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!