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Archive for Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund

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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WE ARE ALL RELATED: Working together to fight fossil fuels

Pennie Opal Plant, LUSH Blog, May 2016
Author Pennie Opal Plant -Yaqui, Mexican, English, Choctaw, Cherokee and European leader and Ponca elder and tribal councilwoman, Casey Camp Horinek

Author Pennie Opal Plant is of Yaqui, Mexican, English, Choctaw, Cherokee and European ancestry. She’s been an activist for over 30 years on anti-nuclear, environmental and indigenous rights, and has been a lecturer with the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund. Pennie is also a founding member of Idle No More San Francisco Bay, is involved in promoting the Universal Declaration on the Rights of Mother Earth, and founded Gathering Tribes in 1991.

As I write this, I’ve just returned from seeing my niece’s newborn baby girl. As I gazed into her eyes, I said a silent prayer hoping we can find a way to shift the systems of government and business that have allowed the sacred system of life to become so out of balance that everything is now threatened. I also prayed that when she’s an adult that she’d live in a world that’s healthy, sustainable, vibrantly beautiful…and in balance.

“We are all related.” No doubt you’ve heard this phrase before, especially if you have friends who are Indigenous to North America. It has many meanings to many people, but ultimately it means that all of life on Mother Earth’s belly is related or connected. After more than 500 years of Indigenous People of the Americas sharing this information, it’s finally been proven. It’s past time for the western world to listen to the Indigenous People who are traditional and doing their best to live within the Original Instructions, guidelines given to people at the beginning of time, which dictate how to live in balance with our relations and the intelligent forces of nature. It would be a shame for humans to continue to violate these instructions to such an extent that life, as we know it can no longer be supported.

For the complete article visit: WE ARE ALL RELATED: Working together to fight fossil fuels at LUSH Blog.

Pennie is also co-founder of Movement Rights:
Shifting culture and law to truly protect people is the civil rights struggle of our time and its already happening in communities across the nation. Changing the rules will require more than tinkering at the margins of the current legal, political and corporate-led economic system; it will require a system change from the grassroots. It all begins with neighbors coming together to change their community. Movement Rights provides organizing and legal support for communities to assert their right to local self governance with our partners; leadership and international movement building for the rights of nature; and connects Indigenous leadership, wisdom and analysis toward living in balance with natural systems.  

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

First County in U.S. Bans Oil and Gas Extraction

In a press release by Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, Thomas Linzey, Esq. announces that Mora County, NM has become the first county in the US to ban oil and gas extraction via an “ordinance that calls for a State Constitutional Amendment to elevate the Rights of Communities above Corporate ‘Rights’ … and establishes a local Bill of Rights – including a right to clean air and water, a right to a healthy environment, and the rights of nature – while prohibiting activities which would interfere with those rights, including oil drilling and hydraulic fracturing or ‘fracking,’ for shale gas.”

Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund CELDF.org

First County in U.S. Bans Oil and Gas Extraction
Mora County, NM, Ordinance Includes Ban on Fracking

Ordinance calls for a State Constitutional Amendment to
Elevate the Rights of Communities Above Corporate “Rights”

Media Release:  April 29, 2013

Contact:
Thomas Linzey, Esq.
(978) 282-0110
tal@pa.net
www.CELDF.org

Mora County, NM: Earlier today, the County Commission of Mora County, located in Northeastern New Mexico, became the first county in the United States to pass an ordinance banning all oil and gas extraction.

Drafted with assistance from the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF), the Mora County Community Water Rights and Local Self-Government Ordinance establishes a local Bill of Rights – including a right to clean air and water, a right to a healthy environment, and the rights of nature – while prohibiting activities which would interfere with those rights, including oil drilling and hydraulic fracturing or “fracking,” for shale gas.

Communities across the country are facing drilling and fracking. Fracking brings significant  environmental impacts including the production of millions of gallons of toxic wastewater, which can affect drinking water and waterways. Studies have also found that fracking is a major global warming contributor, and have linked the underground disposal of frack wastewater to earthquakes.

CELDF Executive Director Thomas Linzey, Esq., explained, “Existing state and federal oil and gas laws force fracking and other extraction activities into communities, overriding concerns of residents. Today’s vote in Mora County is a clear rejection of this structure of law which elevates corporate rights over community rights, which protects industry over people and the natural environment.”

He stated further that, “This vote is a clear expression of the rights guaranteed in the New Mexico Constitution which declares that all governing authority is derived from the people. With this vote,  Mora is joining a growing people’s movement for community and nature’s rights.”

Printable PDF copy of:  First County in U.S. Bans Oil and Gas Extraction