The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund
Main Office: 675
Mower Road Chambersburg PA 17202 USA
West Coast Office:
126 NE Mason Street Portland, OR 97211 USA
CONTACT: Mari Margil, Associate Director
September 28, 2008
Approves New Constitution: Voters Approve Rights of Nature
Ecuador Follows Lead of U.S. Communities: First Country in
the World to Shift to Rights-Based Environmental Protection, Working With Legal
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
an overwhelming margin, the people of Ecuador today voted for a new
constitution that is the first in the world to recognize legally enforceable
Rights of Nature, or ecosystem rights.
Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund is pioneering this work in the U.S.,
where it has assisted more than a dozen local municipalities with drafting and
adopting local laws recognizing Rights of Nature.
the past year, the Legal Defense Fund was invited to assist the Ecuadorian
Constituent Assembly to develop and draft provisions for the new constitution
to put ecosystem rights directly into the Ecuadorian constitution. The
elected Delegates to the Constituent Assembly requested that the Legal Defense
Fund draft language based on ordinances developed and adopted by municipalities
in the U.S.
is now the first country in the world to codify a new system of environmental
protection based on rights,” stated Thomas Linzey, Executive Director of the
Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund.
this vote, the people of Ecuador are leading the way for countries around the
world to fundamentally change how we protect nature,” added Mari Margil,
Associate Director of the Legal Defense Fund.
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.”
Enforceable Ecosystem Rights: From the U.S. to Ecuador
Legal Defense Fund has assisted communities in the U.S. – in Pennsylvania, New
Hampshire, and Virginia – to draft and adopt first-in-the-nation laws that
change the status of ecosystems from being regarded as property under
the law to being recognized as rights-bearing entities.
Tamaqua Borough in Pennsylvania, to the Town of Barnstead in New Hampshire, to
Halifax in southern Virginia, the Legal Defense Fund works with communities
that recognize that environmental protection cannot be attained under a
structure of law that treats natural ecosystems as property.
of the major environmental laws in the U.S. – including the Clean Air Act, the
Clean Water Act, and similar state laws – treat nature as property under the
law. These laws legalize environmental harms by regulating how much
pollution or destruction of nature can occur. Rather than preventing
pollution and environmental destruction, these laws instead codify it.
Rights of Natures laws developed by the Legal Defense Fund for local
municipalities in the U.S. represent changes to the status of property law,
eliminating the authority of a property owner to interfere with the functioning
of ecosystems that exist and depend upon that property for their existence and
flourishing. These local laws allow certain types of development that do not
interfere with the rights of ecosystems to exist and flourish.
local laws – and now Ecuador’s constitution – recognize 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. In addition, these laws require the governments to remedy
violations of those ecosystem rights.
Ecuador constitution operates in the same way.
Legal Defense Fund, founded in 1995, is the only public interest law firm in
the U.S. that specializes in building a body of law focused on establishing
Rights of Nature.
Legal Defense Fund has served as special legal counsel to over one hundred
municipal governments across the U.S., and serves as a legal advisor to
organizations and governments in other countries, including Ecuador, who are
focused on driving similar laws into their governing frameworks.
environmental laws are failing. By most every measure, the environment
today is in worse shape than when the major U.S. environmental laws were
adopted over thirty years ago. Since then, countries around the world
have sought to replicate these laws. Yet, species decline worldwide is
increasing exponentially, global warming is far more accelerated than
previously believed, deforestation continues unabated around the world, and
overfishing in the world’s oceans is pushing many fisheries to collapse.
people, communities, and governments that the Legal Defense Fund works with
recognize that environmental protection cannot be attained under a structure of
law that continues to treat natural ecosystems as property.
Pachamama Alliance, with offices in San Francisco and Quito, played a key role
in facilitating the Legal Defense Fund’s involvement in the drafting of
Ecuador’s new constitution.
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