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Archive for CELDF

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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Video Alianza Global por los Derechos de la Naturaleza

Video que narra la creacion de la Alianza Global por los Derechos de la Naturaleza y el Tribunal Etico por los Derechos de la Naturaleza.

Australian Earth Laws Alliance Updates

Australian Wild Law Alliance (AWLA) announces that as of 22nd July they have changed to the Australian Earth Laws Alliance (AELA)Australian Earth Laws AllianceAELA’s new logo was created by designer Skeet Booth.  The human fingerprint embedded in the leaf is a lovely symbol of our interconnectedness with the non-human world.

AELA’s new website and contact details
  1. AELA’s website has been updated, including a smooth transition to their new domain name: http://www.earthlaws.org.au
  2. All of email addresses have been updated – you’ll see the Convenor address has been changed to convenor@earthlaws.org.au
  3. Their facebook page has also been updated, but the link details remain the same – https://www.facebook.com/pages/Australian-Earth-Laws-Alliance/250157398335531

To learn more about why the name change visit AELA’s facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/174249409411306/

Wild Law 2013 Conference: Call for Papers closes this Wednesday, 31 July

If you’d like give a presentation or host a discussion group at this year’s Wild Law Conference, please send us your abstract by 5pm this Wednesday, 31 July. Details about submitting an abstract can be found here: http://www.earthlaws.org.au/wildlaw-conference-2013-brisbane/call-for-papers/

New workshop series – “Exploring Community and Nature’s Rights” –
with CELDF (Community Environmental Legal Defence Fund, USA)
30 September to 4 October 2013

AELA is pleased to provide an update on a workshop and public lecture series which they are hosting in partnership with CELDF from the USA.  The workshops will explore different approaches to protecting the rights of local communities and the rights of nature.  Further information will be uploaded next week to: http://www.earthlaws.org.au/events/

The workshop schedule is as follows:

Brisbane, Monday September 30th – This workshop will feature Thomas Linzey and Mari Margil from the USA’s Community Environmental Legal Defence Fund (CELDF); Nati Green from Ecuador’s Fundacion Pachamama, Drew Hutton and Annie Kia from the Lock the Gate Alliance and Aidan Ricketts, Southern Cross University and author of the Community Activists Handbook. It will be held at the EcoCentre, Griffith University, from 9.30 to 4.30pm.

Melbourne, Wednesday 2nd October– hosted by the Environmental Defender’s Office, Victoria.  Details will be available soon!

Western Australia –  Margaret River and Perth, 3rd to 5th October.  A series of workshops and public lectures will be held in Margaret River and Perth from Thursday 3rd August to Saturday 5th August.  These events are being co-hosted by Eco-Logik International, the Conservation Council of Western Australia and the University of Western Australia.  More details soon!

Upcoming Events

  • 3rd August.  AWLA’s National Convenor, Michelle Maloney, will be giving a presentation about Earth Laws and the Rights of Nature movement at the Bellingen ‘Festival of Ideas: Water, Lands, Wildlife, Forests”, to be held from 1pm at the Bellingen Memorial Hall, on Saturday 3rd August (this weekend). For more information please contact Caroline Joseph: caroj2@bigpond.com
  • 27-29 September – AWLA’s Conference, Brisbane – http://www.earthlaws.org.au/wildlaw-conference-2013-brisbane/
  • 30 September – 5 October – “Exploring Community and Nature’s Rights”, Workshop and Seminar Series with the USA’s Community Environmental Legal Defence Fund (www.celdf.org ) – Brisbane, Melbourne and Perth.  For more information – watch our website! http://www.earthlaws.org.au/events/
  • 5-6 December – Environmental Justice Symposium, Brisbane – more information will be available soon on our website

Fracking up the Environment: Organization Urges Public to Ban Hydraulic Fracturing in California

UCSB – The Bottom Line, by Kyle Skinner

April 24, 2013

The Santa Barbara Public Library hosted an information session on hydraulic fracturing, otherwise known as “fracking,” put on by Global Exchange on Friday, April 19.

The group brought along a panel of experts consisting of University of California, Santa Barbara Professor of Geography Catherine Gautier, Pittsburgh City Councilman Doug Shields, Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) member Ben Price, Environmental Lawyer Nathan Alley, State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson, SLO Environmental activist Genie Blackwell, and Global Exchange representative Shannon Biggs.

Hydraulic fracturing is the process in which gas and oil companies drill deep into the Earth’s crust to get to the bedrock that has gas or oil trapped underneath. The company sends down pressurized water down to break up the rock and to release the natural gas for a source of clean burning energy.

However, the Global Exchange is convinced that although the gas is clean burning, the processes of retrieving it is much more detrimental to the environment than burning fossil fuels.

Read the full article at : Fracking up the Environment: Organization Urges Public to Ban Hydraulic Fracturing in California

Santa Monica Recognizes Legal Standing for Ecosystems

Legalizing Sustainability? Santa Monica Recognizes Rights of Nature

11th April, 2013 – Posted by Shannon Biggs
Reprinted from Global Exchange Media Release

First-in-California law seeks to make sustainability legal

On April 9, the City Council of Santa Monica voted 7-0 to adopt the state’s first ever Bill of Rights for Sustainability, directing the city to “recognize the rights of people, natural communities and ecosystems to exist, regenerate and flourish.” Santa Monica joins dozens of U.S. communities, the nations of Ecuador, Bolivia, and New Zealand in the fast-growing movement for Nature’s Rights.

With the passage of this ordinance, Santa Monica challenges the legal status of nature as merely property, and empowers the City or residents to bring suit on behalf of local ecosystems. While not eliminating property ownership, these new laws seek to eliminate the authority of a property owner to destroy entire ecosystems that exist and depend upon that property. The ordinance also mandates the City to follow the Sustainable City Plan as a guide for decision-making to maximize environmental benefits and reduce or eliminate negative environmental impacts.

“As a city with very little green space or fresh local water, becoming a model for sustainability and moving toward self-reliance is important for our community’s long term well-being,” says Cris Guttierez, organizer for Santa Monica Neighbors Unite!, a group that organized and mobilized residents to support the law. “We’re proud to be on the cutting edge of environmental protection.”

The idea came about from conversations between Mark Gold, the 20-year Chair of Santa Monica’s Task Force on the Environment, and Linda Sheehan, who now directs the nonprofit Earth Law Center. “Linda and I had been pretty successful over the years in the water quality arena,” says Gold. “But we realized that despite all our good work protecting public health and environmental resources, we were still as a society going backwards in the big picture. It was time to shake things up, recognize the existing environmental laws just weren’t doing the job and that sustainability wasn’t actually possible as long as we treat nature as a thing to be exploited.”

Sheehan, also an environmental attorney, brought in California-basedGlobal Exchange and Pennsylvania law group, theCommunity Environmental Legal Defense Fund(CELDF), organizations specializing in assisting communities to write new laws to place the rights of communities and ecosystems above corporate profits, to hold a 3-day “Democracy School” training in Santa Monica.

Sheehan and Global Exchange’s Community Rights program director, Shannon Biggs then presented draft ordinances to the Task Force on The Environment. As Shannon Biggs, Community Rights Director for Global Exchange told the Task Force, “Recognizing rights for nature does not stop development; rather it stops the kind of development that interferes with the existence and vitality of those ecosystems.”

The process took about three years in total, and the ordinance went through several changes during the course of numerous Task Force and other public meetings.  The ordinance was eventually submitted to the city council in 2012.  At that time, before a packed chamber, dozens of residents spoke in support of the ordinance, spurring the council to pass a resolution in support of its Rights of Nature provisions.

Then, in a surprise move, Santa Monica’s City Attorney, Marsha Jones Moutrie, met with Sheehan and Gold to talk about the ordinance and its framework of rights, and ended up drafting a new version — ultimately becoming the ordinance that passed by unanimous vote of the Council this year. “The final ordinance is not as strong as the original, notes Global Exchange’s Biggs, citing a few examples, “it doesn’t strip Constitutional protections like corporate personhood or the Commerce Clause that enable corporations to override community concerns, and it doesn’t strictly prohibit any activities, which means it is up to the community to keep the pressure on the city to enforce it when something comes up. But it’s a step forward for brand new environmental protections.”

Gold and Guttierez don’t believe holding the City’s feet to the fire will be a problem, and the ordinance does mandate regular public reviews of the Sustainability City Plan and forces the city to take action if goals aren’t being met. As Guttierez notes, “Working to educate people about rights of nature and the ordinance was a challenge, but now our work really begins. Many goals we could not lay out in the ordinance, but at the same time, that’s what we should be driving for, practical measurable goals. Turning it into an educational tool is exciting. Sustainability is now our legal commitment.”

A New Civil Rights Movement: Liberating Our Communities from Corporate Control

Today’s global Rights of Nature and Rights of Communities over Corporate “Personhood” movement started over a decade ago in Pennsylvania’s heartland.  Thomas Linzey of Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF.org) has been working in the forefront with these communities.  Read further as Linzey highlights a landmark decision in March 2013 where a Pennsylvania judge holds that corporations are not “persons” under the Pennsylvania Constitution.

Community Environmen​tal Legal Defense FundCELDF.org

A New Civil Rights Movement:
Liberating Our Communities from Corporate Control
A Pennsylvania Judge Holds That Corporations Are Not “Persons”

Under the Pennsylvania Constitution
By Thomas Alan Linzey, Esq., Executive Director
March 28, 2013

To protect small and family farms from industrial factory farms, over a decade ago a handful of Pennsylvania townships picked a fight with some of the country’s largest agribusiness corporations. Recognizing that the state and federal government, rather than protecting them from factory farms, were in fact forcing them into communities, the townships took the unprecedented step of banning corporate farming within their borders.

Thus began the journey to spark a new civil rights movement – one aimed at elevating the right of communities over the “rights” of corporations to use communities for their own ends.

In a departure from the usual David and Goliath story, with one tiny community battling a giant corporation, today there are over 150 “Davids” in eight states that have followed the lead of those Pennsylvania townships. Community by community, they’ve banned corporate “fracking” for shale gas,  factory farming, sludge dumping, large-scale water withdrawals, and industrial-scale energy projects.

But they’re not intent on simply stopping the immediate threat of fracking or factory farming. Rather, they’re adopting Community Bills of Rights that ban such projects as violations of the community’s right to a sustainable energy and farming future. And to protect those Bills of Rights, they are legislatively overturning a slew of corporate legal doctrines – like corporate “personhood” – that have been concocted over the past century to keep communities from interfering with corporate prerogatives.

These communities believe that if ten thousand other localities do the same, that those tremors will begin to shake loose a new system of law – a system in which courts and legislatures begin to elevate community rights above corporate rights, and thus, begin to liberate cities and towns to build economically and environmentally sustainable communities free from corporate interference.

Last week, a Pennsylvania county court gave this new movement a boost – declaring that corporations are not “persons” under the Pennsylvania Constitution, and therefore, that corporations cannot elevate their “private rights” above the rights of people.The ruling was delivered in a case brought by several Western Pennsylvania newspapers which sought the release of a sealed settlement agreement between a family claiming to be affected by water contamination from gas fracking, and Range Resources – one of the largest gas extraction corporations in the state.  Range Resources argued that unsealing the settlement agreement would violate the corporation’s constitutional right to privacy under the Pennsylvania Constitution.

In a landmark ruling, President Judge Debbie O’Dell-Seneca of the Washington County Court of Common Pleas denied the corporation’s request on the basis that the Pennsylvania Constitution only protects the rights of people, not business entities.

In the ruling, Judge O’Dell-Seneca declared that “in the absence of state law, business entities are nothing.” If corporations could claim rights independent from people, she asserted, then “the chattel would become the co-equal to its owners, the servant on par with its masters, the agent the peer of its principals, and the legal fabrication superior to the law that created and sustains it.”
She further found that “the constitution vests in business entities no special rights that the laws of this Commonwealth cannot extinguish. In sum, [corporations] cannot assert [constitutional privacy] protections because they are not mentioned in its text.”

Judge O’Dell-Seneca cited sections of the 1776 Pennsylvania Constitution in support of her contention that corporations were never intended to be constitutionally protected “persons.” She declared that “an even more dubious proposition is that the framers of the Constitution of 1776, given their egalitarian sympathies, would have concerned themselves with vesting, for the first time in history, indefeasible rights in such entities. . . that language extends only to natural persons.”

Finally, she tackled the very nature of corporations by declaring that “it is axiomatic that corporations, companies, and partnerships have no ‘spiritual nature,’ ‘feelings,’ ‘intellect,’ ‘beliefs,’ ‘thoughts,’ ‘emotions,’ or ‘sensations,’ because they do not exist in the manner that humankind exists. . . They cannot be ‘let alone’ by government, because businesses are but grapes, ripe upon the vine of the law, that the people of this Commonwealth raise, tend, and prune at their pleasure and need.”

The court records unsealed by the ruling reveal that Range Resources, and the other corporations which were the subject of the complaint, paid out $750,000 to settle claims of water contamination caused by fracking.

The ruling represents the first crack in the judicial armor that has been so meticulously welded together by major corporations. And it affirms what many communities already know – that change only occurs when people begin to openly question and challenge legal doctrines that have been treated as sacred by most lawyers and judges.

It is that disobedience – of entire communities sitting at lunch counters demanding to be served – that is our only hope of salvation in a world increasingly commandeered by a small handful of corporate decisionmakers intent on remaking the world as their own.

A revolution that subordinates the powers and rights of corporations to the rights of people and nature now waits in the wings. Perhaps now, we’re ready to move it to center stage.

For a printable pdf visit: A New Civil Rights Movement:
Liberating Our Communities from Corporate Control

Grafton, New Hampshire Adopts Community Bill of Rights

Bans Land Acquisition for Unsustainable Energy Systems

Massive wind turbines installed by an Iberdrola project tower over ridges in Grafton County, New Hampshire and have had a devastating impact on the environment and this rural community.  Iberdrola is Spain’s largest energy group and a global leader in wind energy.  Grafton, NH residents learned that Iberdrola was proposing another large industrial wind project that would install wind turbines along other ridgelines in their County.  They turned to CELDF for assistance in defining a plan of action and drafting a Community Bill of Rights.

On Tuesday March 12, 2013, at a Town Meeting residents of Grafton voted to adopt an ordinance that establishes a community Bill of Rights and prohibits corporations from engaging “in land acquisition necessary for the siting or construction of  unsustainable energy systems”.

The ordinance recognizes rights to pure water, clean air, a sustainable energy future  as a “fundamental and inalienable right to protect and preserve the scenic, historic and aesthetic values of the town,” and that the people of Grafton at all times enjoy and retain “an inalienable and indefeasible right to self-governance in the community where they reside.” The ordinance also recognizes natural communities and ecosystems have “inalienable and fundamental rights to exist and flourish within the Town,” and that “residents of the town shall possess legal standing to enforce those rights on behalf of those natural communities and ecosystems.”

Read more at Grafton, New Hampshire Adopts Community Bill of Rights That Bans Land Acquisition for Unsustainable Energy Systems

 

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