The Legal Standing of Eco-systems

I would like in this post to introduce the work of the Community Environmental Defense Fund (CELDF), whose Associate Director Mari Margil offered the 2010 keynote at the Bioneers Conference. Margil articulates in a far more eloquent and succinct way than I can, the seedling work of turning existing environmental regulatory laws on their respective heads. It’s no secret that our environmental laws are not designed to protect eco-systems; rather they serve to regulate the pace of systemic corporate destruction. I am going to let this three part video speak for itself, in the hopes that you can find half an hour to give your full attention to a transformative way of practicing environmental law.

As they exist currently, environmental law protects the rights of corporations, not the rights of communities, and certainly not the rights of eco-systems. The country of Equador is the first to adopt a constitution that accords legal standing to eco-systems. The city of Spokane has adopted similar ordinances, as have the towns of Blaine, Pennsylvania, Barnstead and Nottingham New Hampshire, Shapleigh and Newfield, Maine.

As I keep contact with environmental activists in eastern Pennsylvania who are fighting the Marcellus Shale fracking operations, and environmental organizations in the states of New York and Ohio working to call a fracking moratorium, I can’t help but look to these examples as beacons of radical hope and radical joy, as people begin to make decisions about what can and cannot happen in their own communities.

As the Transition Movement makes itself known in regions throughout the world, the legal implications and potential are becoming increasingly important. What a gift it is to find examples of a country, a city, and small New England towns insisting on their autonomy, and coming to understand that unless and until we confer legal standing upon our eco-systems of which we are a part, and upon which we depend, then the healing and health of earth is a dream whose time is not coming.



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