Tomorrow, June 1st, my friends and I will get our first actual day in Court (albeit via zoom due to COVID-19) in our climate change lawsuit, Reynolds V. Florida, which we filed in April 2018. Since the suit was filed, the State and elected officials including the Governor, have done everything they can to have it delayed and dismissed. And yet again, that will be the point of Monday’s Hearing; the Judge will consider the state’s most recent request to dismiss our lawsuit which seeks to have the state enforce the laws that are already in place and is designed to protect the environment, including our precious atmosphere.
While our state government has let all of us down in protecting our climate, oceans and atmosphere, someone who has long supported me and my passion to fix the problem before it’s too late, someone who has never let me down, is my dear friend Dick Jacobs. Dick has posted guest blogs here at The Sink or Swim Project before and I am about to share another one with you that he wrote recently about the lawsuit. But before I do I want to make what is a very, deeply personal observation.
Dick, as you will read, is 89 and has been bravely fighting stage IV melanoma cancer for several years in what is, seriously, a fight for his life. Over the last year I’ve unfortunately had to learn a lot about cancer as my mother was diagnosed and then has been battling breast cancer. She has bravely and stoically navigated through dozens of doctor and hospital visits, decisions about chemotherapy, radiation and four surgeries. Whether you are 89 like Dick or 52 like my mom, cancer is, needless to say, a very serious matter.
And yet even at his age and dealing with such a critical issue, here is Dick, just as passionate about the need for our world to address our climate change crisis for future generations before it’s too late as are any of my friends and I who are the plaintiffs in this lawsuit. Talk about an “inspiration”, a word people sometimes use when referring to us kids for asking the court to make the state to do the right thing. Nah. If you want to learn about a real inspiration then you need to learn about Dick Jacobs. He’s a real inspiration. And a hero.
And you know what else? To those who say they can’t do anything to solve the climate crisis or are too old to care or some such thing, then I hope you will consider my friend Dick who is right in the middle of the fight, on the front lines, at nearly 90 years of age. He knows the stakes are high for future generations and is serious about wanting to leave the world he’s lived in for nearly nine decades in better shape for that future than it’s been during his life. And that’s what I want too. To fix the climate crisis before it’s too late so that kids in the future can enjoy the places that I love and cherish but that are at risk of disappearing from our fossil fuel use. No matter your age I sure do hope you will join us in the most important battle that my generation will ever face and if you don’t believe me then consider the wisdom that Dick offers…
These gutsy kids called out Florida officials on climate change | Column
They will have their day in court on Monday. A long-time attorney explains why they’ve sued.
The kids with Dick Jacobs on courthouse steps in Miami in April 2018. Learn more at ourchildrenstrust.org/florida. [Courtesy of Robin Loznak, Our Children’s Trust]
My name is Dick Jacobs. I’m 89 years old, mostly a retired business attorney. For the past four years I’ve been in the fight of my life battling stage IV melanoma cancer. But as tough as that fight is, there’s another life or death battle – one that is a far tougher, and more important than my bout with cancer – that’s inspired me to action.
It all started after more than four decades of venture travel, trekking over the seven continents and writing Wonderlust, which chronicled my treks and the lessons I learned about caring for our Earth, the only home we have. I became convinced that I had to devote myself to helping our Earth with its growing cancer.
Thus, I became involved with eight gutsy kids and their suit against Florida, its governor and its key officials. The kids’ lawsuit isn’t about money. Their lawsuit is about protecting the kids’ constitutional, and fundamental rights, sourced in ancient laws over 1,500 years old, to a stable climate, which is essential to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness.
The kids are represented by a bevy of pro-bono, top notch trial lawyers from the Panhandle to Miami. The team of lawyers originally included the late Sandy D’Alemberte. Sandy was President of the American Bar Association and both President of Florida State University and Dean of their law school. Sandy was known as “The Father of Florida’s constitutional law” and believed in the profound importance of this case and the rights of these kids to get their day in court, as do all the lawyers involved.
On April 16, 2018, when the initial complaint was filed in the Leon County Court, I sent a thank you message to the trial lawyers on our team. It said: “As I read the final draft of the complaint, before I go to Moffitt Cancer Center this morning for the next step in my cancer treatment, I could not help but reflect on something that may surprise you: I am a registered Republican. I have always been a registered Republican, ever since I voted for Eisenhower for President in 1952. Unfortunately, the political party I once cherished has distorted the meaning of ‘conservative,’ which is grounded in ‘conserve,’ which means to preserve and protect, not to exploit or destroy. Florida’s leadership has totally abandoned those fundamental ideals.”
The email ended with, “These gutsy children, and this great team of trial attorneys, will remind us all of that being conservative means to conserve, to care for the only home we will ever have for ourselves and our future generations. This effort will make a difference. Thank you all.”
These young people—and young people across the globe—know that their future depends on the actions we take right now. They understand there is a short window to avoid the worst impacts of climate change by transitioning to clean energy solutions. They know Florida needs a plan to end the fossil fuel energy system the state has perpetuated.
These kids are role models for us all. I’ve heard comments shaming their parents for using their kids as pawns, putting them up to the litigation. Nothing could be further from the truth. As we met with the kids, it became clear that the kids were genuinely worried about the impacts of climate change on their future and they weren’t being pushed into this by parents. An amazingly sharp group, the youngest was Levi, then 8 years old. Levi’s been on 60 Minutes. Delaney Reynolds, now a University of Miami student, has been a speaker on climate issues before the United Nations. Luxha Aliheligi Phillips, an articulate 14 year old when I met her, is now a climate refugee, having left Miami. She is not alone. And it’s predicted that 2.5 million more people will be leaving Miami in the not too distant future because of global warming and rising seas.
The kids deserve our support. Won’t you stand with them before it’s too late?
Dick Jacobs, senior counsel with Johnson Pope law firm, practiced law in Pinellas County for more than 50 years. Learn more about the kids and their lawsuit.