The mother behind kids’ long-shot legal crusade

December 26, 2012 • Climate Change & Mitigation, United States, Daily Email Recap

The mother behind kids’ long-shot legal crusade


EUGENE, Ore. — For Julia Olson, it all started with “An Inconvenient Truth.”

The then-thirtysomething environmental lawyer watched Al Gore’s climate change documentary while eight months pregnant with her second child.

By her own admission, she “cried through the whole film” and spent several sleepless nights plotting a way to increase public awareness of climate change. Her initial idea was to plan public marches on Washington, D.C., but she ending up launching a national legal campaign aimed at forcing government action on climate change.

Enlisting children as plaintiffs, she advanced the novel legal theory that the atmosphere is a “public trust” under common law and that the states and federal government have a duty to preserve it.

Ensconced in space rented from the Western Environmental Law Center down a quiet side street here in Eugene, the earnest — some might say messianic — Olson, now 41, is the executive director of Our Children’s Trust, the group established to coordinate the legal campaign.

Although those legal arguments haven’t proved to be very successful so far, Olson’s crusade has tied up plenty of government lawyers, prompted judges around the country to scratch their heads and generated plenty of attention.

And she isn’t done yet.

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