Santa Monica, California Passes Sustainability Rights Ordinance
On April 9th, the City of Santa Monica, California unanimously passed their Sustainability Rights Ordinance, which recognizes that “natural communities and ecosystems possess fundamental and inalienable rights to exist and flourish in the City of Santa Monica.” The Ordinance includes protections for this right from acts by “corporate entities,” which it states “do not enjoy special privileges or powers under the law that subordinate the community's rights to their private interests.” FInally, the Ordinance also articulates the rights of people to self-governance, a healthy environment and sustainable living.
The rights described in the Ordinance will be advanced in part by the Santa Monica’s model Sustainable City Plan, which is being updated now and which sets out specific sustainability actions and goals.
Earth Law Center spoke at the first reading in strong support of the proposed Ordinance. Watch the video of the CIty Council meeting (scroll down to Item 7C). We commend the City of Santa Monica staff and Task Force on the Environment for this work, which we have been fortunate to promote with partners since its inception. Finally, we thank the City Council and Santa Monicans for their environmental leadership in becoming the first city in California to advance the rights of nature in law!
Read the HuffPost blog on the ordinance by ELC and the Santa Monica Task Force on the Environment, and the Alternet article by Global Exchange providing more details on this important step forward. CNBC also highlighted the ordinance for Earth Day, as did Grist and HuffPost Green.
This model is applicable worldwide as well. Read ELC's op-ed in the Victoria Times Colonist for an example of how to take action for rights of nature at the local level in Canada.
Earth Day Address by Earth Law Center to the U.N. on Rights of Nature
Earth Law Center addressed the United Nations on Earth Day, at the "Interactive Dialogue of the General Assembly on Harmony with Nature to Commemorate Mother Earth Day".
Along with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and invited panelists, ELC discussed alternative economic approaches that further a more ethical relationship with the Earth. ELC focused its remarks on the need to recognize the rights of nature in law and governance, as an essential tool in this effort. Read ELC's remarks here. You may listen to ELC's and the other speakers remarks here and watch them here. Read the commendation by the President of the UN General Assembly on Earth Law Center's participation.
For more, read the U.N. Summary of the Dialogue, the U.N. Press release, the U.N. Concept Note on this Earth Day event, the remarks of the Secretary-General of the U.N., and the remarks of the President of the General Assembly.
ELC Job Announcement
Earth Law Center is seeking a talented individual to fill a new Outreach and Policy Coordinator position. Please review the job announcement and email a resume and cover letter to firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested.
Vermonters Vote for Rights of Nature
Vermont's annual Town Meeting Day in March has been bringing together citizens for over 200 years. This year, two Vermont towns - Strafford and Norwich - passed Articles urging their Legislature to amend the state's Constitution to recognize the rights of nature. This is the first step of a multi-year effort to amend Vermont's Constitution to recognize the inherent rights of Vermont's natural environment, and to support those rights with citizen enforcement authority. Earth Law Center is pleased to have been able to assist with the development of the language for the Articles, starting with our work teaching Earth Law at top-ranked Vermont Law School. We welcome the opportunity to aid this important effort as it moves forward.
Rights of Waterways on World Water Day
Each March 22nd we celebrate World Water Day, to recognize and reflect on the life-giving nature of the Earth’s waters. In California, World Water Day coincides with critical opportunities for the public to reach out to state decisionmakers in support the rights of waterways to flow and be healthy.
First, the California State Water Resources Control Board is updating its Bay-Delta Water Quality Control Plan. This Plan sets state goals and strategies to protect the health of the San Francisco Bay-Delta Estuary, the largest estuary on the west coast of North America. ELC submitted comments emphasizing waterways' rights to well-being and urging the Water Board to adopt flows and salinity levels that fully protect the fish, wildlife and aquatic habitat of this world-renowned, but extremely threatened, estuary.
Second, the state of California is preparing a decades-long Plan that is supposed to address the rapid decline in the health of the Bay-Delta Estuary, brought about in large part by excessive water pumping through the Delta. However, rather than advance sustainable water solutions that reduce pumping, the major focus of this state effort has been on the construction of massive tunnels that would facilitate destructive water pumping even further. California has just begun releasing the Bay-Delta Conservation Plan environmental analysis chapters for public review, with the comment period to begin shortly. Learn more about this historic opportunity to protect the health and well-being of California’s waterways.
Why Rights of Nature
A new video, "Why Rights of Nature," explains more about the need for this movement. We invite you to view the video and visit our website further to learn more about our work to create legal systems that support the planet. Thank you!
Upcoming Events and Comment Opportunities
May 6-10, 2013: 20th session of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development, NY, NY. For more information, see here.
May 24-27, 2013: UKELA, Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, Scotland, Wildlife, Wilderness and Wild Law Weekend. Register now!
May 29, 2013, 9 am PST, 12 pm EST : Earth Law Center presents a Continuing Legal Education program, "Recognizing the Rights of Nature in Law: A Movement Whose Time Has Come?" Register here.
June 6-7, 2013: Earth Law Center conducts panel and workshop on Rights of Waterways at Waterkeeper Annual Conference, Pine Mountain, Georgia
June 17-20, 2013: Earth Law Center presents on waterway rights at Aquatic Ecosystem Health and Management Society Conference, Aquatic Ecosystems at the Edge: Managing for Sustainability, Victoria, BC
June 24, 2013, 1:00-2:30: Earth Law Center and Vernon Tava, Barrister and Solicitor of the High Court of New Zealand, conduct a webinar on waterway rights with the POLIS Project on Ecological Governance; look for details to be posted here
Ongoing: Track ongoing U.N. efforts to implement Rio +20 agreements on the UN site. Weigh in on the creation of the UN's "post-2015" development goals on the UN site and on a world NGO summary site.
Ongoing: Sign a petition to make Ecocide a crime in Europe.
The U.N. General Assembly’s Second Committee has approved a final resolution on “Harmony with Nature” and recommended it to the General Assembly for adoption. Sponsored by Bolivia with the additional sponsorship of the G77 and China, Georgia, and Ukraine, the resolution recognizes the growing rights of nature movement and calls for holistic approaches to sustainable development. The final resolution will be made available as a stand-alone document soon; for the moment, please find the resolution here, at Section III., pages 5-7. Finally, you can read the U.N. release on the draft resolution here.
New Trailer: "United Natures"
View the newly-released trailer for the documentary United Natures: A United Nations of All Species.