Hawaiian Teens Suing Department Of Transportation Over Rising Emissions

Daniel Mitchell-Benoit
A city street flooded, with people walking through the shin-high water.
Unsplash | Misbahul Aulia

The ongoing climate crisis has been a hot-button issue for years now, with the effects being felt more and more each year with more extreme weather conditions on both ends.

Well, it looks like the youth of today have had enough of it, and are doing their part to try and secure a safer future for themselves by going after the government bodies that are doing nothing to help.

A group of 14 young people from Hawaii have rallied together.

A Hawaiian shoreline from above, featuring the tops of two palm trees.
Unsplash | Wei Pan

Ranging from ages nine to 18, the group has filed a lawsuit against the Hawai'i Department of Transportation, or HDOT, claiming their constitutional rights to a safe, healthy life have been violated by the department's negligence regarding emissions and pollution.

They're hoping this will encourage HDOT to help forge a greener future.

A factory pouring emissions through a smokestack.
Unsplash | Marek Piwnicki

Specifically, they want the department to commit to taking action towards creating a carbon-neutral Hawaii by 2045.

One of the case's lead councils, and attorney at Our Children's Trust, Andrea Rodgers explained that while Hawaii officials want greener policies, it's HDOT that seems not as willing to commit.

They sometimes even outright refuse.

A group of people standing in floodwater with plastic bags around their shoes, up to their knees.
Unsplash | Jonathan Ford

“Not only [is the department encouraging] the leading source of fossil fuel emissions, not only are they refusing to meet goals [of] reducing emissions, but they’re also kind of [...] roadblocks for passing climate legislation,” Rodgers said in a press release.

In the lawsuit, the young plaintiffs explained how the climate crisis affects them, like Mesina, whose family had to close their yoga studio due to flooding.

The stories from these children are heartbreaking.

A city street flooded, with people walking through the shin-high water.
Unsplash | Misbahul Aulia

“We have like these heavy, heavy rains, which floods the roads. And in order for me to go to school, I have to wake up at like four thirty [in the morning] and I leave the house at five,” said 14-year-old Taliya in an interview with Earther. “When it’s flooding the roads it’s scary… to get out of my home there’s this bridge, and whenever it floods, the water goes over the bridge.”

She's also concerned about Native spiritual and cultural heritage sites being damaged.

A plot of headstones through some trees.
Unsplash | Edward Howell

As the complaint reads, “Sea level rise is also actively washing out burial sites along the coast, exposing and scattering ‘iwi kūpuna (ancestral bones) interred in the sands. Disinterment of ‘iwi by rising sea level inflicts the same emotional harm [...] as the flooding of a cemetery or any other act of desecration against the dead."

These children know that they're feeling the effects of climate change and blocked policies.

A piece of Hawaiian landscape.
Unsplash | Josh Austin

Clearly, they've had enough.

They're hoping the suit will go to court so they can testify, hopeful they can inspire something. As Taliya said, "I realized what I’m doing… but I just haven’t had it hit me where I’m actually like, hopefully [going to] change something."

h/t: Gizmodo