By Carine Nadal (Wild Law UK)
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On Monday 14th May, Wild Law UK held their Annual General Meeting and Rio+20 event.  

Wild Law UK AGM

A pub may seem a wild place for a formal meeting but the Sir Richard Steele pub was rather apt for Wild Law UK’s AGM.  Over 25 people joined us to formally elect the Steering Group and approve amendments to the Wild Law UK Constitution.  Wild Law UK has been busy over the past year advocating the rights of Nature: organising events such as the UK launch of the new book Exploring Wild Law: Philosophy of Earth Jurisprudence, edited by Peter Burdon (Wakefield Press, 2011), and a Wild Law weekend, setting up a legal drafting group, submitting responses to consultations on law and policy reform, networking with other groups, and amplifying Earth’s voice through social media.

After the formalities we heard about some of the pioneering campaigns in the run up to the Rio+20 Earth Summit, Brazil in June, which complement Wild Law UK’s work.

Eradicating Ecocide

Many of you have probably heard of Polly Higgins, a passionate advocate for Earth and a barrister, who is calling for the United Nations to recognise that extensive destruction of ecosystems, such as mining in the Tar Sands, Canada, is a crime of ‘Ecocide’.  Such destructive activity is already recognised as a crime during wartime so why not so during ‘peace time’?  

Louise Kulbicki, the Legal Co-ordinator for Eradicating Ecocide, talked about the buzz of activity from the grassroots to governments.   There are now over 6000 members and an Avaaz public petition to stop Ecocide. 10 countries, for example Kyrgyzstan, already have a national Law of Ecocide! Louise recently hand delivered a letter about Ecocide for the Dalai Lama, and Polly presented the campaign at the recent Rule of Law for Nature conference in Oslo.  

At the Rio+20 Summit the Eradicating Ecocide campaign are calling for a Head of State to take a stand and call for an amendment of the Rome Statute to recognise Ecocide as a 5th crime against peace. 

Today - Wednesday 16th May - Polly is launching her new book – Earth is Our Business – arguing that protecting Earth is the responsibility of us all, and sets out a ‘new set of laws based on the sacredness of all life’.

Planetary Boundaries Initiative

Our Earth is generous with gifts of life and conditions for survival including clean air, water, healthy ecosystems, and food.  But we are plundering our Earth beyond her limits. Scientists have identified nine of these planetary boundaries, three of which have already been exceeded - climate change, the nitrogen cycle and biodiversity. Acidification of the oceans is also of particular concern. 

Peter Roderick, a public interest lawyer in the UK, is calling for adoption of a Declaration on Planetary Boundaries which would require recognition, respect and responsibility for living within Earth’s boundaries.  

A newly formed Planetary Boundaries Initiative is calling for a supra-sectoral institution as ‘keeper of the thresholds’ which will take a holistic rather than segmented approach to protecting Earth.  

Will Rio +20 recognise Rights of Mother Earth?

The forthcoming Rio+20 will be a 3-day dialogue with over 500 side events and a Peoples’ Forum. 

Kirsty Schneeberger from Stakeholder Forum guided us through the Rio+20 Summit in June which aims to:

-       review previous commitments to sustainable development – there is a need for  stronger implementation strategy and guidelines for international instruments.

-       explore new and emerging issues - such as food, water and climate security, resilience, and planetary and social boundaries.

-       renew political will on the green economy, and institutional framework for sustainable development – political will for sustainable development has wavered over the years.  However, responsible economics and longer term thinking is emerging through proposals of a Convention on Corporate Social Responsibility and Accountability, and UN High Commissioner for Future Generations.

There is positive news that, as of the 4 May and after two full weeks of negotiations in New York, revised proposals to paragraph 71 of the Rio+20 Outcome Document as it stands recognises the Rights of Mother Earth!  The G-77 and Ecuador’s proposal explicitly recognises Mother Earth as our home, the interdependence between all life, and need to live in harmony with Earth. Bolivia and Ecuador’s proposal goes further to recognise Mother Earth as a living system and her rights to life, to continue her cycles and processes, be free of contamination/pollution, and to be restored.  This echoes the rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth developed at an alternative climate change summit in Bolivia in 2010. 

The co-chairs will take all the proposals and amendments on board before producing a streamlined or suggested text, which is very soon to be produced…


 


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