Injustice, not Indifference

“Everyone has a right to a clean and healthy environment.”

That’s what the constitution of the U.S. state of Montana says, and that’s what 16 young people, ages 5 to 22, invoked in a lawsuit. District Judge Kathy Seely sided with the young activists, ruling that it is unconstitutional for state agencies not to consider climate impact when evaluating permit requests for fossil fuel projects. Legal experts and jurists suspect that the ruling could have a signaling effect for other court cases.

Climate lawyer Michael Gerrard of Columbia University called the decision a watershed moment, stating, “It’s one of the most important decisions on climate change ever handed down by a court.” The ruling is reminiscent of the German Federal Constitutional Court ruling in April 2021, instructing policymakers to implement the climate change goals of the Paris Agreement.

Both rulings add to this summer’s environmental warning signs. The Mediterranean Sea near the Balearic Islands and west of Sardinia, for instance, has heated up to 30 degrees and is 5 degrees warmer than in recent years in many regions. The Mediterranean is particularly affected by global warming, which is what leads to enormous masses of water over southern Europe in the fall, say researchers. The fires in California, Greece, and Hawaii offer other images of climate change. But in the midst of summer, when nature’s bounty is such a gift to the soul, these warning signals hardly stir the soul. In the fall, however, when, as we fear, these masses of water unload over southern Europe, we can only hope that those in positions of responsibility and the voters demonstrate seriousness and favor climate protection. The court rulings demonstrate it: not being committed to climate protection is no longer carelessness, no longer indifference—it is injustice and belongs, to borrow Hannah Arendt’s strong words, to the banality of evil.

Translation Laura Liska
Image Beach in Ostend, Belgium; Photo: Sofia Lismont

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