ON MASIG Island, which lies on average less than 10 feet above sea level, people are already struggling to combat the impacts of climate change.

INDIGENOUS Australians claim failure to fix climate change endangers them.

Every weekend, Yessie Mosby visits the sandy, washed-out graves of his ancestor's to gather their scattered bones. their  shallow  burial place, just yards from the shore of Masig Island, Australia, north of the mainland, has been eroded by rising seas.

''Other parents around world go to the beach with their kids and pick up shells,'' Mr. Mosby, 37, a craftsman and father of five, said  he  moved fragments of his sixth great-grandmother's  bones to a spot beneath a coconut tree. ''We pick up remains.''

The lives of the people here are tied to the island, one of  18 spits of land in the Torres strait inhabited by Indigenous Australians.

The island holds the histories of those who came before; it protects and nourishes. But as climate change pushes the tides ever higher, these islands, and their ancient culture, are at risk of vanishing.

So Mr. Mosby and seven other Torres Strait Islanders are taking action.

In a landmark claim they planned to submit at the united Nations, they argue that Australia, by failing to take adequate steps to reduce carbon emissions, has violated their fundamental human rights, including the right to maintain their culture.

The action is part of a burgeoning movements, in which litigants, including a group of 21 young people in the United States, have made the novel argument that government face a fundamental duty to ensure a livable environment.

But the Australians argument is the first to seek the weight of the United Nations behind such a  climate claim, and it could set a precedent for how the  populations most vulnerable to the effects of global warming can seek redress under international law.

It It is also the first time that the Australian government - which has failed to meet emissions reduction targets and continues to improve coal-mine projects - has faced climate change litigation that asserts a human rights violation.

The claimants call on the country to help fund sea walls and other infrastructure that might save the  Torres Strait Islands, which have a population if about 4,500, and to meet the emissions targets set under the Paris Climate Agreement.

If successful, the case ''would really break new ground internationally,'' said John Knox, a professor of international law at Wake Forest University in North Carolina and a former special rapporteur on human rights and the environment to the United Nations.

While the United Nations cannot force Australia to take action, those leading the case say they hope it will apply pressure on governments around the world  to protect the rights of marginalized citizens whose culture is tethered to a particular place, and for whom dispossession could reignite the trauma of colonialzation.

''They are losing everything........... they  just can't pick it up and go somewhere else; their culture is unique to that region,'' said Sophie Marjanac, a lawyer with ClientEarth, the environmental law organization that is lodging the claim.

''That's a crux of the argument,'' she said. ''If indigenous people are disposed of their homelands, then they can't continue to practice their culture.''

The World Students Society thanks author Livia Albeck-Ripka.


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