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 email@example.com. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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!
Environmental Debt and Corporate Responsibility
Amy Larkin is an author, activist and consultant who works with businesses to help them recalculate the value of the natural world and count the real costs of doing business. In this exclusive Green Interview, Larkin discusses the concept—and subject of her 2013 book—environmental debt, as well as corporate responsibility.
In this exclusive interview with Amy Larkin we discuss:
Award-winning environmentalist Amy Larkin says that accounting systems and business models have to change so that they include the financial contributions of the natural world and stop ignoring the long-hidden costs of environmental damage. She gives the example of coal: despite what we actually pay for it, Larkin says coal might actually be the most expensive form of electricity in the long term. “The price of coal is cheap only because it is subsidized by its own victims,” she writes. Larkin argues that because we haven’t included the real costs of coal in the financial leger—climate change-related weather, droughts, and hurricanes—it appears cheap. But she says, “You’re just not paying it at the gas pump or for your electricity. This is the accounting that has to change. This is the business model that has to change,” she says.
As a consultant who works with businesses to help them recalculate the value of the natural world and the real costs of doing business, Larkin says there’s a growing number of big companies “that are organizing and ready to advocate for changing the rules.” She says that while there is still a long way to go, many are trying to incorporate good environmental standards as well as a system that correctly accounts for profit and loss. Regardless of their motivation, there are some that “advocate for the good,” she says.
Larry Kowalchuk is a courageous and distinguished human rights lawyer from Saskatchewan, who is acting for anti-fracking activists in New Brunswick. In 2013 anti-fracking protests took place in NB as a result of exploratory drilling and seismic testing by SWN Resources, a company that the NB government leased 2.5 million acres of public land to for natural gas exploration—land many indigenous people in NB claim as their traditional territory. Demonstrations in NB over a period of months—lead by members of Elsipogtog First Nation—with support across the country, attempted to prevent the oil and gas company from working. They resulted in dozens of arrests, and allegations of violence against both the RCMP and the protesters. The protests resulted in two legal challenges, both have retained Kowalchuk as their legal counsel.
In this exclusive interview with Larry Kowalchuk we discuss:
The anti-fracking lawsuits and citizen empowerment
Larry Kowalchuk is the lawyer representing New Brunswick citizens in two legal challenges to the fossil fuel industry and the governments that support them. In this exclusive Green Interview,Kowalchuk discusses the two suits he’s involved in: one for the New Brunswick Anti-Shale Gas Alliance, and the other involving a group of individuals referred to as The People’s lawsuit. He discusses the legal arguments for each case and explains how the process has empowered and solidified the communities affected by unconventional oil and gas development.
The anti-fracking lawsuits
The New Brunswick Anti-Shale Gas Alliance argues that the development of unconventional shale gas and oil deposits poses so great a threat to human health and the environment that it violates Section 7 of the Canadian Charter or Rights and Freedoms, which guarantees the right to life and security of the person. The People’s lawsuit argues that the two governments and their courts have attacked the rights of citizens and have granted illegal approval to the industry to develop shale gas, ignore environmental protection laws and unlawfully use police and malicious lawsuits to suppress and silence protectors of civil and human rights. Both suits seek to halt such development until it can be shown to be safe, if indeed it ever can be.
Kowalchuk says that the anti-fracking protests of 2013 resulted in the initiation of a dialogue in New Brunswick. He says people from all walks of life and backgrounds are now “participating in a discussion about how they want life to be here.” He says this empowerment is not only heartening but effective: In a recent provincial election citizens replaced the pro-fracking government with one that issued a moratorium on all forms of hydraulic fracturing.
As our faithful followers know, The Green Interview strives to post one new interview every month – but if we don’t tell you we’ve done that, how would you know? And we haven’t recently told you what we’ve been up to. The last six months has been an incredibly dizzy and productive period.
That’s mainly because we’ve been preoccupied with the GreenRights project, and specifically with our commission from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation to do a one-hour film about environmental rights in the Maritime provinces. That show is now completed; it’s called Defenders of the Dawn: Green Rights in the Maritimes, and it will be broadcast on CBC-TV’s Atlantic network at 8:00 on Saturday, September 5. You’ll find more details at www.DefendersoftheDawn.ca – and you can view the trailer here: http://www.cbc.ca/absolutelycanadian/maritimes/
We’re proud of the show. One of its early viewers called it “fast-paced and moving, with a fluid story arc told in many voices.” It presents a number of fighting Maritimers, and also some Green Interviewees in cameo appearances, including Tony Oposa, Marina Aizen, Pablo Fajardo and Daniel Sallaberry. (Sallaberry’s interview is not yet posted on the Green Interview site). The show also introduces Larry Kowalchuk, the brilliant environmental lawyer from Saskatchewan whose Green Interview will be the next one posted.
Meanwhile, we’ve continue to publish interviews with fascinating environmental leaders from the Philippines, the US, Argentina and Canada. We just haven’t told you about them :-). But here are the people whose interviews we’ve posted since my last blog entry last April:
Antonio Oposa, Jr., the lawyer who established “the Oposa doctrine,” the right of future generations to inherit a healthy environment. He also forced a massive cleanup of Manila Bay, stopped logging in old-growth forests and reef-fishing with cyanide and dynamite, and now seeks to reserve 50% of Philippine highways for sustainable transport.
Thomas Linzey and Mari Margil, the co-founder and associate director of the Community Environmental Legal Defence Fund, a pioneering US organization that helps communities (and nations like Ecuador and Nepal) assert their rights as communities, and the rights of the environment itself.
Atossa Soltani, founder and director of Amazon Watch, a US-based organization that works to protect the Amazon rainforest and support its indigenous peoples. Media strategist, photographer and filmmaker, she leads campaigns to force international corporations to raise their environmental and social standards.
Marina Aizen, an award-winning Argentinian journalist who has written a comprehensive history of the legal case that required a massive cleanup of the Riachuelo River in Buenos Aires. She was formerly the New York correspondent for the leading Buenos Aires newspaper Clarin, and she has been widely published in the Spanish-language press.
Stephen Leahy, independent international environmental journalist, and author of Your Water Footprint: The Shocking Facts About How Much Water We Use to Make Everyday Products.
Brilliant people, great ideas, passionate actions. Enjoy! And don’t miss the broadcast on the September 5, the Saturday of the Labour Day weekend!
Community Supported Environmental Journalism and Water Footprint
Stephen Leahy discusses his latest book on our water footprint and on how he’s made Community Supported Environmental Journalism work for him. After two decades writing about environmental issues in the public interest Leahy has also employed crowd sourcing as a way to finance his work. In 2014 he published his first book titled Your Water Footprint: The Shocking Facts about How Much Water we Use to Make Everyday Products.
In this exclusive interview with Stephen Leahy we discuss:
Community Supported Environmental Journalism
Stephen Leahy pioneered Community Supported Environmental Journalism as a way to finance his work while ensuring important environmental issues continue to be covered. Through Leahy’s Web site, people supplement his income though donations and support him in other ways including by providing accommodations when he travels. Leahy tells Cameron that the mainstream media in Canada have essentially abandoned the environmental beat and that “Canadians are actually fairly poorly informed compared to Europeans who still have very strong environmental coverage.”
In his 2014 book Your Water Footprint: The Shocking Facts about How Much Water we Use to Make Everyday Products, Leahy presents the reader with a combination of riveting facts and infographics to illustrate how much water is used to support everyday activities. Much like the Ecological Footprint, which measures consumption against how much land is required to support the resource use/ waste, a “water footprint” is the amount of fresh water used to produce the goods and services we consume, including growing, harvesting, packaging, and shipping. The concept of “virtual water” is about the water it takes to make everyday things: 5,000 litres to make a cotton t-shirt; 140 litres for one cup of coffee; 7,500 litres to produce a pound of butter. According to Leahy, the average person in North America’s water footprint is about 8,000 litres per day per person. Of that, 300 to 400 litres is the direct use—toilets, showers, cooking, washing—while the rest of it is the virtual water. This is an issue because only about 3 percent of the world’s water is drinkable and we’re using more and more of it every year. Leahy discusses how the resulting shortages are causing drought, food shortages, economic contraction, and mass migration.
Amazon Watch, Resisting Oil Exploration, and Rights of Nature
In this exclusive Green Interview, Atossa Soltani discusses Amazon Watch, the organization she founded in 1996 that works to protect the rainforest and advance the rights of indigenous peoples in the Amazon Basin. She also discusses the ongoing legal battles in support of indigenous people who are either resisting oil exploration in their territories or fighting for compensation as a result of pollution. Soltani also discusses her recent involvement with a global movement calling for rights of nature.
In this exclusive interview with Atossa Soltani we discuss:
In 1996, while Atossa Soltani was working as a campaign director for Rainforest Action Network, she confronted Brazilian President Cardoso, who was addressing the United Nations, about deforestation in the Amazon. As Cardoso was leaving she managed to stop him for about 20 seconds and protest his plans to build roads through the Amazon. In this Green Interview, Soltani recalls the pivotal moment after Cardoso got into his limousine, leaving her with an audience of 20-30 journalists doing an “impromptu press conference.” When they asked her who she was she says she “took a deep breath and said Amazon Watch! I just made up the name at the time and the next day it was all over the newspapers: “Amazon Watch Confronts the Brazilian President.”
Resisting Oil Exploration
In Ecuador, Amazon Watch supports a court case to hold the U.S oil company Chevron accountable for the dumping of 18 billion US gallons of toxic waste water into a region of Ecuador’s Amazon rainforest inhabited by more than 30,000 people – purported to be one of the largest oil related contaminations ever. Amazon Watch is also involved in Peru, where it’s a plaintiff in a case against U.S oil company Occidental for its damage to the rainforest and where it also supports the indigenous Achuar people in resisting oil exploration on their lands by Talisman, a Canadian oil company as well as the Argentinian company Pluspetrol. It is also active in struggles against oil companies in Colombia and Brazil. Amazon Watch also supports a school that trains indigenous leaders how to defend their rights against oil and mining companies.
Rights of Nature
Atossa Soltani is also involved in the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature, where in 2014 she was one of 8 “judges” in the world’s first ethics Tribunal on Rights of Nature in Quito, Ecuador, the first country to recognize the rights of nature in its constitution. The Tribunal is planned to be a permanent platform for hearing and judging cases from around the world. Seven specific cases were presented to the Tribunal including the B.P Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, over which Soltani presided.