[Marxism] Justice and Sustainability
J.M.P.Cloke at lboro.ac.uk
J.M.P.Cloke at lboro.ac.uk
Thu Apr 16 06:06:46 MDT 2009
Ideas surrounding justice have certainly been
functionally 'legal, propertied, concepts' for a prolonged
period of time historically speaking, but at the same time
it has also always had a far wider hinterland conceptually
and now, I would say, is evolving rapidly.
Even the UNCHR, flawed as its implementation has been,
recognised a change in the idea of rights accrued (and
hence (theoretically) access to justice) through the sole
condition of being human. It isn't a coincidence that
ideas such as the International Court evolved as
globalizing capitalism underwent a rapid expansion, but if
the ideas of justice represented by these concepts and
institutions are so contingent on property rights and
capital, then why does both nationalist and
supra-nationalist capital tend to fight so ferociously
against their legislation and implementation?
Ideas on environmental justice (directly linked to
social justice) have advance rapidly over the last few
decades, as José Augusto Pádua says: "Over the last few
years, two fundamental concepts - environmental justice
and ecological debt - have renewed the debate about the
global transition toward sustainability, creating a
stronger link between the movements for social change and
If you don't believe this, then I invite you to read
the following article on the move by Ecuador to change
their constitution to "recognize legally enforceable
Rights of Nature, or ecosystem rights." This first,
faltering step effectively constitutes the first practical
attempt to 'de-property' the environment; I'm sure we
shall all be very cynical about the prospects for success,
but none-the-less it still represents a sea-change in the
evolution of a more holistic concept of justice.
Ecuador Approves New Constitution: Voters Approve
Rights of Nature
March 18, 2009 at 10:14:55
by Mari Margil, The Community Environmental Legal
By an overwhelming margin, the people of Ecuador today
voted for a new constitution that is the first in the
world to recognize legally enforceable Rights of Nature,
or ecosystem rights.
The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund is
pioneering this work in the U.S., where it has assisted
more than a dozen local municipalities with drafting and
adopting local laws recognizing Rights of Nature.
Over the past year, the Legal Defense Fund was invited
to assist the Ecuadorian Constituent Assembly to develop
and draft provisions for the new constitution to put
ecosystem rights directly into the Ecuadorian
constitution. The elected Delegates to the Constituent
Assembly requested that the Legal Defense Fund draft
language based on ordinances developed and adopted by
municipalities in the U.S.
"Ecuador is now the first country in the world to
codify a new system of environmental protection based on
rights," stated Thomas Linzey, Executive Director of the
Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund.
"With this vote, the people of Ecuador are leading the
way for countries around the world to fundamentally change
how we protect nature," added Mari Margil, Associate
Director of the Legal Defense Fund.
Article 1 of the new "Rights for Nature" chapter of
the Ecuador constitution reads: "Nature or Pachamama,
where life is reproduced and exists, has the right to
exist, persist, maintain and regenerate its vital cycles,
structure, functions and its processes in evolution. Every
person, people, community or nationality, will be able to
demand the recognitions of rights for nature before the
Legally Enforceable Ecosystem Rights: From the U.S. to
The Legal Defense Fund has assisted communities in the
U.S. - in Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, and Virginia - to
draft and adopt first-in-the-nation laws that change the
status of ecosystems from being regarded as property under
the law to being recognized as rights-bearing entities.
From Tamaqua Borough in Pennsylvania, to the Town of
Barnstead in New Hampshire, to Halifax in southern
Virginia, the Legal Defense Fund works with communities
that recognize that environmental protection cannot be
attained under a structure of law that treats natural
ecosystems as property.
All of the major environmental laws in the U.S. -
including the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and
similar state laws - treat nature as property under the
law. These laws legalize environmental harms by regulating
how much pollution or destruction of nature can occur.
Rather than preventing pollution and environmental
destruction, these laws instead codify it.
The Rights of Natures laws developed by the Legal
Defense Fund for local municipalities in the U.S.
represent changes to the status of property law,
eliminating the authority of a property owner to interfere
with the functioning of ecosystems that exist and depend
upon that property for their existence and flourishing.
These local laws allow certain types of development that
do not interfere with the rights of ecosystems to exist
These local laws - and now Ecuador's constitution -
recognize that ecosystems possess the inalienable and
fundamental right to exist and flourish, and that people
possess the legal authority to enforce those rights on
behalf of ecosystems. In addition, these laws require the
governments to remedy violations of those ecosystem
The Ecuador constitution operates in the same way.
Today's environmental laws are failing. By most every
measure, the environment today is in worse shape than when
the major U.S. environmental laws were adopted over thirty
years ago. Since then, countries around the world have
sought to replicate these laws. Yet, species decline
worldwide is increasing exponentially, global warming is
far more accelerated than previously believed,
deforestation continues unabated around the world, and
overfishing in the world's oceans is pushing many
fisheries to collapse.
The people, communities, and governments that the
Legal Defense Fund works with recognize that environmental
protection cannot be attained under a structure of law
that continues to treat natural ecosystems as property.
The Pachamama Alliance, with offices in San Francisco
and Quito, played a key role in facilitating the Legal
Defense Fund's involvement in the drafting of Ecuador's
Copyright © OpEdNews, 2002-2009
More information about the Marxism