CELDF, our partner communities, and allies made remarkable advancements in Community Rights and Rights of Nature this year. Together—despite corporate and state level efforts to stop this work—we made history. From the right to climate laws adopted by New Hampshire communities, to the globally-recognized Lake Erie Bill of Rights, we know to be true on a broad scale what was written about our partners in Lincoln County, Oregon, last fall:
“…that a small, committed band of people” can make change “even when their resources are dwarfed by those of their opponents.”
Efforts to stop Community Rights and Rights of Nature, in fact, are galvanizing communities. Here are some of our successes over the year:
- In February, the Lake Erie Bill of Rights was adopted by the people of Toledo. This is the first law in the United States to secure the rights of a distinct eco- system, recognizing the Lake’s rights to exist, flourish, and naturally evolve. Media coverage was global, including by CNN, the New York Times, NPR, Mother Jones, the Christian Science Monitor, and The Daily Show.
- Inspired by the Lake Erie Bill of Rights, several Florida counties are partnering with us to advance Rights of Nature laws to protect Florida waterways. This includes the Santa Fe, Wekiva and Econlockhatchee River ecosystems, among others.
- In Exeter and Nottingham, New Hampshire, community members adopted CELDF-drafted ordinances securing their right to a healthy climate. The laws ban harmful corporate activities— including fracking infrastructure and toxic waste disposal—that would violate those rights.
- On behalf of seven Ohio communities, CELDF filed a federal lawsuit against the state for First Amendment and other civil rights violations. This comes in response to repeated efforts by state officials to block citizens from exercising their right to direct democracy via the citizen initiative.
- Our work is growing as CELDF is engaged with Community Rights and Rights of Nature work in Hawaii, Washington, Oregon, Maine, and other states.
- CELDF and our partners are advancing state constitutional amendments in New Hampshire, Oregon, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. The state amendments would establish the right of communities to secure greater environmental protections at the local level than in place at the state and federal level—including securing the Rights of Nature— and prohibit corporate or government interference in that process. This year, state representatives in New Hampshire and Pennsylvania introduced rights-based legislation.
- In Sweden, CELDF has been working with activists and a Member of Parliament on a proposed amendment to Sweden’s constitution to enshrine the Rights of Nature. The measure was introduced into the Riksdag this fall, and is the first time such a measure has been introduced in the E.U.
- In the Philippines, CELDF has been working with a coalition of indigenous, faith, and environmental advocates on national Rights of Nature The bill was introduced into the Filipino Senate this October.
- Through our Community Rights Video Series released this fall, we shared inspiring stories of heartbreak, grit, and necessity, as growing numbers of people and communities recognize we must overcome systemic legal barriers that protect fracking and other threats over people and nature. Check out the stories here: celdf.org/grassroots-video-series.
- CELDF has been sharing our work with new audiences—in the U.S. and abroad—including at the University of Illinois’s conference this November: “Can a River Be a Person? Indigeneity, Law, and Climate Change” Symposium.
- Berrett-Koehler published How Wealth Rules the World: Saving our Communities and Freedoms from the Dictatorship of Property, the new book by CELDF’s National Organizing Director Ben Price.
Community Rights and Rights of Nature are capturing the hearts and minds of people around the world. They are uniting communities across the country, in a vision for a healthy, just, and vibrant future. Our accomplishments and ability to support, protect, and grow this movement across the United States and around the world are possi- ble because of your commitment. Thank you for making our work possible, and please join us to make 2020 the Year of Community Rights and Rights of Nature!