Ecuador Constitutional Assembly Votes to Approve Rights of Nature In New
Legal Defense Fund: Ecuador First Nation in the World to Shift to
Rights-Based Environmental Protection Using Legal Defense Fund Support
Ecuadorians Follow Lead of U.S. Communities Partnering With Legal Defense
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
On July 7, 2008, the Ecuador Constitutional Assembly - composed of one
hundred and thirty (130) delegates elected countrywide to rewrite the
country's Constitution - voted to approve articles for the new constitution
recognizing rights for nature and ecosystems.
"If adopted in the final constitution by the people, Ecuador would become
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.
"Ecuador is now leading the way for countries around the world to make this
necessary and fundamental change in how we protect nature," added Mari
Margil, Associate Director of the Legal Defense Fund.
Over the past year, the Legal Defense Fund has been invited to assist
Delegates to the Ecuador Constitutional Assembly to re-write that country's
constitution. Delegates requested that the Legal Defense Fund draft
proposed Rights of Nature language for the constitution based on ordinances
developed and adopted by municipalities in the United States.
The Legal Defense Fund has now assisted communities in Pennsylvania, New
Hampshire, and Virginia to draft and adopt new laws that change the status
of natural communities and ecosystems from being regarded as property under
the law to being recognized as rights-bearing entities.
Those local laws recognize that natural communities and ecosystems possess
an inalienable and fundamental right to exist and flourish, and that
residents of those communities possess the legal authority to enforce those
rights on behalf of those ecosystems. In addition, these laws require the
local governments to remedy violations of those ecosystem rights.
In essence, these laws represent changes to the status of property law,
eliminating the authority of a property owner to interfere with the
functioning of ecosystems and natural communities that exist and depend upon
that property for their existence and flourishing. The local laws allow
certain types of development that do not interfere with the rights of
ecosystems to exist and flourish.
The Legal Defense Fund, created in 1995 as a public interest law firm, works
with communities that recognize that environmental protection cannot be
attained under a structure of law that treats natural communities and
ecosystems as mere property.
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.
These laws - including the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and similar
state laws - legalize environmental harms by regulating how much pollution
or destruction of nature can occur under law. Rather than preventing
pollution and environmental destruction, these laws instead codify it. In
addition, under commonly understood terms of preemption, once these
activities are legalized by federal or state governments, local governments
are prohibited from banning them.
The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund is the only public interest
law firm in the U.S. that specializes in building a body of law focused on
establishing rights for nature. In pursuit of that goal, the Legal Defense
Fund has served as special legal counsel to over one hundred municipal
governments across the U.S., and serves as a legal advisor to organizations
and governments in other countries, including Ecuador, who are focused on
driving similar laws into their governing frameworks.