“We, the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
These words in the preamble of the Constitution of the United States explain what the founding fathers thought the government of the U.S. should be about. The words Promote the General Welfare stood out to me. I was recently asked to sign on to a letter prepared by OurChildrensTrust.org asking me to support a law suit filed by several children to stop the damage to our air that would be caused by reducing automotive emissions standards. Their argument? That the health and future of these young people would be damaged because the government is not acting in a way to promote the general welfare and that the government is not protecting the resources for present and future generations.
The government, they claim, is responsible for stabilizing the climate for future generations. This idea is called Public Trust Doctrine and it requires government stewardship of the natural resources upon which society (and, by extension, our economy and government) depends for continued existence. (Douglas Quirke. University of Oregon School of Law Environmental and Natural Resources Law Center. February 2016)
There are many natural resources that are part of the public trust including beaches, waterways and harbors, wetlands and wildlife, tributary streams and groundwater, parklands, and atmosphere – air. Yes, according to the constitution, the government has a responsibility to protect the air that we breathe.
We know that our environment is in crisis and that each of us has a responsibility to do what we can to eliminate and/or reduce our destructive impact on it. But the government also has a responsibility to help us and corporate America take actions to lessen or slow the damage such as reducing the amount of damaging chemicals released into the air from cars and trucks. Our founding fathers were right in insisting that government promote the general welfare, we should do the same.
If you want to learn more about Our Children’s Trust, watch this video. Click this address and then select the video, A Climate of Trust. It’s 15 minutes long. https://www.ourchildrenstrust.org/short-films/