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News at Brighter Green

Brighter Green Associate Wanqing Zhou interviewed by Our Hen House 7/23/14

Brighter Green Associate Wanqing Zhou was interviewed by Our Hen House on Brighter Green's What's For Dinner? and China screening tour in June and July 2014.

Brighter Green and Partner Global Forest Coalition Published in "Square Brackets" 7/1/14

Brighter Green and partner Global Forest Coalition published their article "Implementing Aichi Target 3 in the livestock sector" in "Square Brackets: CBD Newsletter for Civil Society".

Brighter Green Releases June 2014 Newsletter 6/27/14

Brighter Green releases its June 2014 newsletter highlighting achievements and events in the first part of 2014. You can view the newsletter here.

Brighter Green Launches "What's For Dinner?" China Screening Tour 6/15/14

Brighter Green launches the China tour of the short documentary film "What's For Dinner?". The film is screened in multiple cities through July 2014 and provinces including Beijing, Shanghai, and Zhejiang province. To learn more please click here.

Brighter Green Presents at the Global Research Forum on Sustainable Production and Consumption 6/11/14

Brighter Green Associate Wanqing Zhou presented her paper, "The Triangle: Factory Farming in the U.S., China and Brazil" in Shanghai, China at the Global Research Forum on Production and Consumption.

BG Partner Global Forest Coalition Releases Paraguayan Case Study 5/22/14

Brighter Green partner Global Forest Coalition publishes Paraguayan case study on the environmental and social impacts of unsustainable livestock and soybean production.

Brighter Green and Global Forest Coalition New Report and Briefing Paper 5/22/14

Brighter Green and the Global Forest Coalition announce the release of a new report and briefing paper on redirecting government support for unsustainable livestock production as the key to biodiversity conservation.

Brighter Green Appears in the Scientific American Magazine 5/20/14

The Scientific American article "China's Appetite for Meat Swells, Along with Climate Changing Pollution" references Brighter Green research as well as quotes Executive Director Mia MacDonald and Associate Wanqing Zhou.

What's For Dinner? Page on Icarus Website 5/9/14

Brighter Green's short documentary film What's For Dinner? is now featured on Icarus Films' website, WFD's North American distributor. Visit the website for more information on screening or purchasing the film.

Brighter Green Releases Policy Brief of "Beyond the Pail: the Emergence of Industrialized Dairy Systems in Asia" 4/28/14

Brighter Green released the policy brief for the most recent policy paper, Beyond the Pail: the Emergence of Industrialized Dairy Systems in Asia. The brief, available here, provides a succinct summary of the paper and recommendations.

Brighter Green's film What's For Dinner? to be featured in the Environmental Film Festival in the Nation’s Capital 3/21/14

Brighter Green's short film What's For Dinner? was recently selected to appear in the Environmental Film Festival in the Nation’s Capital. It appeared on March 19th at 12PM in the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, along with a discussion partnering with the China Environment Forum.

Associate Sangamithra Iyer Publishes eBook 3/5/14

Brighter Green Associate Sangamithra Iyer publishes an eBook entitled The Lines We Draw distributed by Hen Press, the publishing arm of Our Hen House. The book explores the boundaries — physical, biological, and ethical — evolved out of a conversation with the late Dr. Alfred Prince, a hepatitis researcher, about the use of chimpanzees in medical research, and is expanded into a larger discussion about ethics.

Brighter Green Releases New Policy Paper on Industrialized Dairy in Asia 2/20/14

Brighter Green releases their newest policy paper Beyond the Pail: the Emergence of Industrialized Dairy Systems in Asia exploring the trend toward increased dairy consumption and production in Asia and argues that the growth of industrial systems results in severe consequences for the environment, public health, animal welfare, and rural economies. You may access the paper here.

Brighter Green Presents at the Ivy League Vegan Conference 2/7/14

Brighter Green Executive Director Mia MacDonald and Associate Sangamithra Iyer present a session entitled "The Global Diet & Sustainability: Multi-country Perspectives" at the Ivy League Vegan Conference at Princeton University. The conference is in its third year and is dedicated to exploring veganism and bioethics.

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Growing the Movement for Nature's Rights

April 6, 2012 11:31am
Filed under:

Writing natural law

The Earth Island Journal recently published a resource-filled article on natural law, which is becoming an ever-hotter topic in the environmental advocacy realm. Covering the history and key players in the ongoing campaign for the rights of nature, author and editor of the Earth Island Journal, Jason Mark, begins the article with Tamaqua, Pennsylvania's unprecedented recognition of the rights of "natural communities to flourish." The councilwoman who enacted it, Cathy Miorelli, had no ecological agenda when she ran for city council, but she thought it was self evident that nature should have rights, and collaborators from The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) helped carry her thinking into law.

Several organizations like CELDF in the U.S. and abroad have been working on nature's rights campaigns for years, and the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature launched a petition they hope will be signed by one million people to declare the Universal Acceptance of the Rights of Nature at Earth Summit Rio+20, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development being held in Rio de Janeiro this June. Of course, the biggest victory thus far for nature’s rights is Equador’s constitution, which since 2008 has included a chapter protecting nature’s inherent right to thrive. Thus far, only one case has been brought to court to protect a river from a road-widening operation. CELDF representatives say the outcome has been slightly disappointing, but the fact of it being brought to trial is important nonetheless. Bolivia’s parliament, too, has made strides for nature’s rights by passing the Law of the Mother Earth, but the ministry that is to enforce the law has not been established. The impacts of these laws have not yet proven their potential for positive change, but some activists say it's not the law that matters, but the shift in the human relationship to the earth.

The article elaborates on these cases and their potential impact on the environment, citing the influence of South African attorney Cormac Cullinan, who coined much of the language that defines the Rights of Nature, detailed in his book, Wild Law: A Manifesto for Earth Justice. But the author is careful to note that these calls for the rights of nature are not the first of their kind by any means. Mark reminds the reader that ancient Roman legislation and many present cultures and religions have consistently protected the rights of the natural world for its own sake. He argues that Western Enlightenment thinking initiated the anthropocentricism we practice in western law today: if it is not for a human cause, it does not have worth.

Corporations play a huge role in whether natural laws get passed, as their interests lie in profiting from resources that nature provides. Corporations’ rights, which in the U.S. include free speech and many other human rights, have overridden the rights of nature in certain cases, but it is hard to tell how all of this will play out until more cases are brought to court.

Michael Feinstein, the Green Party of California spokesperson and former Santa Monica Mayor, beautifully describes the inherent link between corporations’ and nature’s rights in his address to the Santa Monica city council. Nature’s rights are viewed as “illegal impediments” to the “free flow of capital,” and are therefore a threat to corporate ventures. CELDF also recently released two documents to address the wider scope that must be taken to conquer the corporate obstacle on several planes, the most important being communities’ ability to exercise democratic decision-making without interference from corporate agendas.

The idea of writing nature in to law (and writing corporate personhood out) is growing, and what was previously a surprising amendment to the justice system could become a highly-effective avenue to environmental sustainability. Jason Mark ends the piece with a quote from the influential article, “Should Trees Have Standing,” written by legal scholar Chris Stone: “Each time there is a movement to confer rights onto some new ‘entity,’ the proposal is bound to sound odd or frightening or laughable.” It may sound silly now for a river or an animal to have the same rights that a human does, and many think it is not our place to authorize other species to do what should come naturally, but a complete change of consciousness is necessary.

If we cannot universally rearrange our anthropocentric view of the environment by our own free will (or despite corporate influence), maybe a law can impose the perspective we need, and allow a different paradigm to filter into mainstream consciousness that way. And maybe a few generations down the line it will be laughable that nature -- this beautiful, diverse, self-generating entity -- didn’t have a right to live, because what would our rights matter without it?

Photo courtesy of Earth Island Journal