We’re launched on the tour! And it’s going beautifully.
We showed the Green Rights film at Acadia University in Wolfville on Monday and had a very warm reception. I did a little Facebook Livecast that morning – I intend to use FB Live often as the tour goes on. Yesterday in Truro, I spoke about Warrior Lawyers to an enthusiastic awards luncheon for volunteers in Nova Scotia’s Adopt-a-Road program. Tomorrow, Sept 22, Marjorie and I are on Global TV’s Halifax morning show at 7:50 AM, and I’m on Rick Howe’s radio show at 12:00 on News 95.7. Friday morning I’m on CBC’s Information Morning from Halifax at 6:45 AM.
Then on Sunday is the next big event: the Halifax screening of Green Rights: The Human Right to a Healthy World, at 2:00 PM at Mount St. Vincent University, 166 Bedford Highway, with a question-and-answer and informal reception to follow. The Facebook event page is here: https://www.facebook.com/events/808550019285048/
Meanwhile, Marjorie has three book signings coming up: Friday, September 23 at Coles Scotia Square, from 12:00 – 2:00; Saturday, September 24, at Chapters Bayers Lake, from 12:00 – 1:30, and that afternoon, at Chapters Mic Mac Mall, from 2:30 -4:00.
STREAMING GREEN RIGHTS – FOR FREE
You can stream the film for free at any time from www.TheGreenInterview.com. You’ll be asked to join the site as a subscriber, which is free for the first month and $10/month thereafter – but you can simply cancel during the first month if you don’t want to continue. We’re asking you to accept a month’s trial in return for streaming the film because this site allows us to do projects like Green Rights, and we hope that the film’s success will help us grow the site. And we put up a new extended interview with an environmental leader every month. Coming up: Todd Labrador, the Mi’kmaq birch canoe builder talking about the art and craft of his work, and its relation to traditional indigeous culture and spirituality.
I’m finding that posting to the blog tends to get overlooked as the days race by. So please follow me or Greenrightsfilm on Facebook, where I tend to post quick notes when there isn’t time for the blog.
Meanwhile, come and join us on Sunday!
Watch the Film
Please click here to view the film. (Members Only).
Please click here to view the 90 min Director’s Cut. (Members Only)
The right to breathe. The right to clean water. The right to wholesome food.
Air, water, food – these are the sources of life. Without them, we die. And in most nations – more than 180 nations, in fact – citizens are legally entitled to these essential elements of life.
But not in Canada or the United States. And that’s what the Green Rights multi-media project is all about: the human right to a healthy environment, and Mother Nature’s right to be respected and protected. The citizenship of North Americans is hobbled because we don’t have these green rights. Canadians and Americans literally don’t know what they’re missing. So we’re telling the dramatic stories of how citizens use those rights in other countries – and are fighting for them here. Green rights are among humanity’s most powerful tools for protecting and repairing the natural world.
The overall Green Rights project (www.GreenRights.com) includes films at three lengths – 10 minutes, 45 minutes, 90 minutes – plus extended online interviews between Silver Donald Cameron and 24 major figures in the international environmental rights movement. It also includes Cameron’s new book, Warrior Lawyers: From Manila to Manhattan, Attorneys for the Earth, available both in paper and as an e-book from Amazon and also his own website. Click here for more information, including how to order.
The Green Rights films vividly portray remarkable legal battles in nations around the world: dramas in the courts and on the land. In Argentina, the Netherlands, Ecuador, the Philippines and elsewhere, devoted citizens and courageous lawyers take on national governments and international corporations – and win. The films, narrated by Silver Donald Cameron, also tell stories of Canadian and American citizens, activists and Natives who are fighting vigorously for the recognition of those rights.
The 45-minute film, set mainly in the Maritime provinces, was broadcast by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in September, 2015 under the title Defenders of the Dawn. It is available to be streamed on this site: http://www.cbc.ca/absolutelycanadian/maritimes/
The 10-minute film created for the David Suzuki Foundation’s Blue Dot tour can be streamed here: https://youtu.be/BtdO3xX9jlc
The full-length documentary Green Rights: The Human Right to a Healthy World was completed in September 2016, and we’re happy to present it to our subscribers as our regular monthly video. Enjoy!
You spoke. We listened.
You told us overwhelmingly that you preferred the photo that showed me talking with Mi’kmaw canoe builder Todd Labrador, beside the Wildcat River. But some of you found the people lost in the background.
So we cropped it closer, clarified the text, and we’re using it as our thumbnail. Thank you! Here it is:
Meanwhile, Warrior Lawyers has come out on Amazon as a Kindle e-book. You can download it and start reading in minutes. Just click here. It’s also a “Matchbook:” if you’ve bought the paper version, you can get the e-book for $US1.99, rather than $US 7.99.
Also, the GreenRights national promotion tour is coming together very quickly: 14 communities, 11 screenings, 10 universities. Is your town included? You can check that out; we now have a events calendar up on TheGreenInterview.com, here. Just scroll down to the “Publicity Tour” tab and see where we’re going, and when. With more to come!
In fact the tour has already begun. As this is written, on September 11 — look! — Marjorie is signing copies of Year of the Horse at the Coles bookstore in Sydney, Cape Breton. Next Saturday, at 2:00 she’s doing a launch at the library in Petit de Grat, right here in Isle Madame, NS. And the next day we board the motorhome for ten days of screenings and signings and lectures in Wolfville, Halifax and Antigonish before steering onward to Ottawa on September 29th.
Hmmm…. And I have to rig up some kind of a desk in the motorhome. Guess that comes next…
This is an article I wrote a few years ago for a publication issued by the National Union of Public and General Employees. I don’t think they’ll mind if I re-issue it several Labour Days later.
FIGHTING THE NEW FEUDALISM
by Silver Donald Cameron
We are the wealthiest people in the history of the world. So how can it be that at the feet of the cold glass and steel towers of the financial district, a ragged man – having eaten at a soup kitchen or a food bank – curls up to sleep under a blanket of newspapers over a warm exhaust grill?
Let me tell you a story about a country I once knew.
In that country, sixty years ago, food banks and soup kitchens were just an unhappy memory from the Dirty Thirties, when the police protected the rich, the factories lay idle, and dust storms drove the farmers off the land. Starving men clung to boxcars, willing to trade a day’s work just for a day’s food. But the Dirty Thirties led into a war, and the bums and vagrants were suddenly transformed into brave soldiers and sailors. The factories re-opened, spewing out tanks and guns and planes, while a torrent of innovation yielded radar and reactors, plastics and jet engines, electronic navigation, antibiotics and computers.
The hoboes and drifters who had become infantrymen and airmen went out and won the war. And when they came home, they remembered the hunger and hopelessness of the Dirty Thirties, and they said, Never again. We did not fight and die to sustain a society that starves and scorns us. The war showed us how a focussed and determined government, supported by its people, could marshall the whole creative power of the country for a common purpose. If we can do that in order to kill other people, we can do it to nourish our own people.
The veterans dreamed of a society with jobs for everyone, a home for everyone, a democracy that would hold the plutocrats in check. They dreamed of innovations like “unemployment insurance” and “family allowances.” They imagined a Central Mortgage and Housing Corporation that would help working families to buy their own homes. They wanted universal old age pensions, a strong and accessible system of higher education, assistance to the blind and the disabled. They dreamed of universal medical care.
And they got those things, all of them. That’s what created the country I grew up in. Its name was Canada. (more…)
So who’s that? Canadian Environment Minister Catherine McKenna, speaking with Bill Casey, MP for Colchester-Cumberland, Nova Scotia — who is a big fan of the Green Rights project and The Green Interview.
And what are they talking about? Casey is presenting the Green Rights project to her, and strongly suggesting she attend the celebratory reception sponsored by the Speaker of the Senate on October 4 in his chambers. He also wants her to view the GreenRights film.
Friends, we’re getting some traction.
Here, for example, is a post on The Nova Scotia Advocate, an independent journalism website is operated by Robert Devet, that links directly to the Green Rights trailer: https://twitter.com/silverdonald/status/769507308745420800
And here’s a big enthusiastic blog post about the Green Rights project and our upcoming national tour — and this post comes from the other side of the world. It’s published by the highly-influential blogger Dan Bloom, who lives in Taiwan and is read everywhere: https://t.co/KD1ZI2Lc4r His tweet about the post was re-tweeted by Margaret Atwood to more than a million followers.
Meanwhile, in Hawaii, there’s a big congress of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature in combination with none other than the National Geographic Society. It’s in Hawaii, and lots of senior officials and many major figures in the environmental world are attending – people like Jane Goodall, E.O. Wilson, Pavan Sukhdev and Sylvia Earle. We’ve interviewed Jane Goodall, but I’d love to interview the other three.
Also in attendance is Prof. Nicholas Robinson of Pace University in New York. Nick Robinson has had a huge influence on Tony Oposa, one of the Warrior Lawyers in my book. Tony showed Warrior Lawyers to Nick, who has included the book into the conference’s book launch event this weekend, and has been tweeting vigorously about it.
Casey, Devet, Bloom, Atwood, Robinson — aren’t we lucky to have such ambassadors? And think about it: Ottawa, Halifax, Taiwan, Hawaii… Not bad, when we’ve been much more focussed on the tour plans than on the publicity. Maybe we’re doing something right.
Help us choose a thumbnail. And: Warrior Lawyers is published!
We need to choose a thumbnail for Green Rights: The Human Right to a Healthy World. Here’s the photo I’ve been using:
That’s an actual shot from the film, but I don’t know how well it communicates for us. I’m standing on a log that’s floating on a pond of crude oil in Lago Agrio, Ecuador – a vivid illustration of Texaco’s reckless disregard for the people and the natural life of the region when they began “developing” their oil fields 50 years ago. But do people understand that when they see it?
Here’s the alternative I’ve been developing:
This is also a shot from the film, near the end, where we’re talking about living in harmony with one another and with the natural world. It’s a lovely shot of me talking with Mi’kmaq canoe-builder Todd Labrador, with one of his birch-bark canoes, sitting beside the Wildcat River in Nova Scotia. It’s not as dramatic a shot, but it’s very beautiful, like a painting – and maybe it conveys more clearly what the film is about.
Or maybe we should choose another shot altogether – a courtroom scene in the Netherlands, perhaps. What do you think? We’d love to know.
Meanwhile, we’ve been focussed on tour planning. I’m in Wolfville at Acadia University for a lecture and screening of Green Rights on Monday, Sept 19, while Marjorie does a book signing at A Box of Delights bookstore. Then I give a speech (on Warrior Lawyers) to Adopt-a-Highway NS in Truro on the 21st, and we’ll have a Green Rights screening at Mount St. Vincent in Halifax on Sunday afternoon, Sept 25 at 2:00. On to Antigonish for events at St. Francis Xavier University on the 28th, including a big screening – and by the 30th we’re on the road to Ottawa for the national premiere on October 4. We’ve put a calendar up at www.TheGreenInterview.com, and I’ll be posting more details there soon.
Finally, Warrior Lawyers has been published on Amazon, with a Kindle version soon to come. I now have an Amazon author page, too: https://www.amazon.com/author/silverdonaldcameron The book is also available from my own site, www.silverdonaldcameron.ca – in paper, and also as a downloadable PDF.
The bad news is that in my last email I included a broken link to the www.silverdonaldcameron.ca site, where the book was on sale at the pre-publication price of $19.99. That price has now gone up to the post-publication price of $24.99 because Amazon won’t tolerate a lower price on any other site. But if you wanted to buy it at the pre-publication price and weren’t able because of the broken link, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll honour that promise and sell you the book at the lower price.
Salmon — in a Suit
Last week, a St. John’s lawyer named Owen Myers took the government of Newfoundland and Labrador to court. Myers’ lawsuit alleges that the government broke its own laws and regulations by exempting a salmon farm project in Placentia Bay from a full-scale environmental review. The $250 million project would be one of the largest aquaculture sties in the country.
A lawsuit is a whole new approach to the problems with salmon feedlots. The issues with feedlots are numerous and well-documented. Indeed, the Green Interview team produced a 75-minute documentary film on the subject back in 2012. (You can view the film at www.SalmonWars.com). Governments of all political stripes and in several different provinces have had to face down tons of protests, presentations, letters, studies, reports, videos and submissions. By and large, the officials simply ignore all the noise.
But they can’t ignore Myers’ lawsuit. They are going to have to go before a judge and defend themselves. They’ll have to bring evidence to justify their actions. And they’ll have to do it all in the harsh glare of publicity.
And high time, too. In the long history of protest and social progress, there are precious few instances where governments simply saw the light and did the right thing. Usually they have to be forced. One powerful way to exert force is civil disobedience: people in Elsipogtog, NB, lying down on the road in front of the fracking trucks. But another is to use the law. And you don’t have to win the lawsuit to win the day.
Go listen to trailblazing Filipino lawyer Antonio Oposa Jr. There’s a six-minute clip of my Green Interview with him here. Tony Oposa is known throughout the Philippines as “Attorney Oposa,” and he’s won several lawsuits of world importance – for instance, a decision by his country’s Supreme Court that unborn generations actually have legal rights, and that today’s generation has an obligation to preserve the natural world reasonably intact for its successors. That principle of “intergenerational equity” is now known as “The Oposa Doctrine” – and it’s been applied all around the world.
But Tony doesn’t consider himself a lawyer. As he’ll tell you in that clip, he’s a storyteller who uses the courts as his theatre. In court, people, governments and corporations have to listen to your story. They have to think about the issues and weigh the evidence dispassionately. The judges will have to make a decision and maybe order some action. If you lose, you appeal. Then you get to tell the story again. And stories are what move the world.
But look at the difference between Tony’s situation and Owen’s. Owen can only sue to get the government to respect regulations that the government itself created. Because the Philippine law recognizes environmental rights, however, Tony can take up really big issues — offences against Nature, against future generations, against the human right to a healthy world.
UPDATE: THE BOOK, THE FILM, THE TOUR:
Tony Oposa plays a big role in our GreenRights film – and he’s one of the Warrior Lawyers I interview in my book. Warrior Lawyers includes interviews with 17 powerful, bold lawyers from nine different countries. Proof copies of the book just arrived – here’s a photo — so I expect to have finished books by early September. Both the physical book and the e-book will be available on Amazon, and also at www.TheGreenInterview.com and www.SilverDonaldCameron.ca. At our websites, the pre-publication price for the paper book is $19.99. After publication it goes up to $24.99. That tapping sound you hear? That’s opportunity knocking. Buy now and save!
We’re also in the very last stages of completing the feature documentary Green Rights: The Human Right to a Healthy World. And this week our beloved little truck goes to the RV centre to be fitted with the gear that allows us to tow it behind the motorhome. Meanwhile, we’re organizing lectures, screenings and readings in universities from Halifax to the Rockies. (We’ll do the west coast later.)
We have great screenings and discussions scheduled for the east coast, at Mount St. Vincent, Acadia and St. Francis Xavier. In Ontario, we’re delighted at the way things are coming together in Ottawa, Kingston and Thunder Bay. If you’d like to have an event in your community, please write me at email@example.com
There’s lots more to come. Stay tuned!
There it is, in a nutshell.
In every creative project, there’s a tension between creating the work and helping it find its audience. For months, we’ve been finishing the keystone pieces of the Green Rights multi-media project (www.GreenRights.com) – a feature-length film called Green Rights: The Human Right to a Healthy World, and a book entitled Warrior Lawyers: From Manila to Manhattan, Attorneys for the Earth. Both of them are coming out next month – so it’s time to find their audiences.
The same goes for The Year of the Horse, the second book by my wife, Marjorie Simmins. Year of the Horse is a wonderful story of love and grit, injury and healing, and trials and triumphs with horses and humans. So we’re planning a big fat promotional tour for both books and the film – a tour that will take us from coast to coast in September/October. (more…)
Elin Kelsey, author and science communicator, speaks with Silver Donald Cameron in this exclusive Green Interview about the profound and often overlooked relationship between humans and the non-human world. As the narrative of doom and gloom permeates environmental stories, Kelsey is interested in shifting the dominant narrative to one of optimism and hope by communicating remarkable stories of environmental resilience, ideas that work, and people who make a difference. (more…)
Written and narrated by
Silver Donald Cameron
Chris Beckett and Erika Beatty
The original nations of northeastern North America make up the Wabanaki Confederacy. Their territory is “the dawnlands,” and they are “the people of the dawn.” Today the dawnlands are being assaulted by reckless industrialism, and the people of the dawn are joined by settlers from many other places in asserting the human right to a healthy natural world: clean air, clean water, clean earth.
Canadians don’t have a legal right to clean air and water. Ask the people of Harrietsfield, NS, who have agitated for a dozen years against the toxic contamination of their wells by a construction waste site – and are still only spectators at a regulatory minuet between government and industry. Ask the townspeople of Pictou, who have no legal standing to stop some of the dirtiest smog in Canada, belched forth by the same pulp mill whose effluent has poisoned a small estuary once so important to the Pictou Landing First Nation that they called it “Ah-seg,” the Other Room of their home.
Unlike Canada, most nations do recognize their citizens’ environmental rights. We visit Argentina, where a landmark legal case led to a spectacular cleanup of the Richuelo River, once ranked the eighth most-polluted place on earth. We touch down in India, Ecuador, South Africa. We meet Antonio Oposa, Jr., a Filipino lawyer who sued his government, on behalf of the Philippines’ unborn children, to stop logging in oldgrowth forests and to clean up Manila Bay – and won recognition of the environmental rights of future generations.
Maritimers are now demanding recognition of their own right to a healthy environment. In New Brunswick, a unique alliance of parents, educators, health workers, First Nations and civil servants is lobbying the provincial legislature for a Bill of Rights to Protect Children’s Health from Environmental Hazards. In Inverness County, Nova Scotia, prompted by the Council of Canadians, other citizens and the Waycobah First Nation, the municipal council passed a unique and inspiring bylaw forbidding hydraulic fracturing as a threat to environmental security and an infringement of human rights.
In 2013, after David Alward’s Conservative government had given a Texas oil company permits to explore and frack a huge swath of unceded Mi’kmaq terrain in New Brunswick, a fierce confrontation exploded between the oil company, the government and the RCMP on one side, and an unprecedented alliance of First Nations, Acadians, and English-speaking settlers on the other. In the end, the government was defeated, the oil company retreated, a new Liberal government passed stern regulations on fracking, and a public inquiry began scrutinizing the partisan conduct of the RCMP. Now, two separate “people’s lawsuits” are seeking to consolidate the victories, challenging the validity of the original permits and arguing that the Charter guarantee of “security of the person” necessarily includes the right to a healthy environment, free from the risk of climate change.
A new day is breaking in the dawnlands. The Wabanaki are now allied with Acadians, Anglophones and other settlers – all the people who know and love this realm. The conscience of these people, coupled with their courage, is a force that will transform the dawnlands. Indeed, it already has.
In 2012, the Green Interview team vowed to make a feature-length documentary about the human right to a healthy environment, and Mother Nature’s right to be respected and protected. It’s a right recognized in 180 of the 193 UN member countries — but not in North America. The film would tell inspiring stories about citizens and lawyers in South America, Europe, Asia and Africa who are using the courts to fight for clean air and water, healthy food, an end to the reckless abuse of the natural world, and environmental justice.
Done, my friends, done! In September 2016, the GreenRights film will be released — right here on TheGreenInterview.com!
And so will its companion book, Warrior Lawyers, where
Polly Higgins, lawyer for the Earth, speaks with Silver Donald Cameron in this exclusive Green Interview about the concept of ecocide and how she is trying to make it a new UN recognized crime against peace just like crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide. Ecocide is damage, destruction or loss of ecosystems such that peaceful enjoyment of a territory by the inhabitants is severely diminished or lost and that includes all the inhabitants not just the human ones.
Ecocide, the Ecocide Project, and Earth Law
Lawyer Polly Higgins is trying to increase our legal protection of the environment. In this exclusive Green Interview, Higgins discusses the concept of ecocide, the Ecocide Project, and Earth Law.
In this exclusive interview with Polly Higgins we discuss:
Higgins defines ecocide as damage, destruction or loss of ecosystems such that peaceful enjoyment of a territory by the inhabitants is severely diminished or lost and that includes all the inhabitants not just the human ones. Higgins says that UN international laws are “super laws” that supersede everything else so that all other laws must conform to them. An international ecocide law would trump the national laws that give the highest priority to profit and would substitute an overriding duty of care for people and the planet. Ecocide clearly is, she argues, not only a crime against peace but also a crime against humanity, against nature and against future generations. Higgins distinguishes between two types of ecocide: human-caused ecocides such as climate change, destruction of forests, etc. and natural ecocides such as tsunamis, rising sea levels, “anything that causes mass ecosystem collapse.” By creating a law of ecocide we can impose a legal duty of care on governments.
The Ecocide Project
Higgins is one of the co-authors of a paper trail amassed by the Human Rights Consortium at the School of Advanced Study at the University of London. The group found the paper trail that lead to the inclusion and then the exclusion of “ecocide” as one of the five crimes against peace by the UN International Law Commission (ILC). Documents show that early drafts of the document provide definitive reference to ecocide as a crime which was to stand alongside genocide as a Crimes Against Peace—both during peacetime as well as wartime. But in 1993 when ecocide was listed as a Crime Against Peace in the draft Code of Crimes Against the Peace and Security of Mankind (precursor to the 1998 Rome Statute, which excluded ecocide in the final document), a decision was made to exclude ecocide with only three countries on record as having opposed it, namely the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States of America.
Higgins has also been a vocal spokesperson on Earth Law for a number of years and is recognized as an expert in her field. She argues that current environmental laws aren’t working to protect the living world because they haven’t been able to protect against the severe degradation we are currently witnessing. Earth law is a particular field of law that aims to ensure that laws protect the inherent right of nature to exist, thrive and evolve. She says the laws that currently supersede environmental protection laws are those that put profit first: a company has a legal duty to maximize its profits to its shareholders. She argues that a law of ecocide would supersede this and impose a provision that makes us look to the consequences of the profit-making activity.
Stand up for Your Rights, Grrowd, and Guardians for Future Generations
Jan van de Venis is a Dutch lawyer who is working to make the connections between human and environmental rights. In this exclusive Green Interview, van de Venis discusses the work of Stand Up for Your Rights, a crowd-funding site called Grrowd, and the concept of Guardians for Future Generations.
In this exclusive interview with Jan van de Venis we discuss:
Stand Up for Your Rights
Jan van de Venis is co-founder and board Chair of Stand up for your Rights,” an NGO that he calls “the bridge builder between human rights development and environmental NGOs.” He says the role of the organization is to link groups so they can “work on joint issues,” and to show the links between human rights and sustainable development.
Jan van de Venis is President of Grrowd – a crowd-funding platform that raises money to help fund the efforts or “environmental defenders” and to publicize their work in order to help protect their lives. Currently, some of the cases that are featured on the site include a case involving Mexican organic farmers who are fighting against Monsanto, and in Africa a small group of people fighting to save one of the last strongholds of the rhinoceros against a coal-mining company.
Guardians for Future Generations
“I’m a lawyer and I actually have a whole lot of clients that do not exist yet. Who is calling out for them? Who is their lawyer, who is invoking their interests?” asks Jan van de Venis, calling on governments to install a “guardian” or “ombudsperson”— someone who would represent future generations and be the voice of long-term thinking. Guardians wouldn’t just be symbolic, they would be given a strong mandate within government—backed by constitutionally recognized rights to a healthy environment—to remind law-makers to consider the interests of those not yet born.
Anders Hayden, author and university professor, speaks with Silver Donald Cameron in this exclusive Green Interview about the flaws inherent with our current measures of progress — the GDP. He explains, “There are actually ways in which the GDP could be going up in ways that are resulting in a net destruction of things that have real value, things that may not be counted by the GDP but can be fundamentally more important.” In this interview Hayden explores the other ways of measuring progress and how the realities of climate change is making that exploration more important than ever.
Marjan Minnesma, the co-founder and director of the Urgenda Foundation, speaks with Silver Donald Cameron in this exclusive Green Interview about the ground-breaking Dutch Climate Case, a suit her foundation, along with 900 Dutch citizens brought against the Netherlands to a successful conclusion in 2015. In an unprecedented verdict the District court in The Hague ordered the Dutch government to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions more dramatically than it had intended, arguing it had a duty of care to its citizens. (more…)
Using the Law to Save Us
Roger Cox is the Dutch lawyer who initiated the successful, historic suit brought against the Dutch government known as the Dutch Climate Case. In this exclusive Green Interview, Cox discusses the details of the case, how the impending oil decline threatens human rights, and his 2011 book,Revolution Justified: Why Only the Law Can Save us Now.
In this exclusive interview with Roger Cox we discuss:
The Dutch Climate Case
The Dutch Climate Case was a class action lawsuit initiated by Roger Cox on behalf of the Urgenda Foundation and 900 Dutch citizens. Using data from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) they argued the urgency of climate change and that the Dutch government should ramp up its climate action. In 2015, after two and half years of litigation, Cox and his team won a landmark ruling requiring the government to cut GHG emissions more dramatically than it had intended. The court ruled that the Dutch government had a duty of care to its citizens and must cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 25 per cent (up from 20 per cent) of that country’s 1990 emissions levels by 2020. It’s the first time a judge has legally required a state to take precautions against climate change and it could be used to support other climate cases around the world. The Dutch government is appealing the case.
Oil Decline and Human Rights
In his conversation with Silver Donald Cameron, Cox discusses how the decline of oil has the potential to “unleash a complete breakdown of western society economically, socially and politically.” He says, as oil reserves start to dry up, the mobility of basic necessities such as food, would also be affected, which could lead to shortages affecting our basic human right to a comfortable and secure life. Cox says that unless we replace our current oil-dependent systems with an alternative fuel, basic human rights will be compromised, societies will become impoverished, and there will be an escalation of climate-related refugee crises. Cox argues that the threat of human rights violations puts the judiciary in a position to step in and lead Western governments out of the dangerous deadlock.
In 2011 Cox published Revolution Justified: Why Only the Law Can Save us Now, a book about climate change and the stalemate or deadlock around this issue. The book calls for judicial intervention to save the planet and humanity from dangerous climate change. In his opinion governments have become a danger to the wellbeing of society due to their inaction to regulate greenhouse gases. “Our best hope of averting dangerous climate change and breaking the status quo in the energy world is the law,” he says.
Ecocide, the Dutch Climate Case, and Environmental Defenders
Femke Wijdekop is the legal researcher at the Institute for Environmental Security, an organization whose aim is to “advance global environmental security by promoting the maintenance of the regenerative capacity of life-supporting ecosystems.” In this exclusive Green Interview, Wijdekop discusses Earth law and the concept of “ecocide,” her role in the Dutch Climate case and her passion to help protect Environmental Defenders, those who are protecting the environment.
In this exclusive interview with Femke Wijdekop we discuss:
Earth Law and “Ecocide”
Femke Wijdekop says the “core flaw” in our legal system is that the earth is considered property. She says the enlightenment liberated people but enslaved the natural world and that it’s the legal system that now underpins that thinking. Wijdekop is part of a worldwide movement of lawyers in the growing field of Earth Law who believe the Earth should have rights and that if we enslave the natural world we threaten our own freedom as well. To this end she has been working with others to have “ecocide”—the massive destruction of ecosystems—made a crime against humanity and brought within the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court. She cites the Fukishima nuclear disaster, overfishing of the North Sea, the destruction of the Amazon and the Deep Horizon oil spill as examples of ecocides. She believes we should “widen the circle of subjects under law to include not only future generations, but other species and ecosystems as well.”
Dutch Climate Case
Femke Wijdekop was a co-litigant in the ground-breaking Dutch Climate Case, where she joined Urgenda along with 900 Dutch citizens and argued that the state, in not reducing CO2 emissions quickly enough to avoid climate catastrophe was not honouring its duty of care to the citizens. They won and the government is appealing the decision. “For the first time a judge established a duty of care towards future citizens in regard to climate justice,” she says. “The Earth needs a guardian and future generations need guardians. So in my view this is all very connected.
Wijdekop is passionate about helping to defend those who are on the front lines, risking their lives to protect the environment. She presents the startling statistic that two people every week are killed defending the earth. “They are the first to feel the effects of extractive industries and climate change because they often belong to communities of small-scale farmers and fishers that live in a more harmonious way with the Earth and they feel the effects of our system that treats the Earth as property, as a commodity first,” she says. “The system is crushing the people that are a voice on behalf of their community and on behalf of their ecosystems.” Wijdekop discusses the ways to keep these “whistleblowers” safe, through solidarity and support of NGOs but also through legal protection under international law.
The Matanza-Riachuelo River and the Mendoza Case
In this exclusive Green Interview, Argentinian lawyer Daniel Sallaberry discusses the Mendoza Case: an inspiring public interest litigation process in which the Supreme Court ordered the authorities to clean up the Matanza-Riachuelo river basin, one of the most contaminated places on earth. Frustrated that Argentina’s admirable environmental rights statutes had never had a solid, real-world test, Sallaberry took on the case and after four years of hearings the Supreme Court handed down a landmark decision not just for Argentina but for the world.
In this exclusive interview with Daniel Sallaberry we discuss:
The Matanza-Riachuelo River flows for 64 km from the District of La Matanza to the shores of La Boca, a barrio and well-known tourist destination in the Argentine capital, Buenos Aires. The Riachuelo was once identified as the eighth most polluted spot on the planet — nothing short of an environmental and social catastrophe — as a result of more than 200 years of run-off from tanneries, oil refineries, chemical industries, shanty-towns and farmlands. In this exclusive Green Interview, Argentinian lawyer Daniel Sallaberry discusses how the inhabitants of the river basin came together to launch a landmark legal suit, how they won, and how real justice is yet to be served.
The Mendoza Case
In 2004 a group of residents living in “Villa Inflamble,” one of the worst-polluted shanty towns in the Matanza-Riachuelo river basin in the province of Buenos Aires, filed a lawsuit called the Mendoza Case, named after Beatriz Mendoza, one of the 17 plaintiffs and residents of Villa Inflamable. The case was filed against the Argentinian government, the city of Buenos Aires, and 44 businesses for damages to their health and infringing their right to a healthy environment. On July 8, 2008, after four years of hearings the Supreme Court handed down a landmark decision in which it ruled that government and industry had indeed infringed the residents’ right to a healthy environment, and it ordered the national and provincial governments, and the municipality of Buenos Aires, to clean up the Riachuelo river and its basin, benefiting the more than five million people that live there. The verdict is still pending in the case against 44 businesses accused of polluting the river and harming the health of area residents. Furthermore, the work would be supervised by a citizens’ group and by a judge. Argentinian lawyer Daniel Sallaberry discusses this remarkable case and the challenges that remain.
GM seeds, GM salmon, and Mandatory labelling
Rachel Parent is the founder of “Kids Right to Know,” an organization calling for the labeling of GM foods. In this exclusive Green Interview, Parent explains the issues surrounding GM seeds, GM salmon, the need for mandatory labelling and how the organization she founded informs, educates, and motivate kids to stand up and make a difference.
In this exclusive interview with Rachel Parent we discuss:
According to Parent, while the promise of genetically modified plants was to increase yields and use less water, neither has actually been achieved. Instead, the purpose today seems to be either pest resistance or to allow the increased use of pesticides. “They require more water, they require more fertilizers, they require more pesticides,” she says. Parent also explains how the promise to feed the world was never realized and instead GMOs are contributing to poverty worldwide. She says farmers are investing in genetically modified seeds because they think that the yields will be higher but soon find that “they get diseases, the yields fail, pests become resistant to it and they eat all their crops and the farmers end up with nothing.”
Parent also discusses GM salmon—the eggs were approved by Canada’s Minister of Environment in 2013 but the fish themselves have yet to be approved for human consumption. The salmon are engineered with a growth hormone gene from Chinook salmon and genetic material from ocean pout (an eel-like creature). The company AquaBounty—now owned by Intrexon—claims the salmon grow to market-size twice as fast as other farmed salmon and plan to produce the eggs in Prince Edward Island and ship them to Panama for grow-out and processing. If approved, it would be the first GE food animal in the world. Parent says that if any of these bigger, faster growing, more aggressive fish were to escape into the wild there would be a “domino effect” of environmental consequences.
According to Parent, 64 countries around the world have mandatory labeling while Canada and the US are the only two industrialized nations that don’t require mandatory GMO labelling. She also points out that 70 percent of the foods we now eat contain Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) but we don’t know it because there’s no requirement to label it. Parent argues that while many independent peer reviewed studies question the safety of GMOs, linking them to allergies, digestive disorders, organ damage, even tumors, we are in effect being used as guinea pigs by the biotech industry.
Time — well past time, in fact — for a biggish update.
As you may know, the Green Interview team devoted the first nine months of this year largely to the GreenRights Maritimes project which ultimately became Defenders of the Dawn: Green Rights in the Maritimes, and was broadcast by CBC Atlantic on September 5. If you didn’t see it, the 50-second trailer is here: https://youtu.be/3SvdCehamY0 is and the whole show can be streamed here:http://www.cbc.ca/player/Kids/Kids/ID/2674978131/ That site is “geo-blocked,” and accessible only in Canada. If you need to send a link to someone outside Canada, this link will work from anywhere in the world: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5xdkoCFdeHE
The show drew a lot of attention, and some very positive comments. Also, an interview I did with the Nature Conservancy of Canada has just been published here: bit.ly/1fEZkKz You know that’s an old interview because it refers to 60 interviews at TheGreenInterview.com. Today there are actually almost 80 — including two exciting new ones with Larry Kowalchuk, the incisive lawyer from Saskatchewan who appeared in Defenders of the Dawn, and with Amy Larkin, founder of Greenpeace Solutions and author of a stimulating new book on business and the environment called Environmental Debt.
With Defenders of the Dawn completed, we’re turning our attention back to the full-length GreenRights documentary.
As you know, we have the material in hand to tell great environmental-rights stories from Argentina, Ecuador, the Philippines and the Maritimes, and we have important one-off interviews with influential figures from Australia, Scotland, the United States and South Africa. We had hoped to include a major story from India, and we feel a real need for a first-rate story from Europe.
India doesn’t seem possible, but a fabulous story turned up just recently in the Netherlands, where 900 citizens and the Urgenda Foundation sued the Dutch government for failing to act with sufficient urgency on climate change. Urgenda won, and their victory has sent shock waves around the world; activists in other countries from Norway to Australia are looking at the possibility of similar actions in their own countries. To get a taste of the reaction, take a look here: http://www.urgenda.nl/en/
As a result, Chris Beckett and I will travel to the Netherlands in late November to interview the leading figures in the case. Short excerpts will appear in the GreenRights show, but five will appear as Green Interviews. I’m particularly looking forward to meeting Roger Cox, the visionary lead lawyer in the Urgenda case, whose book Revolution Justified (http://www.revolutionjustified.org/) inspired the lawsuit.
We’ll also interview Marjan Minnesma,the executive director of the Urgenda Foundation. Here’s an interview with her about the Urgenda case — http://www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network/2015/jun/25/hague-climate-change-verdict-marjan-minnesma
Another lawyer, Femke Wijdekop, was a litigant in the Urgenda case, and is making a specialty of protecting environmental activists around the world. (It’s a dangerous business especially in the developing world; she says two eco-activists are killed every day.) You can see her in a TEDx talk here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fKt2DlZWH7k Femke has been inspired by Polly Higgins (pollyhiggins.com) a Scottish lawyer who has devoted her life to Eradicating Ecocide, which is the name of one of her books. Polly acts as a consulting attorney in environmental cases all over the world, and we’ll also be interviewing her in the Netherlands.
Finally, we will interview Jan van de Venis, a lawyer and unofficial Dutch Ombudsman for Future Generations. He’s an expert on the human right to a clean environment, and a director of an international NGO called WaterLex, which works at the intersection of human rights and sustainable water supplies. We’ll interview several secondary figures as well, and accumulate as much background footage as possible.
Financing the trip will be a bit of a challenge, and if you’re willing and able to donate, we’d appreciate it. Just go to www.GreenRights.com and click on the Donate button. We are, of course, still eager to find a major sponsor, but we simply haven’t had time to pursue that matter while doing the CBC production.
After this trip, however, we’ll be in a position to create an excellent film that gives a vivid picture of the global spread of environmental rights, using inspiring stories from four continents and voices from two more. Defenders of the Dawn, which provides a taste of the material, was described as “compelling,” “really riveting” and “one of the best and most important documentaries I’ve ever seen.” Still, Defenders is a short film, just 45 minutes long, and focussed on Canada’s Maritime Provinces. GreenRights, by contrast, will sweep around the world, from great cities like Buenos Aires and Amsterdam to the rain forests of the Amazon and the tropical islands of the Philippines, from the smog of Sarnia to the Democracy Schools of New England The story bristles with fascinating characters and dramatic stories.
Stay tuned! The best is yet to come!