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The law, Marx and Mother Earth

See you in court? Mother Earth has an ally in Stephen Marx on the march for her legal rights in Vermont.

Read the full article The law, Marx and Mother Earth in the Burlington Free Press, by Joel Banner Baird, Burlington, VA.

Joel Banner Baird details Stephen Marx’s determination to add “Ch.1, Article 22 (Rights of Nature). That the natural environment of Vermont, including its forests, natural areas, surface and ground waters, and fish and wildlife populations, has certain natural, inherent and unalienable rights to clean water and air.” to the Vermont State Constitution.

In 2012, Marx’s home town of Strafford voted to approve the amendment to grant legal rights to Nature.  The amendment is moving forward to other townships in Vermont.

Baird references allies who have taken similar steps, from Ecuador to the City of Pittsburgh, PA.

In response to a threat to groundwater posed by hydro-fracking, the city of Pittsburgh passed a law, a section of which reads:

“Natural communities and ecosystems, including, but not limited to, wetlands, streams, rivers, aquifers, and other water systems, possess inalienable and fundamental rights to exist and flourish within the City of Pittsburgh. Residents of the City shall possess legal standing to enforce those rights on behalf of those natural communities and ecosystems.”

Dozens of other jurisdictions have similar laws on the books, documented on the Earth Law Center website: earthlaw.org.

Why did Stephen Marx initiate the State Constitution amendment process?

The 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision in favor of “corporate personhood” (in Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission) tipped the scales.

“It was really bothering me. I was getting angrier and angrier,” Marx remembers. “I tend to shut down when I’m angry, so I walked up the hill with May (his dog). I said to myself, ‘Wait a second — corporations have rights. We gave them rights; I gave them rights’ — I mean, I vote; I accept responsibility. It means that corporations can do whatever they want, but the Earth can’t. And that was it.

Everyone had been saying ‘We can change this,’” Marx continued. “And then it came to me: We can’t change this — no one’s going to change multinational corporations. But maybe we can make it an even playing field. It became something positive, instead of a negative.”

Then he audited the Earth Law course at Vermont Law School taught by Linda Sheehan, Executive Director, Earth Law Center.

Read the full article The law, Marx and Mother Earth in the Burlington Free Press, by Joel Banner Baird, Burlington, VA.