What: A "mega march" to raise awareness about climate change
When: Noon Saturday
Where: The march will begin at Cuernavaca Park (20th and Platte streets, near REI) in Denver and proceed two miles before ending at Civic Center Park. The event will include speakers, music and entertainment.
An 11-year-old boy whose Gold Hill neighborhood burned in the Fourmile Fire has joined with a friend afraid of losing favorite hiking trails and an 18-year-old student with a growing asthmatic condition in a lawsuit against the state for failing to protect the environment.
"Our children and our children's children will suffer the harms and losses caused by the state's lack of necessary action," states the lawsuit, filed with the help of parents and legal experts in Boulder County District Court last week. "A failure to immediately take action to protect and preserve the earth's climate will cause irreparable harm to plaintiffs."
The lawsuit is part of a coordinated youth effort to sue government leaders or file administrative actions in all 50 states. A nationwide team of legal experts has been assembled through the nonprofit organization Our Children's Trust to represent the young people in their lawsuits.
Xiuhtezcatl Roske-Martinez, 11, of Boulder, is a leader of the Colorado-based Earth Guardian group and one of the plaintiffs named in the suit against the state of Colorado, Gov. John Hickenlooper, the Colorado Department of Health and Environment, the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission and the Colorado Department of Natural Resources.
The goal is to "force action on climate change" in all 50 states, translating to a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions and implementation of reforestation programs, according to the lawsuit.
A gathering of thousands of young people is planned in Denver on Saturday, one of dozens of marches around the world to raise awareness of global warming.
"Right now, our governments are not protecting our planet; they are just destroying it," Xiuhtezcatl said. "I want to make sure my planet is habitable for future generations so we won't be stuck with this mess."
Xiuhtezcatl said he's excited to be part of the march and legal effort, but -- above all -- he hopes it will make a difference to the adults who are in leadership positions.
"I think it's great that there are lots of other kids in their own state trying to fight for their future," he said. "But we need everyone to take action -- not just the kids."
Hickenlooper's office declined to comment on the pending litigation Monday.
The Boulder County lawsuit identifies specific environmental concerns as being tied to global warming and climate change, including reduced water flows, pine beetle destruction, massive wildfires, shortened ski seasons, frequent heat waves and more illness from insect-borne diseases. Xiuhtezcatl, in the lawsuit, states that climate change has affected his life.
"For example, he has enjoyed playing and floating wooden boats in a stream near his house in Boulder, but the water levels have decreased over the past several years, which he is concerned is a result of human-induced climate change," according to the lawsuit. "He has also enjoyed hiking and playing in the forests near Colorado's Brainard Lake that are now being impacted by pine beetles as a result of human-induced climate change."
Co-plaintiff Haiden Inskeep, who also is 11 and lives in Gold Hill, watched his neighbors' homes burn in the Fourmile Fire in September. According to the lawsuit, Haiden is concerned that the "hotter, drier weather resulting from climate change will increase wildfires in Colorado," and he's worried that the pine beetle infestation will keep him from enjoying the mountains.
"In the future, he may not be able to hike or cross-country ski on some of his favorite trails because of the danger of falling trees that have been killed by the pine beetle," according to the lawsuit.
Worsening asthma is Cecelia Kluding-Rodriguez's primary concern related to climate change, according to the lawsuit. Kluding-Rodriguez, 18, who also is listed as a plaintiff in the lawsuit, states that her asthma is aggravated by pollution and poor air quality resulting from wildfires.
"A hotter climate also means earlier blooms in the spring and a longer season for fall allergens such as ragweed and mugwort, which means more plants and more pollen, which can exacerbate asthma and respiratory diseases," according to the lawsuit.
The suit says state agencies have failed to implement and enforce laws to preserve and protect the atmosphere, and it's asking a judge to hold the government accountable for such failures.
"These kids are taking action now -- they are not going to wait," said Tamara Roske, who is Xiuhtezcatl Roske-Martinez's mother. "They are doing an amazing job at waking people up."
The thought is that the lawsuits are the young people's "last chance" to save their planet, said Ashley D. Wilmes, an attorney with WildEarth Guardians.
"We hope the courts force the government to do its job," Wilmes said. "We are getting closer to a tipping point where global warming won't be stopped."