Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Ecuador Referendum upholds Rights of Nature

It's been a life affirming week for me - a week of intense study of Earth Jurisprudence at Shumacher College, followed by a UKELA weekend workshop in Derbyshire. Earth jurisprudence is aimed at ensuring that legal and governance systems support, rather than undermine, the integrity and health of the Earth through the development of an ecocentric approach to law and governance. While most of the world’s legal systems advance the interests and concerns of the human community and provide no real protection to other species, or to the planet itself, Earth jurisprudence proposes a radical overhaul of approaches to law making, to ensure that the planet and all species have rights, by virtue of their existence as members of a single Earth community.

But most life-affirming of all, after a week of concentrated examination of theory and application (and some unforgettable wild moments to boot) came wonderful news from Ecuador. Sunday 28th September brought a historic moment in the evolution of protection of our planet.

By an overwhelming margin, the people of Ecuador voted for a new Constitution that is the first in the world to recognize legally enforceable Rights of Nature, or ecosystem rights. In a country rich with ecological treasures, including the Galapagos Islands and part of the Amazon rain forest, the constitution also calls on government to avoid measures that would destroy ecosystems or drive species to extinction. Ecuador is now the first country in the world to codify a new system of environmental protection based on rights.

With this vote, the people of Ecuador are leading the way for countries around the world to fundamentally change how we protect nature.

Article 1 of the new "Rights for Nature" chapter of the Ecuador constitution reads: "Nature or Pachamama, where life is reproduced and exists, has the right to exist, persist, maintain and regenerate its vital cycles, structure, functions and its processes in evolution. Every person, people, community or nationality, will be able to demand the recognitions of rights for nature before the public bodies."

Ecuador's constitution recognizes that ecosystems possess the inalienable and fundamental right to exist and flourish, and that people possess the legal authority to enforce those rights on behalf of ecosystems, and the requirement of the government to remedy the violations of those ecosystem rights.

What is so interesting is that this Constitution has been borne out of crisis and driven at local municipal government level. Because there have been so many abuses, pollution, violence and corruption by foreign mining companies, the people revolted against this so-called development by central government. Thus, this remarkable piece of legislation was borne of the people taking responsibility for their land.

But all is not yet perfect. Whilst the Constitution is a vast bridge in the right direction, it does at the same time incorporate sweeping powers bestowed upon the President. Pressure from US and Canadian governments remains to allow mining in particular in the south of the country where there has been less local opposition. Time will tell whether the weight of US destruction continues or is prevented.

Nevertheless this is cause for huge celebration. The world’s environmental and social crisis will only get worse, unless humans are compelled by law to respect the laws of nature and the rights of other members of the Earth community. Ecuador's Rights of Nature Constitution is Wild Law in the making - and a vitally crucial precedent that other nations must follow.

Wild Law by Cormac Cullinan
Enact International
Centre For Earth Jurisprudence
Earth Jurisprudence
The Legal Defense Fund
The Pachamama Alliance

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Transition Towns Comes to London

Just a reminder of tonights event - a few places remain, so do come along if you have not already replied, we will squeeze you in.
Concerned about escalating oil prices and Peak Oil?
Frustrated at the lack of governmental support?
Wondering what to do to survive the post-petroleum world?

Mike Grenville of Changing Worlds will be discussing Peak Oil and the urgency of action required.

Rob Hopkins, author of The Transition Handbook, will be speaking on how communities can respond effectively to climate chaos and the end of cheap oil - and how to start to build local resilient networks.

Some Transition communities and other like-minded organisations are already in existence in London. Come hear what they have to say, discover what is going on in your area, learn what pitfalls to avoid when starting a group and much more.

Panel Discussion speakers: Suzy Edwards of Camden Climate Action Network, Duncan Law of Transition Town Brixton, Mary Fee of LETSLink, Lucy Neal of Transition Town Tooting and Hilary Gander of Transition Town Kingston.

With music from members of the Brass Volcanoes, a carbon-neutral jazz band

What: Transition Towns Comes to London
Who: Rob Hopkins and Others
Where: Conway Hall, 25 Red Lion Square, London WC1
When: Tues 16th Sept, 6.30pm - 8.30pm
Cost: £5 on the door (includes refreshments)
RSVP: events@wisewomen.me.uk

(photo: Rob Hopkins, Mike Grenville, Suzy Edwards, Duncan Law, Mary Fee, Hilary Gander)

* To buy the book, The Transition Handbook, visit the Wise Women Books page

Not Guilty - The Kingsnorth Six

At a time when banks and mortgage lenders are either going belly-up or being bailed-out, hurricanes are taking their toll over Asia and India, stock markets are crashing and estate agents are going out of fashion at the rate of one a day (just how many are there?), there are indications of the beginning of a shifting consciousness - in the UK at least. People are beginning to demonstrate their concerns in unusual ways, and are beginning to vote with their conscience.

Just last week at Maidstone Crown Court an unusual and important jury verdict was declared which favoured the planet and the natural world. Six Greenpeace activists were cleared of causing criminal damage around £35,000 worth of damage to a coal-fired power station. Their defence was that their occupation of the power station prevented property damage (caused by climate change). It is a pioneering case in which preventing such property damage has been used as part of a "lawful excuse" in legal defence.

This is a vitally important step in recognising potential legal 'rights' of the planet. It also gives strength to future actions by environmental activists in advocating for the rights of species and planet. The allegation hurled at the jury after the return of a Not Guilty was that it was a "sympathy vote" for Greenpeace. But sympathy is just what is required - it is a direct manifestation of a jury recognising the need to protect our planet, and they supported Greenpeace's actions in trying to do so, deeming thier actions reasonable and urgent. As Ben Stewart stated outside court: "When 12 normal people say that it legitimate to shut down a coal fire station because of the harm to the planet, then one has to ask where does that leave government energy policy?"

(Five of the 'Kingsnorth Six' at the top of the 200m chimney)

Monday, September 08, 2008

Yurtling Energy at Embercome

I've never been to an event such as the one I have just experienced this weekend. It wasn't a corporate event, it wasn't a conference, no workshops were advertised, in fact the remit was incredibly loose. Alongside 30 or so others working to tackle climate change, I had been invited to spend the weekend in Devon to share, plan and plot - and to sleep in a yurt.

Didn't take me long to say yes. I love geodesic domes, so yurts with woodfire stoves do it for me too. And the subject matter - well obviously that's my kinda thing too. I had no real understanding of what was to come of it, so I merrily pitched up with no preconceptions, just left myself open to the experience.

And it was inspirational. A bunch of equally committed individuals who are in so many varied ways making a difference; academically, politically, in business, with communities; by shaping, creating, facilitating, inspiring. All in a glorious environment, fuelled by the most delicious organic food from the gardens (all thanks to Andy, Alistair and team). Shaped by the lightest of touches by Mac, we discovered easily enough how to self-select on discussing various topics. This opened up new understanding, new connections, new inspiration. So many discussions bore so much fruit in such a short period of time, be it over wine in the evening, whilst walking in the herb garden, or sheltering together in the poly-tunnel whilst the rain poured off the sides. So much to hear, to say and to do.

It struck me that the core reason why this weekend proved so successful - why such strong bonds were established - was because we were all reciprocating. Giving and receiving experiences, sharing wisdom, offering assistance and skills. It's the stuff of true friendship, not just for us as humans, but for our interaction with the planet. Reciprocity is equally important just as it is for us human to human, but also for our interaction with our planet. It is not for us to merely take it's resources. We need to extend that reciprocity to our world as well. And that was something I learned more about this weekend when discussing how to create a sustainable world. That reciprocity applies both internally and externally if true sustainability is to be understood and created.

I left energised and revitalised, feeling the growth of not only the plants and trees in the woods that surrounded us, but also of us - individually and collectively. What comes out of this, well, that remains to be seen. But I know one thing - it will all be good for the planet.

Thankyou all.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

New Leader of the Green Party: Caroline Lucas

Great news: Caroline Lucas has won the Green Party's first ever leadership election by a remarkable landslide of over 90%.

The UK Green party has never had a leader, leaving it faceless in a world where personality politics steals the lead regardless of values. Now it has - and what a great person to drive the Green Party forward at such a crucial juncture.

Caroline comes with gleaming green credentials: she is an acknowledged expert on climate change, international trade and peace issues and recently co-authored the Green New Deal Report.

She is a Vice President of the RSPCA, the Stop the War Coalition, Campaign Against Climate Change and Environmental Protection UK, as well as a member of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament National Council and a Director of the International Forum on Globalization. The think-tanks Protect the Local, Globally and Centre for a Social Europe have Caroline as an Advisory Board Member, as does the Radiation Research Trust, the Transitions Towns Network and she is also a matron of the Women’s Environmental Network (WEN).