From Cochabamba to Pittsburgh, Nature’s Rights Are Taking Hold

From Cochabamba to Pittsburgh, Nature’s Rights Are Taking Hold

Residents protest intended plans to frack the Marcellus Shale formation

The City of Pittsburgh has heeded Evo Morales’s call, recognizing the rights of Mother Nature to combat climate change and environmental degradation. In an unprecedented vote last week, the Pittsburgh City council voted unanimously to ban fracking within its city limits, adopting an ordinance that positions the rights of people and nature over those of oil and gas companies. In doing so, Pittsburgh became the first U.S. city to grant nature legally binding rights, and joined a growing global movement that seeks to end the commodification of Nature.

Concern over fracking techniques, which include pumping gels, foams, and even radioactive sands into a regional water supply, and often result in ground and surface water contamination, spurred a group of citizens to take their case to the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) earlier this year. The public interest law firm drew up Pittsburgh’s historic ordinance, granting the city’s residents the legal standing to combat corporate interests and defend the rights of natural communities and ecosystems. In recent years, CELDF has come to occupy a central role in the ever-evolving sphere of earth jurisprudence, having been a key player in the drafting of Ecuador’s 2008 constitution – the first of its kind to protect the rights of Nature.

With the COP 16 up and running in Cancun, and skepticism mounting over this year’s high level negotiations, Pittsburgh’s recent victory is proof that civil society is alive and well, and will continue to fight where governmental regulations fall short.

Photo courtesy of Marcellus Protest