A voice for the littlest of creatures

“[W]e are beginning to discover that pollution is a process that destroys wondrously subtle balances of life within the water...This heightened awareness enlarges our sense of the danger to us. But it also enlarges our empathy.”
— Christopher D. Stone, in his essay "Should Trees Have Standing?"
Photo from the Center for Biological Diversity website on the Ichetucknee Siltsnail  

Photo from the Center for Biological Diversity website on the Ichetucknee Siltsnail  

It's all interconnected, nature's web. A nuanced change in a delicate habitat can wreak havoc, and not all creatures are given the same consideration, protection, or empathy.  Even the tiniest of creatures deserve a voice, and respect for their evolutionary purpose in the interconnected web.

This week, CEJ sent a letter to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service imploring the agency to take positive action on the petition filed by our friends at the Center for Biological Diversity asking that the agency formally enlist Florida's Ichetucknee Siltsnail as endangered, and declare Coffee Spring as critical habitat. The agency agreed to move forward on listing the snail in 2012, but has done nothing since.

These tiny spring dwelling creatures are also known as "sand-grain" snails because of their resemblance to just that, a grain of sand. Native only to Florida--and to only one spring in Florida-- this snail is dwindling right before our eyes. It's chance of revival is slim if the U.S. doesn't act quickly to protect it's habitat, which is a mere 10 square yards of one single spring, Coffee Spring, in Ichetucknee Springs, Suwanee County, Florida. 

Yes, Ichetucknee Springs is a State Park, but this public and cherished location isn't protecting the snail.  Ecosystems aren't bound by mapped park lines, and unfortunately neither is fertilizer runoff.  As springs and watersheds are becoming increasingly uninhabitable for many native species, many species, like the siltsnail, are under severe threat of extinction.

Our Staff Attorney, Rob Williams,  authored the letter to provide further information regarding the threats facing the Ichetucknee Siltsnail which are set forth in the excellent report prepared by Gary L. Warren and Jennifer Bernatis for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, "Status of the Ichetucknee Siltsnail (Floridobia mica) in Coffee Spring, Ichetucknee Springs State Park, Suwannee County, Florida, November 2015." 

As the report notes, one of the threats to the snail's habitat is increasing groundwater nitrate levels in the Ichetucknee watershed. Nitrate levels have increased dramatically in the springs of the Ichetucknee River complex as shown in the following graphs prepared by the Florida Springs Institute:

As evidenced in the above charts, the nitrate levels in the springs are now 16 times greater than the historical level.

In 2012, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection adopted a Basin Management Action Plan ("BMAP") to reduce nitrate pollution in the Santa Fe River Basin which includes the Ichetucknee River and associated springs.  DEP's BMAP is an inadequate regulatory mechanism for protecting the snail's habitat. The BMAP itself states that "the TMDLs established for this basin will not be achieved for several decades." "Specifically, nutrient reductions resulting from implementation of agricultural BMPs are estimated to require at least 10 years to be measurable in the Santa Fe River" (emphasis added). This prediction was born out by a 2013 Progress Report released in April of 2014 which concluded that "there has been a slight increase in nitrate +nitrate concentration in the Santa Fe River over the period of 2009 through 2013."

Low water flows combined with high nitrate levels can easily alter the delicate ecological balance in the snail's habitat.

There is no question that under the five listing factors of the Endangered Species Act, protecting the Ichetucknee Siltsnail is warranted. We ask that the Service act promptly to protect this species and designate Coffee Springs as critical habitat in order to ensure its long-term survival. That's what we're asking for now.

But, the continuous fight to save each creature from near extinction begs the question: why do we let it get this far? Our current regulatory systems are clearly failing.  So we ask, what would this world look like ecologically if the smallest of creatures had a louder voice? If they had a right to flourish, to exist?  What if these creatures were awarded true, just, legal consideration? What if humanity demanded that nature's ecological integrity be recognized, and given legal standing in its own right? Perhaps, then, the Ichetucknee Siltsnail wouldn't be in a precarious position. Higher nitrate levels is only one of the reasons the Siltsnail is barely holding on. The devastation of Florida's springs should make everyone scared, and everyone empathetic--because ultimately, it's all connected. This habitat, mankind is a part of it.





CEJ Leadership Transitions

This marks a poignant and exciting time of transition for CEJ. As we say farewell to our Founder and Director of 10 years, Sister Pat,  we send her forward in her role as Prioress-Elect for her Adrian Dominican Sisters’ community with profound appreciation for all that she has done for CEJ and the natural communities that sustain us.


It is also a moment of great excitement as we announce that after an international search, Traci Deen, Esq. has accepted the offer to move into the role.


Adding to CEJ’s strength is Margaret Stewart, Esq., who serves as the Center’s Manager of Programs & Operations. We are so happy to have her with us.

More on the members of CEJ's Leadership team here!


Additionally, we are also happy to introduce the 2016-17 CEJ Advisory Board. We are thrilled they have agreed to serve. Each one brings unique experience, wisdom, and perspective that will guide CEJ into it's future. Meet our Advisory Board here!


2016-2017 CEJ Advisory Board Members

Judith Koons, Esq., Chair
Sr. Patricia Siemen, Director Emeritus
Clay Henderson, Esq.
Jim Draper
Josie Balzac, Esq.
Jane Durocher, Esq.
Pamela Rathbone, Esq.
Francheska Markus, Esq.
Lucinda Merritt (not pictured below)
William Ward, Esq.
Kevin Leske, Esq.



CEJ is standing strong as it transitions with new leadership. Thank you for all of your support in the past, presently, and into the future.

-The CEJ Team

An e-mail from Thomas Berry & Sister Pat's goodbye

On Sister Pat's last day in the CEJ office, she shared with us this wonderful and inspiring e-mail she had received in 2007 after founding the Center, from Thomas Berry.  

As today is my last day at CEJ I thought it appropriate to share an email I received from Thomas Berry back in January 2007 as CEJ was just getting started. He says, “If there is any single act in America that could bring about an integral Earth community, it is, I believe this legal recognition of the rights of all beings throughout the Earth. The term “rights” being defined as giving every being its due, it follows clearly that rights are qualitatively different.”
This is my continued hope for CEJ’s work into the future as well. It has been a privilege to work with so many creative and committed colleagues. May Earth and all her beings and expressions thrive.
— Sr. Pat Siemen


Sharing this article written about the film screening we co-hosted on 5/10/16 of the documentary film "The Forgotten Coast,"- article written by Kassy Holmes and originally posted here: https://thefloridasuburbanwild.com/2016/05/18/keepfloridawild/


Posted by Kassy Holmes on May 18, 2016May 18, 2016

Last week, I attended a screening at the Orlando Science Center of The Forgotten Coast: Return to Wild Floridaa documentary chronicling the 70-day journey of a small expedition team as they traversed 1,000 miles across Florida’s wilderness, from the Everglades to the Florida-Alabama border. The team – biologist Joe Guthrie, conservationist Mallory Lykes Dimmit and photojournalist Carlton Ward Jr.- sought to follow in the footsteps of the Sunshine State’s most iconic animals, including black bears, bobcats and manatees, in an effort to learn more about wildlife corridors and the importance of connecting and protecting wild places in Florida. While the expedition team is inherently crucial to the story of this wilderness adventure and their journey is the key perspective through which we, as an audience, learn of the challenges and wonders of Florida’s wilderness, they are not the most important characters of this tale. The main protagonist is most certainly Florida –  its landscapes of swamps, marshes, springs, rivers, and forests, ranging from eerie to angelic, that are the backdrop for the story and the setting for many of our lives, is the crucial leading lady.

Although the film is only one hour long, it transports viewers across a spellbinding array of Florida ecosystems. We watch the crew as they meander along the Withlacoochee River, through Chassahowitzka Springs, and Crystal River’s Three Sisters Springs where herds of manatees often congregate to stay warm on cold days, causing a magnificent scene.

They continue on to Goethe State Park and follow in the pawsteps of bobcats that roam through the Big Bend Region. Then onto the Apalachicola River, Wewahitchka and the Dead Lakes Region – an area that formed when waters flooded a low-lying cypress swamp resulting in a mystifying landscape of cypress trees which poke out from the water’s surface. A site that the documentary team noted is unlike any other landscape in Florida. Their journey then continues through Econfina Creek Springs, the Yellow River and through Longleaf Pine Forests that house the endangered red cockaded woodpecker, a species whose habitat has been destroyed so immensely that only 3% of it’s preferred ecosystem remains.

I’m ashamed to admit that I hadn’t heard of many of these places. And on a side-note, I can’t help but read the names of the many rivers and ecosystems explored  in this film that were once inhabited by Native Americans, the Seminoles in particular, and not think about our state’s (and our nation’s) unfortunate past. The importance of understanding the complete history of these wild places – and not just their ecological significance – is not lost on me. The Withalocoochee River, as an example, was the site of the aptly named ‘Battle of Withlacoochee’  in 1835, a standoff between the Seminoles and federal militia which ultimately constituted the start of a 7-year long conflict dubbed the Second Seminole War. In addition to getting out and exploring these (or other) wild places in Florida, I also encourage everyone to spend some time researching and learning about Florida’s Native American history.

The film does an excellent job of telling the story of some of Florida’s most fascinating natural places, while also highlighting some of the challenges we face. A local oyster fisherman in the Apalachicola bay spoke of a steep decline in oyster harvesting and the importance of preserving the integrity of local rivers, so that the delicate balance of fresh and salt water needed to support oysters is sustained. Another gentleman spoke of watching the tree cover around his home diminish as sea levels have risen over the past decade, another unnerving indicator of the impacts of climate change we are already experiencing, and those that have yet to come.

The film also showed clear evidence of gaps within Florida’s wildlife corridors and  highlighted the need to connect these gaps so that animals can travel safely. These are species whose lives have already been devastatingly impacted by human development. Their habitats have been destroyed and their daily existence threatened by us, our boats, our cars and our pollution. In the very least, they deserve a way to safely navigate the minimal habitat they have left.

Beyond our responsibility to the wildlife of Florida, we also have a responsibility to ourselves and future generations to cherish and protect these wild places. And even with all of the damage we’ve already caused and the challenges created by population growth and suburban sprawl, it’s not too late for us to have a positive impact on Florida’s wilderness. As one of the expedition members said, “we still have an opportunity to protect the wild heart of Florida.”

And with that, I leave you with the following thought, a proclamation I heard and felt in the documentary: we must do our absolute best to keep Florida wild.

If Austin can keep itself weird, we can certainly keep Florida beautiful and wild. Get out and explore! Advocate and vote for legislation that supports wilderness conservation efforts. Support local organizations that are working on these issues and are committed to the environment. Educate yourselves and your friends. Teach your children to love and treasure our Florida wild. And don’t forget that we can all play a small role in helping to support and protect the magnificent natural world that so selflessly supports and protects us.

#KeepFloridaWild – now that’s a hashtag I could get behind. Let’s make it happen!

CEJ Co-Hosts Documentary Film Screening at Orlando Science Center

On May 10th, CEJ, along with the Florida Wildlife Corridor, the Friends of the Wekiva River, the League of Women Voters Orange County, the League of Women Voters Seminole County, the Seminole Audubon Society, the Orange County Audubon Society, and the Sierra Club Central Florida Group, hosted a film screening of the documentary film The Forgotten Coast: Return to Wild Florida at the Orlando Science Center.

After a social hour, almost 500 community members joined us, including several policy-makers, for two sold out showings.

Following the screening, our incoming Director, Traci Deen, moderated a panel featuring Aliki Moncrief of Florida Conservation Voters, Mallory Dimmitt who is featured in the film, and Dr. Jay Exum.

The panel discussed the need for a wildlife corridor in Florida, the key areas necessary, and the Ocala-Wekiva Greenway project. The project is an important link between Ocala National Forest and the extensive state holdings along the Wekiva River. It is habitat for many rare animal species including the Florida black bear, the Florida Sand hill crane, bald eagle, Eastern indigo snake, Florida scrub jay, Sherman's fox squirrel, Florida scrub lizard, and gopher tortoise. It incorporates most of the forested wetlands along the St. John and Wekiva Rivers between Orlando and the Ocala National Forest. The Seminole site is reported to have 50-75 springs within its boundary. The Wekiva-Ocala Connector site would provide a wildlife movement corridor between the Ocala National Forest and the other portions of the project along the Wekiva River.

The film, the Forgotten Coast, is truly remarkable. Following in the footsteps of a wandering Florida black bear, three friends leave civilization and become immersed in a vast and unexplored wildlife corridor stretching from the Everglades to the Florida-Alabama border. The rugged thousand-mile journey by foot, paddle, and bike traverses Florida’s Forgotten Coast – a wilderness that has the potential to transform the way we see the natural world.

We were so pleased to partner with outstanding co-sponsors, and share the film with the community. Everyone at CEJ hopes the film inspires you, as it inspired us. For more information on the film, visit: www.thefloridawildlifecorridor.org

Article in Orlando Sentinel: "Sister Pat, Spiritual and Legal Fighter for Environment, Retiring"

We want to share this article published in the Orlando Sentinel on May 7th, 2016, by journalist Kevin Spear, who interviewed our outgoing Director. Don't let it's title fool you-- Sr. Pat is far from retiring, but she is taking On a new role as Prioress of her Congregation in Adrian Michigan in July.

How do we change our way of being and our way of thinking so that we actually experience ourselves as a part of the rest of the web of life?
— Sr. Pat Siemen

Among many kinds of Florida environmentalists, from springs defenders to solar advocates, there is Sister Pat, a specialist in intellectual, moral, spiritual and legal aspects of fighting to keep the state green.

Patricia Siemen, 67, is a lawyer, Dominican sister and director of the Center for Earth Jurisprudence at Barry University's law school in Orlando.

She recently was elected as president of her congregation in Michigan and is resigning from the center, which she founded a decade ago.

Sister Pat spoke to the Orlando Sentinel about the good, bad and hopeful in Florida's environment.

What makes you optimistic about Florida's environment?

I am optimistic about collaboration with different environmental groups, including the Florida Conservation Coalition and Floridians' Clean Water Declaration Campaign. This moves us beyond having just Sierra Club issues versus Friends of the Wekiva versus Audubon versus the springs groups. This unified front is needed given dire concerns in Florida.

What does CEJ bring to that collaboration?

The mission for Center for Earth Jurisprudence is to advance policies and laws from a nature perspective. We do that through education, including legal education, training future lawyers to at least consider this perspective in whatever area of practice they go into. It's also community education, showing up at public events. Whenever I speak publicly I often use the language of the inherent rights of nature to exist and flourish and fulfill its purpose and for the rest of us to live in harmony and balance with that. We also show up to do advocacy, whether most recently protection of Florida springs, and certainly we were engaged in trying to stop the bear hunt. We'll continue to work against fracking and engage in Florida's 2017 constitutional-revision process to advocate for protecting healthy ecosystems.

What worries you most?

Unlimited growth. We no longer have the Department of Community Affairs to provide support to local governments to give them backbone and protection to control growth. We have an increasing population in a fragile environment and an attitude that does not seem to recognize that Earth has restraints and certain capacities. At the same time, we have climate change upon us.

Unlimited growth doesn't sound as provoking as dead bears or dirty springs.

So many people are very good people who are so well intentioned and who would be the first ones to respond if there was some kind of calamity or natural disaster with their neighbors. But we don't see the nonhuman members of the community as our neighbors. We are asleep at the wheel when it comes to a lot of environmental issues because they seem not to be affecting us directly and right now.

Is part of Florida's problem that most residents aren't from the state?

Many people come in the later years of their life, having already faced a lot of challenges in their lives. They don't want to have to be bothered to be engaged. I don't know if I have a solution for that. Personally I would like to close the doors to the flood of retirees coming to Florida.

What environmental issue has trended in a positive direction?

I'm always a woman of hope, and my hope lies in the kind of building of relationships, collaboration and partnering among more and more people who are concerned, activists, artists and communicators. I think resilience and sustainability will come from local communities who network with each other and not just stand alone.

Speaking of an important factor that's not local, grade Barack Obama.

Oh my. He's a man caught in a system that politically marginalized him from his first day in office. Nevertheless, as for environmental issues, President Obama deserves high marks. He has exercised leadership on the most critical environmental issue facing the world: climate change. He raised the standards for eliminating air pollutants and he ruled in favor of killing the Keystone XXL pipeline, a symbolic victory for a huge number of environmentalists.

What question would you ask the director of CEJ?

How do we change our way of being and our way of thinking so that we actually experience ourselves as a part of the rest of the web of life?

Key Environmental Policy Issues in the Sunshine State in 2016 and Beyond

CEJ presented on a panel at the Earth Day celebration in Downtown Orlando. The panel, "Don't Frack with Florida: Key Environmental Policy Issues in the Sunshine State in 2016 and Beyond"  discussed environmental issues Florida is facing, including fracking and biodiversity loss.

Our Manager of Programs & Operations, Margaret Stewart, discussed Earth Jurisprudence as a real solution and way forward.

Without greater legal consideration, we are going to continue to fight environmental degradation on a case by case basis. Margaret argued that Earth Jurisprudence, a more holistic legal approach to environmental protection, would address the greater problem at it's root.

We were thrilled to be a part of Central Florida's Earth Day this year. For more information, and to participate next year, click here.


CEJ Director Elected as Prioress of Adrian Dominican Congregation

CEJ Director Elected to Serve as Prioress of Adrian Dominican Congregation

On February 24th, at the recent General Chapter (legislative session) of the Adrian Dominican Sisters,  our very own Sister Pat Siemen, OP, JD, was elected Prioress (President) of the Adrian Dominican Congregation.

Sister Pat will begin her 6 year term as Prioress on July 1, 2016. This will require her to move to Adrian, Michigan in June. Please join us in congratulating her and the Adrian Dominican Sisters.

However, it is a bittersweet moment for us here at CEJ and Barry Law as her new position will require her to move up north. We are already planning for a smooth transition for the Center for Earth Jurisprudence, but will miss her very much.

Congratulations, Sister Pat! 

UK Political Party Adopts Rights of Nature

Big News For Rights of Nature Movement

On February 28th, 2016,  the Green Party of England & Wales became the first UK-wide political party to vote ‘Rights of Nature’ into their policies. The motion was passed overwhelmingly by the conference floor.

Rights of Nature is a growing environmental movement calling for new legal tools to be developed to defend nature’s ecosystems. Central to this is the rejection of market valuations of nature and the recognition that nature will only be protected if we respect its innate value in law.

CEJ's Director on Volusia Climate Change Panel

Clay Henderson, left, hosted Stetson’s recent open dialogue on the effects of climate change. Panelists, from l to r: Dinah Pulver, Jason Evans, Chad Truxall and Sister Pat Siemen. (Photo by James Valentine.)

This story was published Feb. 29, 2016, written by Trish Wieland --- original posted here: http://www.stetson.edu/today/2016/02/sparking-the-conversation/

More than 250 local government officials, concerned citizens, academicians, journalists, students and environmental advocates packed Allen Hall on Feb. 16, to hear and be part of the significant conversation of protecting the environment by better understanding climate change and rising sea levels.

“As far as I know, this is the first public meeting of its kind in Volusia County to start a local conversation about the effects of climate change,” explained Clay Henderson, executive director for Stetson’s new Institute for Water and Environmental Resilience.

This “open dialogue” event regarding the recent Paris Climate Change Accords (COP21), was led by Stetson’s visiting Woodrow Wilson Fellow Joseph Treaster, a prize-winning reporter and University of Miami professor with a passionate expertise for protecting water sources.

Members of the expert panel included: Sister Pat Siemen, attorney and director of the Center for Earth Jurisprudence at Barry University School of Law; Jason Evans, Ph.D., assistant professor in Stetson’s Department of Environmental Science and Geography, and public policy expert on climate change issues in Florida; Chad Truxall, executive director of the Marine Discovery Center and Florida Master Naturalist instructor; and Dinah Pulver, award-winning environmental journalist with the Daytona Beach News-Journal.


Sr. Siemen attended the COP21 and felt that the publicity and awareness raised was good, but it will be slow-moving to make meaningful action in governments across the globe.

“It was huge to get all 195 countries to agree (at the COP21) that climate change is real. They agreed to have a plan in place to reduce greenhouse gases in the next five years. But we need something more urgent and we can’t wait another five years,” she noted. “Our current environmental protection laws are not good enough. The environment has rights, too.”

Moderator Treaster, whose participation was made possible through Stetson University’s Brown Center for Faculty Innovation and Excellence, agreed. “It’s a slow goal. But we can’t give up. We have to have conversations just like this,” he said. “We know the science dictates us to see the sea level rise.”

“The warming of the oceans globally means more flooding will occur in streets, septic tanks then pulls that wastewater back out. Our drinking wells have ‘intrusion’ from salt water containments as the sea level rise emerges more inland,” explained Evans.

But this problem is not just a coastal issue, noted Pulver. “The increasing salt content will exacerbate problems for river life. The more the sea level rises, the more salt you’ll have in the rivers.”


“We have to be willing to change our lifestyle more! Eat local, organic,” added Sr. Siemens. “We also need to include measures to conserve water in our legislation.”

Truxall agreed that prudent action is needed urgently.

“We need action now. We treat water as if it’s something we want to get rid of, so we need a new way of thinking about the value of water,” Truxall suggested. “People need to feel empowered when it comes to addressing climate change. We’re going to keep seeing these issues until the political scene changes.”

Evans proposed that, unlike some public-supported institutions that may restrict the dialogue, Stetson is the perfect place to launch the conversation.

“We have to talk about the science. Stetson University is a very good place for this dialogue because, as a private university, we can steer the conversation locally and nationally,” explained Evans. “I’ve found that once local government officials see the problem, they will believe. We just have to keep getting the facts and information out there.”

By Trish Wieland

Center for Earth Jurisprudence Authors Amicus Brief in Constitutional Climate Change Lawsuit

The Center for Earth Jurisprudence is honored to support the Amici in this case who stand in solidarity with the youth plaintiffs seeking future and intergenerational justice. The constant threats of climate change and increased GHG emissions assail the rights of nature, in this case, our atmosphere.
— Sr. Pat Siemen, CEJ Director

Originally Posted HERE  by ECOWATCH.

To see full amicus brief, click here.

EcoWatch reports on Amicus Brief filed by CEJ. Report below:

On Friday, the Center for Earth Jurisprudence, on behalf of the Global Catholic Climate Movement and the Leadership Council of Women Religious filed an amicus curiae brief in support of the constitutional climate change lawsuit brought by 21 young plaintiffs from across America.

The Catholic groups filed their brief promptly after Magistrate Judge Thomas Coffin of the federal District Court in Oregon granted defendant status to three trade associations, representing nearly all of the world’s fossil fuel companies. The Catholic groups filed the brief to make their views known that the youth’s legal claims are rooted in U.S. traditions and parallel Roman Catholic tenets.

The Global Catholic Climate Movement is an international network of more than 250 Catholic organizations and individuals, including Pope Francis and Catholic bishops. The Catholic group is raising a strong voice in global climate change discussions, relying on the Pope’s recent encyclicalLaudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home. The Leadership Council of Women Religious represents leaders of more than 40,000 women religious across the U.S. and the world.

“As an organization inspired by the principles of Laudato Si’, the Global Catholic Climate Movement welcomes the opportunity to support the young plaintiffs,” Tomas Insua, Global Coordinator with the Global Catholic Climate Movement, said. “Laudato Si’ reminds us that ‘Intergenerational solidarity is not optional, but rather a basic question of justice, since the world we have received also belongs to those who will follow us.’ By supporting this initiative, we join our voices with the young plaintiffs who are calling for climate justice and the protection of the atmosphere for generations to come.”

The Catholic brief details how youth’s constitutional litigation “seeks to establish precisely what Pope Francis has urged in Laudato Si’: a ‘legal framework which can set clear boundaries’ for greenhouse gas reduction—before it is too late.” Both groups state that, by including the public trust doctrine as part of their case, the young plaintiffs invoke the same moral imperative that motivates the religious work they do. For Global Catholic Climate Movement and Leadership Council of Women Religious, the public trust principle of law mirrors a “sacred trust” based on the Church’s deep covenants of obligation towards future generations and to all Creation.

Speaking at the White House last September, Pope Francis urged action, stating, “Climate change is a problem which can no longer be left to a future generation. When it comes to the care of our ‘common home,’ we are living at a critical moment in history.” The Catholic groups’ brief reiterates the words used by Pope Francis:

“It is no longer enough, then, simply to state that we should be concerned for future generations. We need to see that what is at stake is our own dignity. Leaving an inhabitable planet to future generations is, first and foremost, up to us …  The effects of the present imbalance can only be reduced by our decisive action, here and now … We know that technology based on the use of highly polluting fossil fuels—especially coal, but also oil and, to a lesser degree, gas—needs to be progressively replaced without delay.”

In their filing before Judge Coffin, the Catholic groups assert: “With so little time remaining to curb carbon dioxide emissions before the planet crosses irrevocable climate thresholds, [the] Court should enforce government’s duty to protect the children’s atmospheric trust before it is too late to salvage a habitable planet.”

“The Center for Earth Jurisprudence is honored to support the Amici in this case who stand in solidarity with the youth plaintiffs seeking future and intergenerational justice,” Sister Pat Siemen said. “The constant threats of climate change and increased GHG emissions assail the rights of nature, in this case, our atmosphere. We hope the court understands the message of Pope Francis, in his encyclical Laudato Sí, where he states: ‘the notion of the common good also extends to future generations … Intergenerational solidarity is not optional, but rather a basic question of justice, since the world we have received also belongs to those who will follow us.’”

“Our moral call to protect the common good (and not the profits of a selfish few) is clear in the Pope’s call to action,” 14-year-old plaintiff Nick Venner said. “The support of the Leadership Council of Women Religious, representing women who have been quietly at the forefront of every major civil rights movement and helping children and the poor, means a lot to me. To have our lawsuit championed by the Global Catholic Climate is so exciting—Catholics around the world uniting in calling for change that will support life, not death and pollution. I thank God for their support in our fight to save our nation’s climate.”


Publication Opportunity: Call for Papers


The Center for Earth Jurisprudence (CEJ) and the Barry University School of Law Environmental and Earth Law Journal (EELJ) invite the submission of scholarly legal papers addressing the theme of "Earth Jurisprudence: The Time is Now." The winning submission will be published in the Summer 2016 volume of the EELJ. Other submissions will be considered by CEJ for additional publication.

The volume will be a useful resource for scholars of environmental and Earth Jurisprudence law and policy, and by practitioners and community members in the field, including NGO members, environmental educators and advocates, and government officials. The EELJ and CEJ editorial board members will choose the winning submission.


Papers may incorporate multidisciplinary approaches to resolving the unprecedented ecological challenges of the 21st century, recognizing the need for ethical approaches that honor the intrinsic value of nature, and protecting the existence, right to habitat, and ethical consideration of all beings.

We particularly welcome papers that:

· develop theory and research in law;

· apply theoretical and research findings from law and other disciplines to legal subject matter; and

· highlight a current problem or obstacle, or a new issue encountered in the field that has not yet received much scholarly consideration.

Submissions must be original and should not have been published previously or be under consideration for publication while being evaluated for the EELJ. For questions and concerns, please contact the EELJ Lead Articles Editor, Sonya Cunningham, at sonya.cunningham@law.barry.edu.

The EELJ has no general rules about the formatting of articles upon initial submission. There are, however, rules governing the formatting of the final submission. See Final Manuscript Preparation Guidelines, http://lawpublications.barry.edu/ejejj/styleguide.html, for details.

Submit submissions in an email attachment (in Word format, saved with your name in the title) to sonya.cunningham@law.barry.edu by February 15, 2016. The deadline for final drafts will be April 15, 2016.

About CEJ:

The Center for Earth Jurisprudence (CEJ) is housed at the Barry University School of Law in Orlando, Florida. Its mission is to advance laws and governance that reflect humans’ interdependent relationship with the natural world. CEJ seeks to develop a philosophy and practice of law that respects the natural world in its own right and recognizes humans as an integral member of the Earth community. This year marks the tenth anniversary of CEJ’s founding.

In this time of increasing awareness of the ecological devastation and consequences of climate change post COP21, Earth Jurisprudence offers hope for reinvigorated, Earth-based governance systems that recognize the rights of all members of the Earth community, including Mother Earth herself, to exist and flourish. Taking its name from Fr. Thomas Berry’s conception of the current regulatory system transformed by science and spirituality, Earth jurisprudence evaluates and supports human needs and wants in ways commensurate with our place on the planet: embedded, interdependent, and reliant upon Earth’s systems for all that sustains us. Such systems would recognize that humanity has a basic responsibility to care for and protect the long-term health and well-being of the entire Earth community, meaning all beings and ecosystems that constitute the natural world.

To learn more about the philosophy and work of CEJ, visit: www.EarthJurist.org.

About EELJ:

The Barry University School of Law Environmental and Earth Law Journal (EELJ) promote new visions and perspectives on social and ecological justice, and facilitate an enlightened discourse on issues and topics affecting human populations and the natural world. The EELJ strives to publish articles that are valuable research tools for students, attorneys, judges, and legal scholars. Student members manage and edit the EELJ, under the direction of the Dean and a faculty advisor. Publication will be in both electronic and print form, facilitating dialogue and providing an international forum for enlightened discourse through the cutting edge technology of the internet.

To read the current and previous EELJ publications visit:


Please contact Psiemen@barry.edu with any questions.

COP21 in Paris, Rights of Nature Tribunal


The Center's Director Sr. Pat Siemen, and Associate Director, Traci Deen, traveled to Paris to attend the International Rights of Nature Tribunal in December 2015, a conference parallel to the UN COP21. 

There, Sr. Pat Siemen had an opportunity to interview and speak with many leaders in the Rights of Nature movement. This powerful video, produced by Clement Guerra, showcases some of those interviews and the Tribunal itself.


What are those rights of nature? You should know. Aren’t you a part of her?

CEJ sits on the steering committee for the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature (GARN) (http://therightsofnature.org/), a network of individuals and organizations committed to creating human communities that respect and defend the rights of Nature.

The intent of the Tribunal is to provide systemic Rights of Nature based alternatives to the false solutions and failed negotiations of governing States. This “People’s Tribunal” provides a vehicle for reframing and adjudicating prominent environmental and social justice cases within the context of a Rights of Nature based earth jurisprudence. The adjudication process provides a platform for informed legal analysis of diverse cases based on Rights of Nature. With each case, the Tribunal will recommend actions for reparation, mitigation, restoration and prevention of further damages and harm.  The Tribunal provides a framework for educating civil society and governments on the fundamental tenets of Rights of Nature and an instrument for legal experts to examine constructs needed to more fully integrate Rights of Nature.





The Center for Earth Jurisprudence is hosting a 3 part webinar series beginning Jan 13th! Join us as this series explores emergent legal systems and cultural themes and addresses the intrinsic rights of nature and the international Earth laws movement. Topics will include law and policy, ethics, principles of environmental sustainability, science, and spirituality.

United Nations Recognizes Earth Jurisprudence in Resolution

BIG NEWS for Earth Jurisprudence! We are very excited to announce that the UN has adopted its first resolution addressing Earth Jurisprudence and the rights of nature.

Recognizing that planet Earth and its ecosystems are our home and...noting that some countries recognize the rights of nature in the context of the promotion of sustainable development, and expressing the conviction that, in order to achieve a just balance among the economic, social and environmental needs of present and future generations, it is necessary to promote harmony with nature
— UN Draft Resoltion


See the draft resolution by clicking below:

CEJ traveling to Paris for Rights of Nature Tribunal


Sister Pat Siemen will be traveling to Paris for the International Rights of Nature Tribunal at Maison des Métallos on December 4-5. The Tribunal is a unique, citizen-created initiative that gives people from all around the world the opportunity to testify publicly about the destruction of the Earth, allowed – and in some cases encouraged – by governments and corporations. At the Tribunal, internationally renowned lawyers and leaders for planetary justice will hear cases addressing issues such as climate change, GMOs, and fracking. Learn more about this important initiative at Rights of Nature Tribunal – Paris. Updates will be posted on CEJ’s Facebook page.