Archive for Mari Margil

Colombia Constitutional Court Finds Atrato River Possesses Rights

Press Release:  The Court Finds the Atrato Possesses Rights to “Protection, Conservation, Maintenance, and Restoration”

Rights of Nature Movement Gaining Ground as Court Declares Need to Move
Away from Legal Systems in Which Humans are the “Dominator of Nature”

“(I)t is the human populations that are interdependent of the natural world – and not the opposite – and that they must assume the consequences of their actions and omissions with the nature. It is a question of understanding this new sociopolitical reality with the aim of achieving a respectful transformation with the natural world and its environment, as has happened before with civil and political rights…Now is the time to begin taking the first steps to effectively protect the planet and its resources before it is too late…” – Colombia Constitutional Court

Press Statement

Mari Margil

MERCERSBURG, PA, USA: In November, in an extraordinary decision, Colombia’s Constitutional Court declared that the Atrato River basin possesses rights to “protection, conservation, maintenance, and restoration.”  The decision is only now being made public.

Columbia's Atrato River has rightsThe Court’s ruling comes in a case brought to address the significant degradation of the Atrato River basin from mining, impacting nature and indigenous peoples.

Declaring that the river has rights comes after thousands of years of history in which nature has been treated as “property” or “right-less” under the law.  Much like women, indigenous peoples, and slaves have been treated as property under the law, without legal rights, so today do legal systems treat nature.  Under this system, environmental laws regulate human use of nature, resulting in the decline of species and ecosystems worldwide, and the acceleration of climate change.

Transforming nature to be considered as rights-bearing – and thus in possession of legally enforceable rights – is part of the growing “Rights of Nature” movement.  The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) has been at the forefront of this movement, partnering with communities and governments in developing the world’s first Rights of Nature laws.

more …

Read full release at Colombia Court finds Atrato Rivers Possesses Rights

PR: India Court Declares Personhood for Ganga and Yumana Rivers

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

Mari Margil

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.


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:
  2. All of email addresses have been updated – you’ll see the Convenor address has been changed to
  3. Their facebook page has also been updated, but the link details remain the same –

To learn more about why the name change visit AELA’s facebook event page:

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:

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:

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:
  • 27-29 September – AWLA’s Conference, Brisbane –
  • 30 September – 5 October – “Exploring Community and Nature’s Rights”, Workshop and Seminar Series with the USA’s Community Environmental Legal Defence Fund ( ) – Brisbane, Melbourne and Perth.  For more information – watch our website!
  • 5-6 December – Environmental Justice Symposium, Brisbane – more information will be available soon on our website

Stepping stones – Tom Brenan reviews Exploring Wild Law

From Ecologist, by Tom Brenan

Tom Brenan discovers a wide range of voices from Earth law proponents around the world……

“In his preface to this collection of short articles, the editor Peter Burdon, says that the book is intended to be one step towards fulfilling Thomas Berry’s call for the Great Work ‘to carry out a transition from a period of human devastation of Earth to a time when humans would be present to the planet in a mutually beneficial manner’. While it is focused on law it also aims to appeal to those engaged in science, philosophy, religion and cultural studies.”

…”it is … a very important summary of Earth Jurisprudence’s evolution. Maybe the steps needed aren’t so big after all.”

Read Tom Brenan’s full review at TheEcologist, Stepping Stones

More about Exploring Wild Law from Wakefield Press:
Exploring Wild Law: The Philosophy of Earth Jurisprudence, Peter Burdon (ed.), Wakefield Press, 2011, ISBN 9781862549463
Exploring Wild Law The Philosophy of Earth Jurisprudence

Wild Law is a groundbreaking approach to law that stresses human dependence on nature. For the first time, this volume brings together voices from the leading proponents of wild law around the world.
Exploring Wild Law, The Philosophy of Earth Jurisprudence introduces readers to the idea of wild law and considers its relationship to environmental law, the rights of nature, science, religion, property law and international governance.

Compiled and edited by Peter Burdon, Exploring Wild Law is a collection of essays written by leaders in the field of Earth Jurisprudence! Among the authors are Thomas Berry, Ng’ang’a Thiong’o, Peter Burdon, Cormac Cullinan, Klaus Bosselmann, Linda Sheehan, Mari Margil, Judith E. Koons and many others.

Democracy Denied in Small Town, USA

by: Mt. Shasta Community Rights Project, Molly Brown  from 

Editor’s Note: Read the story of the inner workings of Mt. Shasta, California’s effort to pass a Community Water Rights and Self-Government Ordinance. Hear how the citizens of this small town were, as our author states, “denied their right to vote on this admittedly controversial measure.” The Ordinance would have banned corporate cloud seeding and water extraction.

[T]hose of us involved in the Ordinance project are part of the Mount Shasta watershed protecting itself.” –Author, Molly Brown, Mt. Shasta Resident

Opening excerpts:

I live in the beautiful small town of Mt. Shasta (population 3,500) in far northern California. The town is nestled at the base of Mount Shasta, a 14,170-foot volcano that last erupted some 500 years ago. The town is surrounded by mountains and forests, high mountain lakes are scattered throughout. The headwaters of the mighty Sacramento River flow out of a spring in our City Park. In short, I live in paradise, and along with many other citizens of South Siskiyou County, I want to preserve it for generations to come.

Mt Shasta - Robin Milam

Mt. Shasta Community Water Rights and Self-Government Ordinance

A year and a half ago, a friend asked me to attend a meeting of a group promoting a citizen initiative called the Mt. Shasta Community Water Rights and Self-Government Ordinance. The group of younger (than me) people inspired me to join the effort, just for the pleasure of working with such a committed, intelligent, heart-centered group.

I knew that this group had formed in response to a cloud seeding program that PG&E, a California public utilities corporation, was proposing nearby. PG&E wanted to cloud-seed in hopes of artificially forcing clouds to rain upstream of their hydroelectric dams. Citizens concerned about this program had soon discovered that there was absolutely no regulation of this activity as long as the towers that would expel the cloud-seeding chemicals were located on private land—never mind that the chemicals would travel onto neighboring properties. The utility was required only to place a notice in the local paper, and nothing more—no Environmental Impact Report, no permit from the county, no oversight whatsoever. We receive no power from PG&E but would have to deal with any weather complications from the cloud seeding, and endure any chemical side effects—with no benefit and no recourse!

Shannon Biggs of Global Exchange contacted the group and offered help. Her “Community Rights Program” assists communities confronted by corporate harms to enact laws that place the rights of communities and the rights of Nature above the claimed “rights” of corporations. She also put the group in contact with the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF), which has helped over 150 communities on the East Coast to pass laws that have successfully barred harmful corporate activities. Shannon and Ben Price from CELDF taught a “Democracy School” to interested people in Mt. Shasta, who then launched the ordinance project. The School introduced the concept of rights-based law, which derives its authority from citizens’ rights to local self-government and to a healthy environment, and the rights of natural communities and ecosystems to survive and thrive (also called “the Rights of Nature”). Rights-based laws can prohibit specified harmful activities outright.

Read Molly’s full story in at

Wild Law – I Diritti della Natura released in Italy

I Diritti della Natura - Wild Law by Cormac Cullinan

Davide Sapienza and Diritti della Natura Italia (Rights of Nature Italy) are proud to announce the publication of I Diritti della Natura – Wild Law.  Because of the inspiration of Cormac Cullinan, Mari Margil, Thomas Linzey and others, Davide translated the book Wild Law, A Manifesto for Earth Justice into Italian over the course of a few short months.

A national preview of Cormac Cullinan’s Wild Law was held in Bergamo, Italy on May 1, 2012. Davide notes, “The first presentation of the book by Cormac Cullinan was an extraordinary moment of sharing. We had over 100 friends with us who were stimulated and enriched by the presentation. Max Pavan and Riccardo Carnovalini added precisely the ‘heart’ needed in this journey to the rights of Nature.”

The book will be available in bookstores in Italy on May 20, 2012.

Rights of Nature dialogue in Nepal with CELDF

Since 2009, the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, head of the Global Alliance’s Legislative Assistance Working Group, has been in discussions with the Center for Economic and Social Development (CESOD) in Nepal, a civil society organization whose work has increasingly focused on environmental issues.  Among its many environmental concerns, a critical issue for Nepal is global warming as the Himalayan glaciers melt.

CESOD contacted the Legal Defense Fund to discuss “rights of nature” and how to include it in the country’s new constitution.  Nepal’s constitution drafting process has moved slowly over the past several years, and now the country’s Supreme Court has established a final deadline of May 27 for its completion.

The Legal Defense Fund was invited to Kathmandu by CESOD this spring to meet with members of the Constitutional Assembly to discuss including rights of nature in the new constitution.  With the support of the Global Alliance, the Legal Defense Fund’s Executive Director, Thomas Linzey, and Associate Director, Mari Margil, traveled to Kathmandu in April.

CESOD arranged a series of meetings with key members of the Constitutional Assembly, including members of the Constitutional Committee responsible for the final drafting of the constitution, as well as members of the Environmental Thematic Committee, the constitutional drafting committee focused on environmental issues.  CESOD also arranged meetings with staff of the Environmental Ministry and the Forestry Department, as well as environmental organizations including World Wildlife Fund-Nepal and the National Trust for Nature Conservation of Nepal.

At each of these meetings, the Legal Defense Fund presented on the rights of nature and why U.S. communities, the country of Ecuador, and others are now seeking to advance a new “rights-based” legal paradigm for protecting nature.  The Legal Defense Fund also presented draft constitutional provisions, developed for the Nepali constitution.   CESOD and the Legal Defense Fund continue to work together to advance the rights of nature framework in Nepal.

Rights of Nature Letter to President of Italy


13/04/2012 DavSa Presentazioni

Alla conferenza I Diritti della Natura di Alzano Lombardo del 30 marzo 2012, abbiamo raccolto oltre 150 firme per la lettera da inviare al Presidente della Repubblica Italiana, lettera scritta dalla nostra Francesca Mancini. Oggi apprendiamo che Vandana Shiva sta facendo la stessa cosa con il presidente della sua nazione, l’India (firmala qui), siamo felici di questo perché quando è stata a Bergamo, il 26 e 27 marzo, avevamo avuto modo di scambiare alcuni pensieri e sensazioni che ci accomunano. Vandana Shiva alla lettera ha premesso la Dichiarazione Universale dei Diritti della Madre Terra (leggila qui). La nostra lettera è la seguente, presto vi faremo avere un link dove poterla firmare. Intanto, potete leggerla, stamparla, diffonderla, insomma, farla vostra. E’ di tutti noi, per tutti noi e le altre creature che con noi vivono.

Alzano Lombardo, 30 marzo 2012


Al Presidente della Repubblica Italiana

On.le Giorgio Napolitano

Palazzo del Quirinale

00187 ROMA

Eccellentissimo Signor Presidente,

a seguito del largo consenso che ha ottenuto il dibattito sui Diritti della Natura svoltosi il 30 marzo 2012 ad Alzano Lombardo (BG) – seguito da una proficua raccolta di firme – Le rivolgiamo questo appello urgente con il quale richiediamo il riconoscimento costituzionale dei diritti propri della Natura e della Terra.

E’ ormai dimostrato che l’esperimento dell’umanità di adottare uno stile di vita a spese della Natura ha fallito. La ragione prima di questo fallimento è che abbiamo messo l’importanza della nostra specie al di sopra di tutto il resto. Abbiamo erroneamente considerato la Terra, i suoi ecosistemi e la miriade dei suoi esseri viventi soltanto come nostre risorse, che hanno valore solo quando soddisfano i nostri bisogni e i nostri desideri.

La nostra Carta Costituzionale,soprattutto attraverso il suo silenzio in merito,si sottrae alla responsabilità di legittimare una minima protezione legale al mondo naturale di cui tutti – anche Lei, sig. Presidente – facciamo parte e da cui tutti dipendiamo.

I nostri dibattiti dottrinali e giurisprudenziali lo dimostrano: continuano a svolgersi intorno all’ampiezza della nozione di paesaggio contenuta nell’art. 9 della Costituzione e considerano la norma come avente “di mira unicamente i valori paesaggistici sotto il profilo dei quadri naturali che essi realizzano”, senza prendere in esame la Natura in quanto tale. Allo stesso modo, il termine ambiente, altrettanto dibattuto, nel nostro ordinamento è addirittura privo di una definizione giuridica. Questo rende il termine oggetto delle più disparate e fantasiose interpretazioni che – è questo il punto cruciale – mai considerano la Natura quale entità dal valore intrinseco e soggetto di diritti, non prevedendo politiche in grado di assicurare alle prossime generazioniun ambiente salubre ed ecologicamente in equilibrio.

La Dichiarazione dei Diritti di Madre Terra, presentata all’ONU nel 2010 – della quale siamo convinti Lei sia a conoscenza – si rivolge soprattutto ai singoli sistemi legali e di governo, invitandoli a riconoscere l’appartenenza di tutti alla comunità della Terra e a dichiarare, rispettare e difendere i diritti di tutti gli esseri, ecosistemi ed organismi viventi. Proprio come ha fatto l’Ecuador, primo Paese al mondo a dotarsi di articoli costituzionali specifici che prevedono diritti della Pachamama, la Madre Terra. La Bolivia si appresta a seguire l’esempio dell’Ecuador.

Ecco perché l’avvocato Mari Margil, che ha lavorato alla stesura della Costituzione dell’Ecuador, sarà per la prima volta in Italia,ospite d’eccezione all’incontro del 30 marzo a Bergamo, dove spiegherà come il cambiamento passa anche attraverso una revisione del linguaggio con il quale pensiamo alla protezione della Terra e delle sue risorse naturali e ad un ripensamento del diritto stesso.

Il Popolo italiano, come ha ultimamente dimostrato l’eclatante risultato del Referendum sull’Acqua, ha sentito, forse istintivamente,di riconoscere l’acqua come bene che appartiene alla Terra e non come strumento di potere in mano all’uomo, decidendo di difenderla in nome della sua stessa sopravvivenza.

Convinti di interpretare un sentire collettivo e soprattutto non condizionatoda alcuna ideologia di parte, ci sentiamo indovere di chiedere attraverso la Sua persona, al Governo insediatosi in questi ultimi mesi e al Parlamento di voler inserirenella Costituzione Italiana, specifici articoli che prevedano la Protezione dei Diritti della Natura. Soprattutto in vista dell’imminente Summit Internazionale del giugno 2012 “Rio+20”, l’Italia non può permettersi di sottrarsi al fondamentale compito di apportare il suo contributo e di condividere appieno i valori che – speriamo – la comunità internazionale sarà pronta a riconoscere e tutelare.

Siamo sicuri che solo attraverso tale riconoscimento potremo assicurare il mantenimento della vita sulla Terra.

RingraziandoLa anticipatamente per la Sua attenzione, porgiamo le nostre più vive cordialità restando in attesa di una Sua cortese risposta.

In fede

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