Teens Continue Fight to Make State Take Action on Climate Change
Two teenagers from Eugene, Oregon appealed Judge Karsten Rasmussen’s adverse decision yesterday to their climate change lawsuit. In its decision, the court ruled that the state of Oregon has no responsibility to preserve Oregon’s iconic rivers and beaches, fish, wildlife, shorelands or the atmosphere for future generations.
Without addressing any of the evidence presented in expert declarations supporting the youth, including statements from the state’s own scientists, the court questioned “whether the atmosphere is a ‘natural resource’ at all.” Last year, Judge Rasmussen decision was reversed by the Oregon Court of Appeals in the same case brought by the teens, and plaintiffs Kelsey Juliana and Olivia Chernaik are hopeful that the most recent decision will be overturned again.
Juliana and Chernaik’s appeal comes less than two weeks after two landmark climate wins in the courts. On June 23, Washington state youth, who along with Juliana and Chernaik are part of a global youth-driven legal campaign, won an unprecedented decision in their climate change lawsuit. Hours later, after the win in Washington, the Dutch Urgenda Foundation and hundreds of Dutch citizens won a climate case that forces the Netherlands government to adopt stringent climate policies.
Back in Oregon, youth aren’t seeing similar victories—yet. The Oregon legislature ends its session this week without passing or even putting to a floor vote Oregon’s Climate Stability and Justice Act (HB 3470), which would have been the most comprehensive climate law in the state.
Photo credit: Devon Downeysmith / Oregon Environmental Council
“My friends’ victory in Washington and the big win in the Netherlands gives me great hope,” said 19-year-old Juliana. “These are victories we all need, and I wish the state of Oregon would step up to the plate and adopt and enforce laws that ensure a stable climate for its citizens. This spring I met with Governor Kate Brown to discuss the importance of the passage of HB 3470. I gained her word of support for the bill, but that wasn’t enough. The legislature wasn’t bold enough to act. I’m not about to sit idly by as my state refuses to act on climate change. In appealing my case, I’m confident the Court of Appeals will right Judge Rasmussen’s decision and put Oregon on the right trajectory toward climate stability.”
Judge Rasmussen ultimately ruled that because he believes the atmosphere is not irreplaceable and is not a “commodity,” the public trust doctrine does not apply to it. The court stated that whether greenhouse gas emissions should be limited or whether global warming should be stopped is a question solely for the legislature.
The plaintiffs in the case do not disagree that solutions to the climate crisis lie with the legislative branch. However, the judiciary has a well-established role in our constitutional democracy in providing a check on the legislative branch when the legislature is violating the people’s constitutional rights and failing to protect irreplaceable public trust resources. This case was brought to correct violations of the legal rights of Oregonians and prevent the irreversible catastrophes facing the state if climate disruption is not stopped.
“The last week of June was a momentous week in the courts on climate and on the right of everyone to marry whom they wish,” said Julia Olson, executive director and chief legal counsel at Our Children’s Trust. “The U.S. Supreme Court wrote in Obergefell v. Hodges that ‘individuals need not await legislative action before asserting a fundamental right.’ For more than five decades, our government has known that that the seas were rising, the ice melting, waters acidifying and yet, they’ve utterly failed to put a stop to atmospheric carbon pollution. Our children deserve better. Future generations deserve better. Kelsey and Olivia are exercising their constitutional rights today in order to protect all of ours. I’m grateful for them and for democracy.”
“Every day, we see more and more evidence of the climate crisis unfolding around us,” said Chris Winter of Crag Law Center, who is representing Juliana and Chernaik. “We are at a tipping point where the courts are poised to uphold the rights of our children to breath clean air and drink clean water. For the futures of our kids and grandkids, we must change course.”
Youth plaintiffs are represented by Crag Law Center and Liam Sherlock at Hutchinson, Cox, Coons, Orr & Sherlock, P.C. Kelsey and Olivia’s lawsuit was filed with the help of Our Children’s Trust, an Oregon-based nonprofit coordinating a global, game-changing, youth-driven legal campaign to establish the right to a healthy atmosphere and stable climate. The legal effort advances the fundamental duty of government today: to address the climate crisis based on scientific baselines and benchmarks, and to do so within timeframes determined by scientific analysis.
Short documentary films of Juliana and other young people taking legal action can be seen here.
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Fish exposed to endocrine-disrupting compounds pass on health problems to future generations, including deformities, reduced survival, and reproductive problems, according to a new study.
Low Levels Lead to Generational Impacts<p>Researchers exposed inland silverside fish to bifenthrin, levonorgestrel, ethinylestradiol, and trenbolone to levels currently found in waterways.</p><p>"Our concentrations were actually on the low end" of what is found in the wild, DeCourten said, adding that it was low amounts of chemicals in parts per trillion.</p><p>Bifenthrin is a pesticide; levonorgestrel and ethinylestradiol are synthetic hormones used in birth controls; and trenbolone is a synthetic steroid often given to cattle to bulk them up.</p><p>Such endocrine-disruptors have already been linked to a variety of health problems in directly exposed fish including altered growth, reduced survival, lowered egg production, skewed sex ratios, and negative impacts to immune systems. But what remains less clear is how the exposure may impact future generations.</p><p>For their study, DeCourten and colleagues started the exposure when the fish were embryos and continued it for 21 days.</p><p>They then tracked effects on the exposed fish, and the next two generations.</p>
Inherited Problems<p>DeCourten said the altered DNA methylation is one of the plausible ways that future generations would experience health impacts from previous generations' exposure. Hormone-disrupting compounds have been shown to impact DNA methylation, which is an important marker of how an organism will develop.</p><p>"Methyl groups are added to specific sites on the genome, [the exposure] is not changing the genome itself, but rather how the genome is expressed," she said. "And that can be inherited throughout generations."</p><p>In addition, Brander said there are essentially different "tags" that exist on DNA molecules, which tell genes how to turn on and off. She said the exposure to different compounds may be "influencing which methyl tags get taken on or off as you proceed through generations."</p><p>The researchers said the study should prompt future toxics testing to consider impacts on future generations.</p><p>"The results … throw a wrench in the current approach to regulating chemicals, where it's often short-term testing looking at simple things like growth, survival, and maybe gene expression," Brander said.</p><p>"These findings are telling us we really at least need to consider" the next two generations, she added.</p>
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Consumers have long turned to vitamins and herbs to try to protect themselves from disease. This pandemic is no different — especially with headlines that scream "This supplement could save you from coronavirus."
Vitamin D<p><strong>What it is: </strong>Called "the sunshine vitamin" because the body makes it naturally in the presence of ultraviolet light, <a href="https://www.sciencenews.org/article/vitamin-d-supplements-lose-luster" target="_blank">Vitamin D is one of the most heavily studied</a> supplements (<em>SN: 1/27/19</em>). <a href="https://health.gov/our-work/food-nutrition/2015-2020-dietary-guidelines/guidelines/appendix-12/" target="_blank">Certain foods</a>, including fish and fortified milk products, are also high in the vitamin.</p><p><strong>Why it might help: </strong>Vitamin D is a hormone building block that helps strengthen the immune system.</p><p><strong>How it works for other infections:</strong> In 2017, the <em>British Medical Journal</em> published a meta-analysis that suggested a daily vitamin D supplement <a href="https://www.bmj.com/content/356/bmj.i6583" target="_blank">might help prevent respiratory infections</a>, particularly in people who are deficient in the vitamin.</p><p>But one key word here is <em>deficient. </em>That risk is highest during dark winters at high latitudes and among people with more color in their skin (melanin, a pigment that's higher in darker skin, inhibits the production of vitamin D).</p><p>"If you have enough vitamin D in your body, the evidence doesn't stack up to say that giving you more will make a real difference," says Susan Lanham-New, head of the Nutritional Sciences Department at the University of Surrey in England.</p><p>And taking too much can create new health problems, stressing certain internal organs and leading to a dangerously high calcium buildup in the blood. The recommended daily allowance for adults is 600 to 800 International Units per day, and the upper limit is considered to be 4,000 IUs per day.</p><p><strong>What we know about Vitamin D and COVID-19:</strong> Few studies have looked directly at whether vitamin D makes a difference in COVID.</p>
Zinc<p><strong>What it is: </strong>Zinc, a mineral found in cells all over the body, is found naturally in certain meats, beans and oysters.</p><p><strong>Why it might help: </strong>It plays several supportive roles in the immune system, which is why zinc lozenges are always hot sellers in cold and flu season. Zinc also helps with cell division and growth.</p><p><strong>How it works for other infections: </strong><a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6457799/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Studies of using zinc for colds</a> — which are frequently caused by coronaviruses — suggest that using a supplement right after symptoms start might make them go away quicker. That said, a clinical trial from researchers in Finland and the United Kingdom, published in January in <em>BMJ Open</em> <a href="https://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/10/1/e031662" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">did not find any value for zinc lozenges</a> for the treatment of colds. Some researchers have theorized that inconsistencies in data for colds may be explained by varying amounts of zinc released in different lozenges.</p><p><strong>What we know about zinc and COVID-19:</strong> The mineral is promising enough that it was added to some early studies of hydroxychloroquine, a drug tested early in the pandemic. (Studies have since shown that <a href="https://www.sciencenews.org/article/covid-19-coronavirus-hydroxychloroquine-no-evidence-treatment" target="_blank">hydroxychloroquine can't prevent or treat COVID-19</a> (<em>SN: 8/2/20</em>).)</p>
Vitamin C<p><strong>What it is: </strong>Also called L-ascorbic acid, vitamin C has a long list of roles in the body. It's found naturally in fruits and vegetables, especially citrus, peppers and tomatoes.</p><p><strong>Why it might help:</strong> It's a potent antioxidant that's important for a healthy immune system and preventing inflammation.</p><p><strong>How it works for other infections: </strong>Thomas cautions that the data on vitamin C are often contradictory. One review from Chinese researchers, published in February in the <em>Journal of Medical Virolog</em>y, looked at <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/jmv.25707" target="_blank">what is already known about vitamin C</a> and other supplements that might have a role in COVID-19 treatment. Among other encouraging signs, human studies find a lower incidence of pneumonia among people taking vitamin C, "suggesting that vitamin C might prevent the susceptibility to lower respiratory tract infections under certain conditions."</p><p>But for preventing colds, a 2013 Cochrane review of 29 studies <a href="https://www.cochranelibrary.com/cdsr/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD000980.pub4/full" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">didn't support the idea</a> that vitamin C supplements could help in the general population. However, the authors wrote, given that vitamin C is cheap and safe, "it may be worthwhile for common cold patients to test on an individual basis whether therapeutic vitamin C is beneficial."</p><p><strong>What we know about Vitamin C and COVID-19: </strong>About a dozen studies are under way or planned to examine whether vitamin C added to coronavirus treatment helps with symptoms or survival, including Thomas' study at the Cleveland Clinic.</p><p>In a review published online in July in <em>Nutrition</em>, researchers from KU Leuven in Belgium concluded that the <a href="https://www.cochranelibrary.com/cdsr/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD000980.pub4/full" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">vitamin may help prevent infection</a> and tamp down the dangerous inflammatory reaction that can cause severe symptoms, based on what is known about how the nutrient works in the body.</p><p>Melissa Badowski, a pharmacist who specializes in viral infections at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Pharmacy and colleague Sarah Michienzi published an extensive look at all supplements that might be useful in the coronavirus epidemic. There's <a href="https://www.drugsincontext.com/can-vitamins-and-or-supplements-provide-hope-against-coronavirus/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">still not enough evidence to know whether they are helpful</a>, the pair concluded in July in <em>Drugs in Context</em>. "It's not really clear if it's going to benefit patients," Badowski says.</p><p>And while supplements are generally safe, she adds that nothing is risk free. The best way to avoid infection, she says, is still to follow the advice of epidemiologists and public health experts: "Wash your hands, wear a mask, stay six feet apart."</p>
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