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Archive for India

When Rivers Hold Legal Rights

See full article in Earth Island Institute
by Shannon Biggs of Movement Rights– April 17, 2017

New Zealand and India recognize personhood for ecosystems

Winding its way through dense forest laced with hidden waterfalls, the Whanganui River is the largest navigable river in Aotearoa, the Māori word for New Zealand. With the passage of the Te Awa Tupua (Whanganui River Claims Settlement) Bill in March, the river became the first water system in the world to be recognized as a rights-bearing entity, holding legal “personhood” status. One implication of the agreement is that the Whanganui River is no longer property of New Zealand’s Crown government — the river now owns itself.

When Rivers Hold Legal Rights, Earth Island Institute Photo by Kathrin & Stefan Marks

In March, the Whanganui River in New Zealand became the first water body in the world to receive legal personhood status. Photo by Kathrin & Stefan Marks

Five days after the Te Awa Tupua Bill, the High Court of Uttarakhand at Naintal, in northern India, issued a ruling declaring that both the Ganga and Yumana rivers are also “legal persons/living persons.” But what does it mean for a river, or an ecosystem to hold rights? The answer may vary from place to place.

Read full article …

 

About the author:

Shannon Biggs
Shannon Biggs is the Executive Director of Movement Rights, advancing rights for Indigenous peoples, communities, and ecosystems. She is also the co-founder of the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature and the co-editor of the book, The Rights of Nature: The Case for the Universal Declaration on the Rights of Mother Earth.

PR: India Court Declares Personhood for Ganga and Yumana Rivers

CELDF working in India to Recognize Rights of the Ganga River Basin

Contact:
Mari Margil
mmargil@celdf.org

MERCERSBURG, PA, USA: On March 20, the High Court of Uttarakhand at Naintal, in the State of Uttarakhand in northern India, issued a ruling declaring that the River Ganga and River Yumana are “legal persons/living persons.”  This comes after numerous rulings by the court which found that while the rivers are “central to the existence to half of Indian population and their health and well being,” they are severely polluted, with their very existence in question.

The court declared that throughout India’s history, it has been necessary to declare that certain “entities, living inanimate, objects or things” to be declared a “juristic person.”  In the case of the Ganga and Yumana, the court explained the time has come to recognize them as legal persons “in order to preserve and conserve” the rivers.

The movement to recognize certain legal rights of nature and particular ecosystems is growing.  Beginning in 2006, the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) assisted the community of Tamaqua Borough, in the State of Pennsylvania in the United States, to draft and pass the very first rights of nature law in the world.  CELDF has since assisted more than three dozen communities across the U.S., as well as the first country in the world – Ecuador – to secure the rights of nature to exist and flourish.

As efforts to advance legal rights of nature continue, CELDF has been partnering with India-based NGOs to recognize fundamental rights of the Ganga River and the entire river basin.

With the Global WASH Alliance-India and Ganga Action Parivar, CELDF drafted the proposed National Ganga River Rights Act.  The Act would recognize fundamental rights of the Ganga to exist, flourish, evolve, and be restored, and the people of India to a healthy, thriving river ecosystem.  The legislation is now under consideration by India Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, which in recent months established a committee within the Modi administration to review the Act.

In calling for significant legal change, in a February 2016 ruling – a precursor to this week’s ruling – the court stated, “The legislation, till now, has not helped to save Ganga.  We need a comprehensive legislation at the national level dealing with the Ganga alone.”

With regard to the court’s ruling this week, Mari Margil, CELDF’s Associate Director and head of the organization’s International Center for the Rights of Nature, explained, “Recognition of personhood rights are an important step forward toward the recognition of the full rights of the rivers to be healthy, natural ecosystems.”

“Such rights would include the rights of the rivers to pure water, to flow, to provide habitat for river species, and other rights essential to the health and well-being of these ecosystems,” Margil explained.  In local laws in the U.S., as well as in the Ecuador Constitution, rights of nature laws secure rights that are necessary to the ability of ecosystems to be healthy and thrive.  These laws transform ecosystems from being considered resources available for human use, to living entities with inherent rights.

These laws have been passed as there is a growing recognition around the world that environmental laws premised on regulating the use of nature, are unable to protect nature.  Margil stated, “The collapse of ecosystems and species, as well as the acceleration of climate change, are clear indications that a fundamental change in the relationship between humankind and the natural world is necessary.”

In a February 2016 ruling, the Uttarakhand court wrote, “All the rivers have the basic right to maintain their purity and to maintain free and natural flow.”  Whether the court includes these rights within the scope of its recent “personhood” declaration is not clear, or whether courts will expand on the rights recognized this week remains to be seen, Margil explained.

The High Court of Uttarakhand’s ruling comes after the finalization of a settlement agreement between the Maori people and the government of New Zealand regarding the Whanganui River.  In that settlement, finalized through a vote of the Parliament, the river is recognized as having personhood rights.  CELDF believes that the movement in New Zealand and India to recognize certain rights of ecosystems are important in the growing movement to move away from legal systems which treat nature as property under the law, to laws which recognize inherent rights of nature.

Today, CELDF is partnering with communities and organizations across the United States, as well as in Nepal, India, Australia, Sweden, and other countries to advance rights of nature legal frameworks.

About the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) & the International Center for the Rights of Nature

The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund’s mission is to build sustainable communities by assisting people to assert their right to local self-government and the rights of nature.  CELDF’s International Center for the Rights of Nature is partnering with communities and organizations in countries around the world to advance the rights of nature.

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Rights of Nature Tour of India with Vandana Shiva

Global Exchange Reality Tour ~ November 1 – 11, 2015

India, it is often said is not a country but a continent,

How different would our human societies, economies, and structures of law look as part of a connected, Earth-centered community?

“The ecological and economic problems we face are rooted in a series of reductionist steps, which have shrunk our imagination and our identity, our purpose on the Earth, and the instruments we use to meet our needs. We are first and foremost Earth citizens. And our highest duty is to maintain the living systems of the Earth that support our life. Earth citizenship needs Earth-centered cultures, Earth-based democracy, and Earth-centered economies.” -Vandana Shiva, from the book, The Rights of Nature

While many over the past decades have explored the idea of living in balance with the planet and limiting the role of unfettered corporate power in all aspects of life, the rights-based movement that seeks to change fundamental law and culture is both relatively new and rapidly accelerating. It has kept pace with the realization that the current corporate-led global economic framework has brought us to the brink of economic and ecological disaster, and that true change will only come from the grassroots.

Program Highlights:

* Visit to the Raj Ghat
* Visit to Dr. Vandana Shiva Navdanya Biodiversity and Conservation Farm
* Meet with the National Ganga Rights Movement
* Learn about the people’s movement against POSCO
* 5 days at the Navdanya Biodiversity Conservation Farm
* Meet with various local NGOs

Learn more about Global Exchange Reality Tour’s very special opportunity at Rights of Nature Tour of India with Vandana Shiva.

Read Global Exchange’s Community Rights Program Director Shannon Biggs blog about the first Rights of Nature trip that took place in November 2013.

Planting Seeds with Vandana Shiva & Prince Charles: Reality Tour to India’s Earth University

Planting Seeds with Vandana Shiva & Prince Charles: Reality Tour to India’s Earth University 2013

Seeding a transformed future

by Patricia Siemen May 12, 2015

Dr. Mira Shiva, Dr. Vandana Shiva and Sr. Pat Siemen. (Photo provided by Patricia Siemen)

Dr. Mira Shiva, Dr. Vandana Shiva and Sr. Pat Siemen. (Photo provided by Patricia Siemen)

Last month I returned from my first visit to India. I was invited to lead a week’s workshop on “Earth Democracy: Defending the Rights of People and Mother Earth” with Dr. Vandana Shiva and her sister Dr. Mira Shiva, a physician and leader in public health. The course took place at the Navdanya Biodiversity Learning Center at Bija Vidapeeth University in Dehradun, India.

Dehradun is nestled in the Doon Valley in northern India, at the foothills of the Himalayas, situated between the Ganges and Yamuna rivers. Eight of us traveled from New Delhi to Dehradun by train for five hours to reach the Earth University learning site. It is comprised of a communal living compound and 50 acres of farm land growing only plants from native seeds. Navdanya is organized as a Gandhian ashram with a commitment to non-violence and a daily schedule of meditation and communal work – preparing the meals, cleaning the common spaces and working in the garden. The teaching sessions are often held outside if the weather is amenable.

Teaching with Dr. Vandana Shiva, an internationally renowned environmentalist, physicist, author, speaker and seed-saver par excellence, is a high honor. She and I first met in 2010 when I invited her to lead a conference on Earth Rights; Human Rights at the Center for Earth Jurisprudence at Barry University School of Law where I teach. We reconnected in 2013 in Quito, Ecuador, during the World’s First Peoples’ Tribunal on the Rights of Mother Earth, which was sponsored by the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature. It was while we were in Ecuador that Vandana invited me to teach a week’s course with her in India.

Read Pat’s complete inspiring article Seeding a transformed future at GlobalSistersReport

Global Rights of Nature Summit and Public Tribunal

NEWS RELEASE
CONTACT: Robin R. Milam
Immediate Release: January 8, 2014
530.272.4322/Nature@TheRightsofNature.org

 GLOBAL ALLIANCE FOR THE EMERGENT “RIGHTS OF NATURE” MOVEMENT
TO HOLD ITS FIRST INTERNATIONAL SUMMIT
FOLLOWED BY A PUBLIC TRIBUNAL OF ACTUAL CASES

OTAVALO & QUITO, ECUADOR: JANUARY 13-17, 2014

Key leaders of the emergent nature rights movement are holding an international summit in Ecuador on January 13-17, 2014. Its twofold purpose is to analyze the experiences of communities in Ecuador, Bolivia, and United States that have already implemented “Rights of Nature” laws and to devise a unified global strategy for advancing the Rights of Nature movement around the world.

The summit will conclude on Friday, January 17, with a public Tribunal in Quito where key Rights of Nature cases will be heard, including the Chevron/Texaco case in Ecuador, the oil exploitation of Yasuní-ITT in Ecuador’s rainforest, and the threats to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. Drawing on precedents established in other successful Rights of Nature cases – such as the one finding that the rights of the Vilcabamba River had been violated by pollution – the Tribunal will model how to adjudicate the rights of nature in courts of law.

The five-dozen principals attending the summit represent diverse disciplines, cultures, nations, and bioregions as part of the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature. Among the attendees are Indian physicist Vandana Shiva, South African lawyer and author Cormac Cullinan, North American indigenous leader Tom Goldtooth, former Bolivian U.N. ambassador Pablo Solón, Canadian aboriginal actress Tantoo Cardinal, and U.S. community rights attorney Thomas Linzey. The group as a whole is comprised of economists, lawyers, scientists, indigenous leaders, community activists, nuns, actors, authors, and public officials hailing from Australia, Switzerland, South Africa, United States, Spain, Canada, India, Romania, Bolivia, Argentina, and England, as well as Ecuador.

The summit marks the first time leaders of the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature are coming together since 2010 when they created the organization as a vehicle to help advance the cutting edge work that each was carrying out in his or her home country. The historic 2010 gathering that forged the Global Alliance also was held in Ecuador, the first nation in the world to adopt Rights of Nature in its Constitution, in 2008.

The Tribunal will be held on Friday, January 17, at Hotel Quito, in Quito, where the Global Alliance will also host a Press Conference to report the results of the summit and next steps for the Rights of Nature movement. The Press Conference is at 10:30 am. The Tribunal will consider seven cases and run from 8:30 am to 17:00 pm. Press kits for the Tribunal will be available.

“The Rights of Nature movement is a response in the order of magnitude necessary to end the legalized plundering that is ravaging our planet and imperiling our young and the young of all species,” says Robin R. Milam, Administrative Director of the Global Alliance for Rights of Nature. “By recognizing nature’s right to exist and thrive, people can assert those rights on nature’s behalf, rejecting actions that permit harmful, unwanted development in their communities.”

Rights of Nature: Background

The Rights of Nature movement draws on indigenous wisdom in positing a new jurisprudence that recognizes the right of nature in all its forms to exist, persist, evolve and regenerate.

“A 40-year regime of environmental laws in the United States and other industrial nations has failed to protect against the escalating ravages evident around the world, including decimated species, depleted forest reserves, water shortages, and record-breaking hurricanes,” says Robin R. Milam, Administrative Director of the Global Alliance for Rights of Nature. “An entirely new approach is needed.”

Recognizing the rights of nature, which humans would have standing to enforce, reflects a shift in consciousness away from a legal system that treats nature as property for human use. “It is akin to the shift in consciousness – and change in laws – that took place when people said we should stop treating women, enslaved, or indigenous people as property,” Milam said. “And it is foundational: Human rights are meaningless without fresh water to drink, clean air to breath, safe food to eat.”

Local municipalities in the United States were the first to adopt laws establishing legal structures that recognized Rights of Nature, beginning in 2006 with Tamaqua Borough in Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania. Since then more than two-dozen U.S. communities have adopted local laws recognizing Rights of Nature, including Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which in November of 2010 became the first major municipality in the United States to do so.

In September 2008, Ecuador became the first country in the world to recognize Rights of Nature in its constitution and Bolivia enacted a law that recognizes rights of Mother Earth.

Nearly 100 grassroots organizations in the Americas, Africa, Asia, Australia, and Europe are members of the Global Alliance for Rights of Nature, advancing the Rights of Nature movement in their municipalities, counties, provinces, and countries.

The Rights of Nature movement is grounded conceptually in an understanding that humans are one part of an interdependent community of life on Earth. Human existence—in all its social, economic, industrial, cultural, and governmental manifestations—is wholly dependent on the health of rivers, plants, animals, oceans, forests, atmosphere, microbes, and other ecosystems and beings that with us comprise our living planet.

Beyond enlightened self-interest, the Rights of Nature movement also emerges philosophically and spiritually out of a sense of the wonder and awe that the natural world has inspired in humans for millennia, captured in art, music, and poetry—and our sense of the sacred.

For more, see Global Alliance for Rights of Nature at www.therightsofnature.org.

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Printable News Release – Rights of Nature Summit and Public Tribunal

Spiritual Ecology: The Cry of the Earth

Spiritual Ecology: The Cry of the Earth A Spiritual Response to our Present Ecological CrisisThe Global Peace Initiative of Women announces the recent release of Spiritual Ecology:  The Cry of the Earth, a collection of essays edited by Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee and presented as a spiritual response to our present ecological crisis.

“Our present ecological crisis is the greatest man-made disaster this planet has ever faced. Its accelerating climate change, species depletion, pollution and acidification of the oceans. A central but rarely addressed aspect of this crisis is our forgetfulness of the sacred nature of creation, and how this affects our relationship to the environment. There is a pressing need to articulate a spiritual response to this ecological crisis. This is vital and necessary if we are to help bring the world as a living whole back into balance.” – from Spiritual Ecology:  The Cry of the Earth

Today, at a time of multiple crises, we need to move away from thinking of nature as dead matter to valuing her biodiversity, clean water, and seeds. For this, nature herself will be the best teacher. When nature is a teacher, we ­co-create with her—we recognize her agency and her rights.  Dr Vandana Shiva, Everything I Need to Know I Learned in the Forest

Spiritual Ecology: The Cry of the Earth is edited by Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, with contributions from many individuals GPIW has had the honor to work with over the years — contributions from Chief Oren Lyons, Vandana Shiva, Thomas Berry, Thich Nhat Hanh,Chief Tamale Bwoya, John Stanley, David R. Loy, Mary Evelyn Tucker, Brian Swimme, Sister Miriam MacGillis, Wendell Berry, Winona LaDuke, Dr. Susan Murphy Roshi, Satish Kumar, Joanna Macy, Geneen Marie Haugen, Jules Cashford, Bill Plotkin, Sandra Ingerman, Pir Zia Inayat-Khan, Fr. Richard Rohr, and Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee.

The book is available through  the Spiritual Ecology website where you will also find additional articles, magnificent photos of our natural world and fascinating video interviews on this important theme. We have found this website to be a tremendous learning resource and encourage everyone to visit and share the link, particularly with young people who are feeling deep concern for our planet and for their future – these wise voices provide a welcome insight.

Dr. Vandana Shiva invites you to join her in India with Global Exchange

Global Exchange Reality Tours is planning a Rights of Nature; Rights of Seeds Tour to India with Dr. Vandana Shiva for November 1 – November 11, 2013.

“While India is such a beautiful and diverse country and culture and all [Global Exchange Reality] tours explore its rich history, political economy, and current social and ecological issues, what makes this particular trip spectacular are the trip leaders and their phenomenal experience. Trip participants will learn not only from the people, communities and organizations you will visit in India, but from each other and from organic conversations and formal lectures by Vandana Shiva and Global Exchange’s Community Rights Program Director Shannon Biggs.”

“I think it would be a really good idea at this moment in time, to do a Global Exchange trip to India on the issue of the seed…and the link to rights of Mother Earth. I mean where does all life begin? You begin with the seed.” Vandana Shiva collaborating with Shannon Biggs of Global Exchange

This journey will be an unforgettable opportunity of a life time to explore the deepest essence of Rights of Nature with Dr. Vandana Shiva on her Navdanya farm led by Shannon Biggs of Global Exchange.

Watch as Vandana describes the trip herself …

Learn more at India: Rights of Nature with Dr. Vandana Shiva 

Ganga’s Rights are our Rights!

Please Sign Now! http://www.avaaz.org/en/petition/Save_the_Ganga_River_Support_the_National_Ganga_Rights_Act/?cFmiRdb

The Ganga river (known to many outside India as the Ganges River) supports some 500 million people — more than the populations of the United States, Russia and Australia combined.  This most sacred river to the Hindus is dying.  Every day, over 3 billion litres of pollution, mostly toxic chemicals and untreated sewage, enters the Ganga, putting countless lives at stake. Elsewhere, the Ganga is diverted to the point that it disappears for stretches that can exceed 20 kilometers. As the river disappears, so does the ecosystem, which includes endangered species such as the beautiful Ganges River Dolphin.

The Ganga Action Parivar has declared Gangas Rights are our Rights!   In this race against time, National Ganga Rights Movement is asking for your help in demonstrating global support for the Rights of the Ganga River.

Sign petition to support the Ganga's Rights

Sign petition to support the Ganga’s Rights

Please begin by signing our petition and passing it along. While there is still time. We thank you so very much.

http://www.causes.com/actions/1739355-gangas-rights-are-our-rights-the-petition-for-lasting-change or at

http://www.avaaz.org/en/petition/Save_the_Ganga_River_Support_the_National_Ganga_Rights_Act/?cFmiRdb

The National Ganga Rights Act is proposed with the purposes of establishing, securing, and defending the inalienable and inherent rights of the Ganga River, its tributaries, and watershed, and the rights of the people of India to a healthy, thriving river basin.  Further, the Act establishes the rights of the people of India and their governments to defend and enforce the rights of the Ganga.

More specifically the Ganga Rights Act would:

  • Establish the Ganga’s right to exist, thrive, regenerate, and evolve;
  • Empower individuals, groups, and governments within India to protect and defend the Ganga’s rights in the court of law;
  • Affirm the rights of people, plants, fish and animals to a healthy Ganga;
  • Provide that any activity that interferes with the Ganga’s rights will be prohibited;
  • Provide that any damages that may be awarded for violations of the Ganga’s rights will be used to restore its ecosystem to its pre-damaged state;
  • Institute enforcement mechanisms to protect and defend the Ganga’s rights, including establishing governmental offices responsible for defending those rights.

Founding Global Alliance member Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) has partnered with  Ganga Action Parivar to draft the National Ganga River Rights Act. We invite you to support the peoples of India and the Ganga River by signing the petition.

Read more at GangasRights.org