 at 7:44 pm

Leif, did you read this para?
“The iMatter March is a series of more than 100 marches in states all across the US, and in over 25 countries worldwide, including Columbia, Gambia, Germany, Thailand India, on Mount Everest (!!!) and there’s even one being planned by the son of an oil executive in Kuwait.”

The U.S. has led the world in conspicuous consumption and it behooves us to lead the world out of it.

By Norm Keegel on Fri, May 20, 2011 at 11:20 am

Dave M, Raul and others.  The problem is the big picture where Capitalism places NO value on the assets on functioning environmental ecosystems.  Until that changes we are doomed to live in our own swill till death do us part.  If I throw a paper cup out the car window and got busted it will cost me ~ $100 for a fraction of an ounce of eye-sore.  EXXON et al can dispose of billions of tons flat out pollutants not only for free but improve their profit margin. Guess what?  Polluted Commons.  If you could make $10,000 for each paper cup you threw out the car window and only payed $100 each time you got busted what would do?

By Leif Knutsen on Fri, May 20, 2011 at 9:38 am

While this young man’s initiative and love for the environment are commendable, it seems that the same illness has befallen him that already plagued the generation he now accuses: total oblivion to any world(s) existing beyond the border of his own, oh, so beloved country. In this, he is no different from those he is accuses, because all he thinks and cares about is himself.
If he would truly care about this planet, why not pay attention to places where there are REALLY, and I mean, REALLY, problems with pollution?
Like the one I’m currently residing in, where garbage rains from the sky because people just toss it out of their windows, and the rivers are so black that young people joke about taking a bath in them as a sure means to commit suicide…

The problem is, as long as people only care about their own little world, their own country and generation, NOTHING will change. Suing the US government might - in the unlikely case that he should win - get him a lot of money… The answer to all problems… right. Like the 1 trillion spent annually on “Defense” by our glorious Nobel laureate in the White House…

As long as you?re trying to solve this world’s problems the “American Way,” it will only make matters worse. The first step toward genuine improvement would be awareness that there’s a world beyond your own nose and borders. Once that’s there, we can start talking. Until then, it’s the same old hot air producing the same kind of stench as the big cheeses with their fuel fossils.

By Dave Mendoza on Fri, May 20, 2011 at 7:09 am

Raul says
“Our world has been formed by brain power and man power.”
What about woman power?

“Corporate greed creates prosperity for many in our society.”
No, only for the few richest people.

“Social welfare destroys that prosperity and encourages laziness and stunts growth.”
No, it helps in a very small way to level the playing field and help the poor to survive.

“How selfish for you to want to preserve an earth that has constantly changed over time.”
If you listen to scientists, you would know that you and your friends have doomed us to extreme weather events. Rising sea levels will soon make millions homeless. Perhaps you’re rich enough to build on a hill. Spare a thought for the rest of us.

“Why can’t predict the weather but we can be sure we are damaging the earths eco system.”
We can predict the weather to some extent and it’s proven that we are causing irreparable harm by burning fossil fuels.

By Norm Keegel on Thu, May 19, 2011 at 1:22 pm

Kid, you are young, naive, and idealistic. You think you can change the world by making statements and public demonstrations, yet, it is not how the world works. I hope you see that one day before you get too old.

You “environmentalists” and hypocrits damning capitalism, fossil fuels, and corporate fat cats are a real piece of work. Our world has been formed by brain power and man power. Oil is the fuel of our economy and is the reason why you can sit on your laptop and pass judgements on the cart pullers in our society. Corporate greed creates prosperity for many in our society. Social welfare destroys that prosperity and encourages laziness and stunts growth. How selfish for you to want to preserve an earth that has constantly changed over time. Is your neighborhood the same as it was 10, 100, 1000, 10000 years ago? I doubt it. How selfish of you to want to stunt the natural progression of the earths environment to conform to your personal experience. Why can’t predict the weather but we can be sure we are damaging the earths eco system. Yeah right!

By Raul in California on Wed, May 18, 2011 at 7:48 pm

When I was a kid I lived with the fear of being given 4 minutes to say goodbye to the world in advance of a soviet nuclear strike. Given that experience I find the constant hand wringing of today’s “one day baby polar bears may not be able to find the ice - how could you do this Mum and Dad?” teen generation more than a little pissy.
How very American to file a lawsuit for it. Take my advice - wait until you’re old enough to run things and then you’ll screw it up as much as us.

By Loz Jones on Fri, May 13, 2011 at 1:54 am

The GOBP clearly are carrying water for the fossil industry hand outs.  The bigger issue is that ALL the Democrats are beholden to the Capitalistic System of Capitalism without constraints. Even the Industrial Military Complex for that mater. Without a Capitalistic system structured with the welfare of humanity and/or Earth’s life support systems first and foremost and “Fat Cats” at least down the list a little bit, long term prognosis looks bleak indeed.
Fear Corporate Greed.  Humanity First!

By Leif Knutsen on Thu, May 12, 2011 at 10:01 am

Dear Earth island Journal: It is us that should be sued. We should in effect sue ourselves. If we would but follow the mandates we are supposed to follow the primrose path would not be our destiny /or fate. We are given the correct way to follow, and have been in the founding of America, there are not any circumstances that dictate otherwise. Lest we forget who are we really?- therein lies the whole ball of wax.

By Dann on Thu, May 12, 2011 at 4:52 am

The more people wake up and get on board the more momentum. With enough people’s thoughts and energies it will all flip. Look up the 100th Monkey Theory or how a few Monks meditating in Washington DC stopped the crime rate. Pretty odd stuff but all true. At this time it’s the only earth we’ve got. Those that think God doesn’t mind us destroying His creation need to rethink things.  ...“speak to the earth, and it shall teach thee;” (Job12:8) The earth is crying and shaking. God’s animals are dying in masses. Can you hear?  We may be next. Now is the time for all of us to change.  Change the world.

By Mark Krehbiel on Wed, May 11, 2011 at 9:41 pm

Dude, You are a fool. Thank you for wasting more Federal dollars on your junk lawsuit

By Adam Wirth on Wed, May 11, 2011 at 6:23 pm

Well done, Alec! “Can’t have it both ways”, we have a choice for President between (so far) two men and in Congress (usually) people who are selected by party machines, all beholden to corporations who fund their campaigns. How can you see this as “our Government”?

By Norm Keegel on Wed, May 11, 2011 at 4:34 pm

Can this be turned into a Class-Action lawsuit so other young people can join the cause?

By Jim Columbia on Wed, May 11, 2011 at 12:16 pm

Keep up the great work and spirited efforts. Don’t let anonymous crumdgeons (Can’t have it both ways) bully or intimidate you with insane personal attacks and insults. Also, don’t let nutty religious folks (Rhonda) derail your logical and sound efforts to do something useful and productive. You are searching for solutions and fighting for change. They are just whining, complaining, burrying their heads in the sand, or just lobbing criticism. You’re a league ahead of these folks and I applaude your efforts. You give me hope.

By Mel on Wed, May 11, 2011 at 12:08 pm

Re. “Can’t have it both ways”  You, I would add can’t have it both ways.  There cannot be infinite growth on a finite world.  Capitalism and corporate disregard for the commons is the enemy, not the government as you imply.  The Government is the watch dog of, by, & for the people to protect the people from rapacious powers that arise in most, perhaps all, western societies.  The failure of our government to protect the commons, earth, water and AIR is what is at stake here.  Without the government doing its job for the people the commons become polluted to the point of death to all with the few at the top allowed to move on and plead that it was all legal and thus not their problem.  As for education I suggest a bit of history for you as well.  Love Canal, Bophal, India and Union Carbide come to mind but history is full. Capitalism and Corporations must be charged with respect of the commons and sustainability of Earth’s Life Support Systems first and foremost, and profits secondary if humanity, that includes your children by the by, are to have a meaningful existence, perhaps even any existence, going forward.  Look around, the signs are everywhere.

By Leif Knutsen on Wed, May 11, 2011 at 11:36 am

Well said young man. I couldn’t agree with you more on everything that you wrote. I back you 100% and would be more than willing to march for our world and the next generations. Keep it up!!!!

By Bonnie Brown on Wed, May 11, 2011 at 10:10 am

Just as my name implies… you can’t have it both ways… YOU are a result of the government YOU are suing. YOU are the government. YOUR parents (probably) worked their butts off to raise you. You have clothes, (made in the USA, I’m sure) lol and the means to live a pretty good life it seems to me. You can’t change history. Perhaps you haven’t studied it yet, but it was NOT the U.S. government that determined how our “addiction” to fossil fuels began. I would like to see your passion be more realistic than this. I feel you are wasting MY hard earned money. Please educate yourself about how the world works and how “WE” are the government… “THEY” are YOU. Capitalism is unjust? lol ok.. so move to a 3rd world country and live your life without all the terrible things YOUR government has done to you. You wouldn’t last a month. Sad.. but true. You can not vote yet, because you are a child. A spoiled child with way too much time on your hands. When you contribute to the world, you can change things, but please, use your own money. Good way to get attention, but you have no case. You can not have it both ways.

By Can't have it both ways on Tue, May 10, 2011 at 8:48 pm

You should be suing the federal reserve, it’s monopolies that prevent free energy, monopolies created by corrupt central banks that acquire these “industries”, to kill the dragon you must remove a scale, then strike it’s heart. Suing “the government” will only bring more taxes, more taxes means more slavery, and no real solutions.
The solution is easy, go after the lying cheating bankers and the whole status quo, they are the enemy of the natural world. Listen to Dr. Ron Paul, he is the Hero against an army of vipers.

By Brad on Tue, May 10, 2011 at 12:09 am

Thank you…. I’ve given my life and money to trying to create a better environment in Arizona. We are full of problems over here due to mining… can you believe that the Forest Service here is in the process of permitting the destruction of hundreds of mature oaks—how many mature oaks do we have in Arizona. I wrote the Forest Service in Washington, D.C., but they wrote me one of those “who, what, not us” replies.

I wanted to sue them to make them take the statement that their mission was to protect and conserve our forests….. any ideas?

By Nancy Freeman on Mon, May 09, 2011 at 11:44 pm

Hooray for you and your fellow fighters! It is heartening to witness the passion and fresh commitment of our young citizens. I know that you will incite others to join in the new eco-revolution! It is our only hope at this point. I am 53 years of age, live gently in my consumption, and raised my daughter to live conciously as well. e are very proud of you!

At my age, I may live to see things turn around to a better way of life for everyone. Thank you and the best of luck!

By Lea Johnson on Mon, May 09, 2011 at 11:03 pm

Give em hell man go green. WM

By Wildman on Mon, May 09, 2011 at 7:43 am

By de Vries on Mon, May 09, 2011 at 5:47 am

God said “man will not destroy the earth”. It has been said that in the last days people will be more worried about the earth than the people in it. Now that is happening. There is more concern about saving the planet than feeding starving people in third world countries. Keep the faith! We’ll have a New Earth eventually…....then there won’t be any worries about fossil fuels!

By Rhonda on Mon, May 09, 2011 at 12:03 am

Well now, you are a young person who is definitely got his priorities right and your article is one of the only ones that is meaningful and sane!May your action be a fruitful one and, if there is anything I can do from here, please let me know. I am currently living in the UK, but I have lived in the state of Vermont for over 30 years and my parents spent their lives ( and money) on conservation. Blessings and support, Julia

By julia still on Sun, May 08, 2011 at 11:52 pm

Bravo, Alec!

“Be bold, and mighty forces will come to your aid” - there are PLENTY of us “old folks” who feel the same and will stand with youth in solidarity! Best to you and the youth of this generation - without drastic actions now, your future does seem dim.

By scott olson on Sun, May 08, 2011 at 7:03 am

Dear Alec,

You started younger than I but I’ve been at it for a bit longer:

I did some environmental litigation in the nineties but I’ve found something that is even better. I decided that the best thing I can do is to teach people how to double carbon sequestration on the land that they rent or own. You can see how this works at:

With kindest regards,
Barry Carter
bcarter at igc dot org

By Barry Carter on Sat, May 07, 2011 at 4:26 pm

I salute your civil action! I have been working as much as I can towards living light on the planet since 1965 when I was a young Zoology grad student. Problem is, too many children have been born since then and the majority of US citizens seem to think they need all kinds of energy consuming goods. Paul Ehrlich said that “The economy is a wholly owned subsidiary of the ecology.” Too bad so few Republicans see the truth of that.

By Marie on Fri, May 06, 2011 at 1:40 pm

100% behind you! This is great and I wish you success.

“Be the change you want to see in the world.” Ghandi

By Maria on Fri, May 06, 2011 at 1:39 pm

I totally agree with your motives and hope you and your supporters win big!!  Anything short of a revolution won’t work, one look at the middle east/north Africa proves it works.  The government must be held accountable to it’s corrupt and immoral actions with big business and old energy hell bent on destroying the mother earth and your generation’s future in the named of greed!  Good for YOU!

By Paul on Thu, May 05, 2011 at 3:41 pm

Good on you Alec.  You got this 70 year old in your corner.

Our lifestyle can only be maintained by committing crimes against the future.  You have every right to sue and more importantly to win…

By Leif Knutsen on Wed, May 04, 2011 at 4:38 pm

Leave a comment

Comments Policy

Remember my personal information?

Notify me of follow-up comments?

Please enter the word you see in the image below:

View Posts by Date View Posts by Author


Four issues for just
$15 a year.

cover thumbnail EIJ

Join Now!