But it’s not for the reasons you would hope
Tish O’Dell, Ohio Community Organizer
COLUMBUS, OH: Today, the Ohio House of Representatives adopted its 2020-2021 budget with provisions that prohibit anyone, including local governments, from enforcing recognized legal rights for ecosystems.
The political maneuver is a direct response to the historic Lake Erie Bill of Rights passed by Toledo voters in February. That law recognizes legally enforceable rights for Erie, the 11th largest lake on the planet. It made national and international news.
At a time when the United Nations is reporting “unprecedented” rates of species extinction, such political strong arming to repress efforts to address the global crisis is in keeping with the state’s actions since 2014.
Over a dozen rights-based measures that included recognizing rights for ecosystems have been systematically stymied from being voted on by illegitimate actions taken by the Ohio supreme court, secretary of state, appointed board of elections officials, and the state legislature. Those tactics — ongoing for 5 years — are the subject of a federal Civil Rights lawsuit that communities jointly filed in February 2019.
“It’s not surprising that the Ohio legislature has the shameful distinction of being the first in the country to specifically name ecosystem rights – trying to quash them rather than taking the lead in recognizing them. This is the same state government that passed HB463 in 2016 in an attempt to stop communities from even advancing rights-based citizen initiatives,” stated Tish O’Dell, community organizer for the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF). CELDF assisted these Ohio communities through organizing and legal support as they drafted, advanced, and defended their measures.
Crystal Jankowski, organizer with Toledoans for Safe Water – the local group behind the Lake Erie Bill of Rights – stated, “The state legislature’s continued efforts to quash this growing movement tell us that we are on the right track. Whenever people advance rights – for people of color, women, LGBTQ+ communities, or others – we see the 1% try to stop it, but we are not going away. Rights of Nature is a paradigm shift that is wholly necessary. We are facing catastrophic global warming and species extinction. The people of the planet, including Toledo, will act locally to address the crisis. We do not need permission.”
About CELDF — Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund
The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund is a non-profit, public interest law firm providing free and affordable legal services to communities facing threats to their local environment, local agriculture, local economy, and quality of life. Its mission is to build sustainable communities by assisting people to assert their right to local self-government and the rights of nature.