Youth Circle Rights of Nature

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CEJ's friends at the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature are officially launching the Youth Circle for the Rights of Nature, a global network and interactive space for collective mobilization of youth to defend and advance the #RightsofNature around the world. Its mission is to empower Youth Ambassadors to successfully advocate for the Rights of Nature and future generations!

Learn more about becoming a Youth Ambassador today at https://hanabegovic.wixsite.com/youthcircle.

Happy International Mother Earth Day!

  The Center for Earth Jurisprudence would like to wish you a happy International Mother Earth Day!

While every day is Earth Day, let us take this day we set aside to reflect on our relationship with our Mother Earth and all our fellow members of the Earth community.
To help in our reflection, please see this Prayer For Our Earth shared by Pope Francis in his encyclical, Laudato Si’.


A Prayer For Our Earth
By Pope Francis

All-powerful God, you are present in the whole universe
and in the smallest of your creatures.
You embrace with your tenderness all that exists.
Pour out upon us the power of your love,
that we may protect life and beauty.
Fill us with peace, that we may live

as brothers and sisters, harming no one.
O God of the poor,
help us to so precious in your eyes.
Bring healing to our lives,
that we may protect the world and not prey on it,
that we may sow beauty, not pollution and destruction.
Touch the hearts

of those who at the expense of the poor and the earth.
Teach us to discover the worth of each thing,
to be filled with awe and contemplation,
to recognize that we are profoundly united
with every creature
as we journey towards your infinite light.
We thank you for being with us each day.
Encourage us, we pray, in our struggle
for justice, love and peace .


At the Center for Earth Jurisprudence, we advocate to see this relationship with our Mother Earth reflected in our legal systems. To support our work, please visit our website and DONATE HERE.

You can also become an advocate for Mother Earth by joining CEJ as a member of the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature, a worldwide movement dedicated to recognizing and defending Earth’s Rights. Get involved and become a member today! Find out how here.

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Happy International Mother Earth Day!

What Modern Environmental Law Can Learn From the Celtic Druids

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What Modern Environmental Law Can Learn From the Celtic Druids

At the Center for Earth Jurisprudence, we contend that our current environmental laws fail to recognize and reflect the interdependent relationship our human race shares with the rest of the Earth community. The inherent anthropocentricity of our legal system creates a flawed foundation on which our policies are built. The ever-increasing environmental degradation we witness is a symptom of this flawed foundation and utilizing a more Earth-centered approach to our laws and governance systems will re-balance our relationship with the Earth community and ultimately address the negative impact humans are having on it.

We are part of Earth, and Earth is part of us.

As we celebrate the Irish cultural holiday of St. Patrick’s Day, we can look to the ancient wisdom of the Celtic Druids for guidance on how we can re-balance this relationship. At the center of Druid spirituality was the understanding that humans are not above but are a part of the Earth community as a whole. This reflection of our interdependent relationship is central to Earth jurisprudence advocacy. They recognized a familial relationship with non-human entities. This is something we commonly see in many ancient indigenous wisdoms that we look to for guidance as we re-imagine our current legal understanding of rights and responsibilities. Today, during this cultural celebration, let’s take a few moments to consider how these traditions can help us reshape our current laws to reflect our actual relationship with the Earth community and not the one we have historically forced.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day.

What does Earth Jurisprudence look like in action?

What does Earth Jurisprudence look like in action?

On Wednesday, January 30, 2019, Natalia Greene of the Ecuadorian Coordinator of Organizations for the Defense of Nature and the Environment (CEDENMA) and Ecuadorian Earth lawyer Hugo Echeverría presented an Amicus Curiae brief against the illegal transport of sharks through the Galapagos Marine Reserve to the National Court of Justice. The brief offered legal arguments in supporting the rights of Nature, a historical event in a criminal proceeding of this kind. This is the first case of this nature presented to the Supreme Court of Ecuador.

This is a significant moment for this valuable ecological area that has been plagued by environmental degradation and illegal human activity. Despite being one of the world’s largest marine reserves containing more than 50,000 square miles of protected waters, in 2017 a Chinese vessel was discovered with roughly 300 tons of marine species onboard, including more than 6600 dead endangered species of sharks. According to National Geographic, this protected area has “the highest abundance of sharks known in the world” and there is a legal, moral, and ecological justification for their protection. By implementing Earth jurisprudence principles, we can create a legal system that allows humans to do just that.  

These dead sharks were discovered aboard a Chinese-flagged vessel found off Ecuador with some 300 tons of marine species, several of which are in danger of extinction.  Galapagos National Park via AP

These dead sharks were discovered aboard a Chinese-flagged vessel found off Ecuador with some 300 tons of marine species, several of which are in danger of extinction.

Galapagos National Park via AP

One potential implementation of Earth jurisprudence is the recognition of the legal rights of Nature. According to Hana Begovic of the Global Alliance of the Rights of Nature, this brief is based in legal arguments advocating for the rights of Nature. She explained, “It argues that, since these crimes are established legally as crimes against Nature, judges must reason their decisions in terms of Rights of Nature.”

This case is a great example of how codifying the rights of Nature is an essential component in realizing practical results to advocacy efforts. In 2008, Ecuador recognized the rights of Nature in Article 71 of its Constitution which states:

“Nature or Pachamama, where life is reproduced and exists, has the right to exist, persist, maintain and regenerate its vital cycles, structure, functions and its processes in evolution. Every person, people, community or nationality, will be able to demand the recognitions of rights for nature before the public organisms. The application and interpretation of these rights will follow the related principles established in the Constitution. The State will motivate natural and juridical persons as well as collectives to protect nature; it will promote respect towards all the elements that form an ecosystem.“

This Constitutional recognition of the rights of Nature provides the basis for legal arguments in such cases. Be sure to check back for the Court’s response to this historic legal argument brought by these dedicated Earth advocates!

#Tbt 4th International Tribunal for the Rights of Nature

Mother Earth Demands Her Rights Through Her People

By Catalina Rodriguez, CEJ 2018 Earth Law and Policy Fellow

In November 2017, the 4th International Tribunal for the Rights of Nature was held in concurrence with the 23rd United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference of Parties (COP23).

The purpose for the two-week Convention was to discuss the advancement of implementation efforts of the Paris Agreement, which was reported to have been met with enthusiasm and positivity from the attendees. Plans to further these efforts have been made and will be explored further during next year’s COP24 in Poland. 

The theme for this year’s tribunal was fundamental changes to the legal systems that are needed to respect Mother Earth as an entity deserving of her own rights, reflected through the eyes of natives of each region who are being affected by deforestation, fracking, mining, and depletion of natural resources. A panel of nine judges from around the world listened while the representatives presented their cases, and later reported their findings and decisions. The Tribunal went on for two days where 53 people from 19 countries brought forth specific violations to the rights of Nature and several cases of abuse to Mother Earth’s ecological resources and the resulting harm to people and biodiversity. The cases brought before the Tribunal included exacerbation to climate change and false energy solutions, violations to indigenous people from the USA, Russia, Scandinavia, and the Amazon in Ecuador, Brazil, Bolivia, and French Guyana.

Respect for the rights of Mother Earth and for its current and future inhabitants of the planet, natural resources, and for the significance of maintaining a healthy place to live, were brought up numerously through the cases and exposed the necessity for change through the whole planet.

The tribunal exposed the exploitation of Mother Earth occurring all over the world at such a rate that requires urgent and immediate action. The speakers through the tribunal addressed the protection of the rights of our Mother Earth as a concept that should become part of our everyday. We depend on this planet to live and we depend on what the Earth can provide for us, but more importantly, this planet requires humans to reciprocate in the effort to take care of our resources in order for us to survive. Finite resources are currently being depleted at levels so high that Mother Earth is not able to replenish herself or create alternatives. Therefore, it is time to act.  

One of the specific cases brought in front of the Tribunal was the case of Bolivian natives of the area known as the TIPNIS (Indigenous Territory and National Park Isiboro Secure for its acronym in Spanish) which is a natural jungle where three different tribes of natives reside. The TIPNIS has already suffered a drastic loss of hectares (about 133,691 or about 330,357 acres) due mainly to coca farming, and now the Bolivian government is planning on building a road that would split the territory in half and would only benefit the farmers. During the tribunal, the natives discussed a road the government is attempting to build through the sacred jungle and explained how the construction of this road would affect not only the natives of that specific area but also how it would mean the disruption of tribes all through the country. They denounced their government’s purposeful exploitation of the land and demanded that prior protective laws are upheld. The speaker, Fatima Monasterio, representing Bolivian natives, ended with a quote from their president who said “the rights of mother earth are even more important than the rights of humans,” which showed the priorities of the people. The judges decided that further research and investigation shall be conducted in Bolivia after which a final decision will be issued.

 

The judges also had conclusions on the other cases, and their individual judgements continue to be released. Final judgements for all other cases can be accessed here: http://therightsofnature.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/Final-Bonn-Tribunal-judgements.pdf

After the two days of emotional reports from 53 speakers in seven languages, the Tribunal found “serious and systematic violations to the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth (UDRME),” and in some cases human rights violations, with harms so severe as to constitute ecocide.  The main cause of the violations lies in the approach by legal systems and governments who permit and promote climate-damaging activities, such as mining, for the sake of a capitalist system that caters to the industries conducting the damage.

COP24 will continue the discussions among world leaders and NGOs and hopefully will bring forth improvements to the current mandated judgements.

To watch the 4th International Tribunal for the Rights of Nature in its entirety, please visit the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature’s website.

 

The Fight for Conservation Funding in Florida is Not Over

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The battle may be over, but the war is still underway. On June 15, 2018, advocates for our Earth community and future generations were awarded a victory in the fight for conservation in the state of Florida. In the consolidated cases of Florida Wildlife Federation, Inc. v. Negron and Florida Defenders of the Environment, Inc. v. Detzner, Judge Charles Dodson found for all Plaintiffs against all Defendants. However, an appeal is still on the horizon.

In 2014, the people of Florida voted overwhelmingly to add Section 28 to Article X of the Florida Constitution. 75% of voters supported funding the Land Acquisition Trust Fund to acquire, restore, improve, and manage conservation lands. Allison DeFoor, former vice chair of the Republican Party of Florida and former environmental advisor to Governor Jeb Bush explained, “Amendment 1 fulfills these principles: It ensures that our state dedicates adequate dollars into the most essential of public goods — protecting our waters and conserving our lands; it ‘lives within our means’ by ensuring that taxes aren’t raised to do so; and it provides an earnest return on investment for generations to come...”

The text of Amendment 1 is as follows (emphasis added)…

SECTION 28. Land Acquisition Trust Fund.

a) Effective on July 1 of the year following passage of this amendment by the voters, and for a period of 20 years after that effective date, the Land Acquisition Trust Fund shall receive no less than 33 percent of net revenues derived from the existing excise tax on documents, as defined in the statutes in effect on January 1, 2012, as amended from time to time, or any successor or replacement tax, after the Department of Revenue first deducts a service charge to pay the costs of the collection and enforcement of the excise tax on documents.

b) Funds in the Land Acquisition Trust Fund shall be expended only for the following purposes:

1) As provided by law, to finance or refinance: the acquisition and improvement of land, water areas, and related property interests, including conservation easements, and resources for conservation lands including wetlands, forests, and fish and wildlife habitat; wildlife management areas; lands that protect water resources and drinking water sources, including lands protecting the water quality and quantity of rivers, lakes, streams, springsheds, and lands providing recharge for groundwater and aquifer systems; lands in the Everglades Agricultural Area and the Everglades Protection Area, as defined in Article II, Section 7(b); beaches and shores; outdoor recreation lands, including recreational trails, parks, and urban open space; rural landscapes; working farms and ranches; historic or geologic sites; together with management, restoration of natural systems, and the enhancement of public access or recreational enjoyment of conservation lands.

2) To pay the debt service on bonds issued pursuant to Article VII, Section 11(e).

c) The moneys deposited into the Land Acquisition Trust Fund, as defined by the statutes in effect on January 1, 2012, shall not be or become commingled with the General Revenue Fund of the state.

The cases here challenged the constitutionality of appropriations from the Land Acquisition Trust Fund and expenditures by four state agencies including the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (DACS), the Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP), the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), and the Department of State. Judge Dodson agreed with the argument that the language of the Amendment is plain and unambiguous and that the funds in the Land Acquisition Trust Fund can only be spent for (1) the acquisition of conservation lands, and (2) the improvement, management, restoration and enhancement of public access and enjoyment of those conservation lands purchased after the effective date of the amendment. He concluded that the phrasing of the Amendment requires land first be acquired with Trust funds before it can be “managed or restored so that public enjoyment of them is enhanced.” This undercuts the Defendants’ argument that the funds were used for management and restoration of conservation lands, despite being in the General Fund. Amendment 1 plainly requires the acquisition of new conservation lands before such expenditures can be justified.

The clear intent was to create a trust fund to purchase new conservation lands and take care of them.
— Judge Charles Dodson

The Plaintiffs in these cases argued that the fund collected were misappropriated and used for unconstitutional purposes. Judge Dodson clarified, “Like all prohibitions on commingling, the purpose of this commingling prohibition is to prevent the money in the Land Acquisition Trust Fund from being used for other purposes. Commingling Land Acquisition Trust Fund money with other funds deprives them of their constitutionally restricted character.”

Because the Defendants did not provide any evidence that the challenged appropriations may have been used for the management of conservation lands purchased with funds appropriated from Article X, Judge Dodson found the appropriations to be unconstitutional and found for the Plaintiffs. He further set out that Agencies expending money from the Land Acquisition Trust Fund must track expenditures to ensure they are being made in compliance with Article X, Section 28 restrictions.

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This is an important moment for the voters of Florida who have finally been heard on this issue. However, the case does not necessarily end here. Lawyers for the legislature have stated they will appeal the decision. This could take the form of a hearing before the District Court of Appeal or be taken directly to the Florida Supreme Court.

 

In either case, Floridians need to continue voicing their insistence that their legislators adhere to the Constitution of the state of Florida. It is imperative that Floridians contact their representatives and ask that this decision stand and the will of the people be respected.

International Day of Nonviolence 2017

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According to the United Nations:

"The International Day of Non-Violence is marked on 2 October, the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi, leader of the Indian independence movement and pioneer of the philosophy and strategy of non-violence.

According to General Assembly resolution A/RES/61/271 of 15 June 2007, which established the commemoration, the International Day is an occasion to 'disseminate the message of non-violence, including through education and public awareness". The resolution reaffirms "the universal relevance of the principle of non-violence" and the desire "to secure a culture of peace, tolerance, understanding and non-violence.'

Introducing the resolution in the General Assembly on behalf of 140 co-sponsors, India’s Minister of State for External Affairs, Mr. Anand Sharma, said that the wide and diverse sponsorship of the resolution was a reflection of the universal respect for Mahatma Gandhi and of the enduring relevance of his philosophy. Quoting the late leader’s own words, he said: 'Non-violence is the greatest force at the disposal of mankind. It is mightier than the mightiest weapon of destruction devised by the ingenuity of man.'"

You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is like an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.
— Mahatma Gandhi
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Let's commemorate International Day of Nonviolence by being the change we wish to see in the world

International Day of Peace 2017

Peace is not an accident. Peace is not a gift. Peace is something we must work for, every day, in every country.
— Ban Ki-moon

As this year's #PeaceDay approached, I couldn't help but wonder how the work we do at the Center relates to this year's theme and global peace as a whole.

In 1981, the United Nations unanimously passed Resolution 36/37 declaring September 21 as a day devoted to “commemorating and strengthening the ideals of peace both within and among all nations and people.” The theme for this year is Together for Peace: Respect, Safety and Dignity for All. One may ask how earth jurisprudence fits into the concept of peace within and among nations and the answer is all too well.

Earth jurisprudence is a philosophy of law that seeks legal consideration for the whole earth community, recognizing that each member of that community is dependent on the health of the earth as a whole. When we over-consume, pollute, or exploit a set of resources, such acts have rippling effects that are not always recognized or appreciated. One major, current example of this is the refugee crisis occurring in Syria. Unsustainable use and exploitation of the country's aquifers, combined with rising temperatures and decreased rainfall worsened by human-effected climate change exacerbated the already politically volatile atmosphere in the country. The water crisis produced many ecological refugees causing the migration of rural communities to the cities, triggering larger scale conflicts and resulting in even more international refugees.

Of course, this is only one element of a much larger internal conflict, but we can see how our resource management plays a significant role in our ability to respond effectively to an ecological crisis. Sea-level rise, drought, famine, and extreme weather events are all effects of our exploitive use of the planet. If we adopt legal principles that take a more comprehensive view of our use, conservation, and preservation of such resources, the problem of ecological refugees will become a much easier problem to solve. 

Furthermore, as our resources become more and more scarce, we will see an increase in conflicts and displaced people. A healthy ecosystem is vital to maintaining the health and safety of humans around the globe. It ensures adequate and available resources such as food and water, increasing stability in potentially volatile areas. It is the not the answer to achieving world peace, but it is one of the biggest components in ensuring stability.  

As Thomas Berry, the father of earth jurisprudence, so eloquently put,

The natural world is the larger sacred community to which we belong. To be alienated from this community is to become destitute in all that makes us human. To damage this community is to diminish our own existence.

We cannot address this problem separate from each other or separate from the rest of the Earth community. We need to do it Together to achieve PEACE.