This article originally appeared in UKELA's
Once again another successful weekend for UKELA’s Wild Law Special Interest group at Balmaha on the south-western shores of Loch Lomond, just north of Glasgow. An enthusiastic group of participants assembled at the Bunkhouse, Balmaha
, having travelled there from all directions of the compass. The purpose of the weekend was to visit and learn about Scotland's first national park, Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park,
the law surrounding it, issues of day to day management and problems faced by the dedicated National Park team.
As always, the value and fun of a Wild Law weekend lies in getting on those boots, tramping over the ground, studying the lie of the land, the plants and animal life, and climbing the hills for stunning views of surrounding wild landscapes. Loch Lomond sits on the geological fault between the green and fertile lowlands of the south and the harsh and rugged highlands of the north. The loch is a single huge piece of water, but it has multiple ecosystems - shallow and warm in the south along with the marshlands formed by the mouth of the River Endrick, but deep and cold in the north. Round the sides of the loch the landowners have been quietly consolidating and aligning their management to enhance the native species and ecological reconstruction of the landscape.
Visits included the island, Inchcailloch, which was small but intensely green from its full tree cover. Inchcailloch once carried a significant human population and deep in the island woodlands we were taken to an ancient cemetery with grass-shrouded church remains. No one lives on the island nowadays and it is given over to wildlife, with many deer. After that everyone climbed to the summit of Conic Hill (361m/1184ft) just behind. The reward was a stunning all-round view from the very stones of the Highland Fault Line that could be seen stretching far to the southwest and to the island of Arran, proposed as the venue for next year's Wild Law weekend.
During the evening we heard from Helen McDade about the John Muir Trust, its aims and ambitions. Named after the Dunbar-born pioneer of American wilderness protection, the JMT is a UK charity with over 10,000 members dedicated to the protection of wild land for both nature and people. It owns and manages large tracts of wild land in Scotland. Under Helen's guidance, there was a discussion of issues affecting wild land and wilderness, including the hot
topic of wind farms.
The next excursion was up Ben Venue (727m/2386ft) in the nearby Trossachs involving a suitably wild-land-experience
hike to the summit, which provided fine wilderness views stretching far into the misty snow-dotted distances. The keen-eyed soon spotted the wind turbines in the east.
The weekend ended with rain, but the memories were of blue and green, and the love of wildness and wilderness, and friendships, had been rekindled afresh.
Last Saturday (27 July) Christian Heitsch and I, from Wild Law UK
, led an afternoon workshop at the Resurgence Summer Gathering
. The Gathering took place over a weekend at a small camp on Green and Away
’s site in the countryside outside Malvern, Worcestershire.
The camp’s amenities included organic food, wood-burning showers, crafts, electricity from the sun and wind, and saunas. Speakers included Satish Kumar (editor of Resurgence & Ecologist
), Natalie Bennett (leader of the Green Party) and Mumta Ito (founder of the International Centre for Wholistic Law
). Evenings ended with music and
The title of our workshop was “Unlimited Growth vs. Rights of Mother Earth: Implications of Wild Law for the Economic System”. Our overall objective was to encourage discussion and reflection on how we might go about recognising and promoting the rights of Nature in our daily lives. The workshop’s ‘basis in law’ was the draft Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth
, first adopted in 2010 by the World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth in Cochabamba, Bolivia. The Universal Declaration sets out both the rights of Mother Earth (Nature) and the obligations of human beings to her. For example, the Declaration provides that Mother Earth has the right to maintain her identity and integrity as a distinct, self-regulating and interrelated being. On the other hand, every human being is responsible for respecting and living in harmony with Mother Earth. Armed with a synopsis of the Declaration and a brief explanation of its provisions, a very lively discussion ensued amongst the workshop’s participants.
Firstly, the notion of rights was explored:
- Who or what had rights? And what were these rights?
- Is it possible to exercise what we perceive as our own (human) right to a life of quality (both physically and spiritually) without impinging on the rights of Nature or things in Nature?
Examples such as agriculture and agricultural practices were contemplated. Human intent and motivation were considered important factors in signalling respect for Nature’s rights. Participants discussed the obligation to act compassionately and respectfully toward Nature. It is important to consider alternatives to the ‘norm’ when engaging with nature while recognising that this is not always easy to do. In practice compromises might need to be made. Key principles outlined for guiding our relationship with Nature in our daily lives include: the notion of holism (or co-dependence), non-violence, mindfulness and inter-generational equity.
When asked what obstacles one might encounter in the attempt to incorporate these principles and obligations into daily life, participants enumerated a number of impediments thrown up by society. It is not always possible to act as simply as we would like to. We live in a complex society that is highly interconnected increasing the risk that our actions will have unforeseen consequences. Fear and lack of awareness were other obstacles discussed, but one participant reminded us of the following quote by Arthur Schopenhauer:All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being
We were encouraged to bear this in mind when confronting obstacles to complying with our obligations to Nature. The workshop wound up with a discussion of what actions we might take to better respect and live in harmony with Nature.
A number of ideas for action were volunteered by participants. These ranged from the individual: walk the talk, be self-aware, act with loving kindness, hope actively, to the communal: sign the petition to support the rights of Nature
, get involved in a European Citizens’ Initiative
to give Nature rights, help join up like-minded groups and create chains of action. Ultimately, there seemed to be agreement that the sharing of ideas and views at the individual level is a necessary starting point for encouraging a broader movement toward living in harmony with Nature.
Our job as workshop leaders was made easy by the willing contributions of participants, and I personally left the Gathering on Saturday with a renewed sense of inspiration to meet my responsibility to respect and live in harmony
with Nature. Thanks to the Gathering for that!
At a glittering awards ceremony held at the Waldorf Hotel in
London, attended by over 200 of the great and the good from the legal and corporate world, an innovative Ecocide project was a finalist for an award in the creative use of mediation and restorative justice techniques.
The awards were given by the Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution, Europe’s premier body dedicated to using mediation techniques in business and the public sector. An unlikely place for Ecocide to be recognised, you might think? The journey to that evening started back in September 2011 when the Eradicating Ecocide campaign staged a
mock trial of two fictional oil company CEOs at the Supreme Court, attracting huge media interest. The CEOs were convicted of the crime of ecocide and were due to be sentenced in March 2012. In a highly unusual step, rather than applying conventional penalties of fines or prison, the CEOs were given the opportunity to take part in a restorative justice process, which involved bringing them into a dialogue with those who had been negatively impacted by their criminal actions. Restorative justice is a branch of the mediation field and is ideally suited to resolving crimes of ecocide.
Wild Law UK members Liz Rivers and Carine Nadal were involved in the design and implementation of the process, which was co-organised by The Hamilton Group and The University of Essex. (See Carine Nadal’s blog post on the
process below. The judges said of this project:
“The Ecocide Mock Trial Sentencing is an innovative, thoughtful attempt to apply restorative justice principles to the issue of sustainability, through the staging of a mock trial predicated on the as-yet fictional crime of ‘ecocide’. It experiments with new Alternative Dispute Resolution hybrids, and how they might be applied in practice.”
Ecocide and Wild Law principles are clearly beginning to penetrate the mainstream. Watch this space!
Where better for Wild Law UK to spread the word than at the Wilderness Festival, one of the hottest new arrivals to the festival scene in the UK. Billed as “A Celebration shaped by nature, A landscape transformed by the arts”, the Wilderness Festival, held on the beautiful Cornbury estate in rural Oxfordshire, is a beguiling mix of music, theatre, talks, gourmet food, outdoor pursuits and all round quirky fun. I was invited to speak at its flagship speakers’ venue, The Secret Forum, which can best be described as a combination of The Hay Literary Festival meets Glastonbury. Alongside speakers such as Professor Richard Layard of the LSE, The Guardian’s Oliver Burkeman, author of “Wild” Jay Griffiths and Founder of the School of Life Roman Krznaric, I delivered an 18 minute TED-style talk on the latest developments in Wild Law.
I talked about how we are currently experiencing a huge transformation across many different sectors such as education, health, communications, science, energy and finance. The changes we in the Wild Law movement are advocating are part of this wider global shift. I used the example of a child shifting from perceiving the world to be flat to understanding that it is actually a globe as a metaphor for this shift in consciousness we are currently undergoing.
As a way of grounding these ideas I invited participants to experiment with walking barefoot on the grass as a simple yet profound way of connecting more powerfully with the Earth, unmediated by the insulating buffer of technology - even if it is only the rubber sole of a wellie!
The audience were very enthusiastic and after my talk a steady stream of people approached me to find out how they could get involved and learn more about Wild Law. They including a number of lawyers who told me that the title of the talk had caught their eye and they had made a point of coming along, despite the fact that there were back-to-back talks scheduled from 10am – midnight.
The enthusiastic response I received from the audience for these ideas was a heartening reminder that there are many people working within the system who are dissatisfied and hungering for something better. For them, learning about these ideas is a homecoming, just as they were for me when I first heard them over 8 years ago.
An article based on the ideas in my talk will be posted on this website shortly.
After appearances at the London Green Fair and Buddhafield Festival, the Wild Law UK tour of summer events continued with its tent pitched at the Resurgence Summer Camp held at the Green & Away site near Worcester from 26th to 29th July. Green & Away is the UK’s only tented conference centre and with woodburning showers, compost toilets and much of the food sourced from a nearby care farm, is a wonderful example of sustainable living in an inspiring setting.
Invited to run a workshop on the Friday afternoon, we had chosen to explore ‘Living Earth Law’. This would outline some Earth Jurisprudence principles and consider how they might be applied in our daily lives. The aim was to demonstrate that Earth Jurisprudence was not just about written law but a way of life. Unsure about how such a session would be received it was great to have more than forty people attending in the main marquee to listen and ask questions. The second part of the workshop saw many of them participate in our practical exercise envisioning how Earth-centred food, education, money and energy systems could look.
Although unplanned, an Earth Justice theme began to emerge during the camp, as Polly Higgins spoke about the Eradicating Ecocide campaign and Helen Moore debuted her poem “Earth Justice”- a response to the Ecocide mock trial. This also tied in well with Satish Kumar’s emphasis on the relationship between Soil, Soul and Society with a need for a change in personal and societal behaviour to become more ecologically aware. In addition, Nicola Peel’s talk offered practical steps to restore environmental damage by pollution that people
can and are taking.
This was a great opportunity for Wild Law UK to reach out to new people and to discuss and share ideas. There is clearly an appetite for change. The camp demonstrated to us the potential of alternative forms of messaging such as poetry and storytelling. We left feeling very creative. A huge thank you to Resurgence Magazine for an inspiring camp. Next stop, Wilderness Festival.
By Carine Nadal (Wild Law UK)
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.
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…
Ecocide Sentencing - Participants of the Restorative Justice process
Carine Nadal, Earth Jurisprudence Co-ordinator at the Gaia Foundation, and member of Wild Law UK shares reflections on her participation in the mock Ecocide Sentencing. The original and full version of her blog appears here.
On 31st March 2012, in an event organized by the Hamilton Group
and the Institute for Democracy & Conflict Resolution (IDCR)
at the University of Essex, two mining company directors were sentenced having been found guilty of Ecocide - the extensive destruction of ecosystems - at a mock trial
in the UK Supreme Court on 30th September 2011. Ecocide has been proposed by Polly Higgins as the 5th international crime against peace. The directors were found guilty of undermining the peaceful enjoyment of the Earth Community in the Athabasca Tar Sands, Canada. Restorative justice process
One of the mining company directors – Mr Bannerman – accepted responsibility and agreed to participate in a restorative justice process prior to his sentencing. Restorative justice is a process which provides an opportunity for the voices of the victims to be heard. It is highly relevant in an environmental and social context where issues are interconnected and where the focus is collaboration and healing rather than conflict and retribution.
I was invited to participate in this process to amplify the voice of Earth – one of the victims - and was joined by those voicing wider humanity (Jess Philimore), indigenous peoples (Gerald Amos, Chief Councillor from the Haisla Nation in Canada), future generations (Philippa De Boissiere), the birds killed in the Tar Sands (Peter Smith), along with the mining company’s Chief Sustainability Officer (Roger Cowe) and Chairman of the company’s pension fund (Paddy Briggs). Lawrence Kershen, chair of the Restorative Justice Council
, facilitated the process. It was an intense and moving experience for all.
In my role as Earth I came to a deeper understanding that: Earth is Mother of all life
We, whether humans, birds, forests, mountains or soil, are all children of Earth. Earth gives us life, nurtures and protects us like our human mothers. When I asked Mr Bannerman whether he had children, he erupted with parental instinct fearing that he would never see his family again if he were sentenced to prison. If only we widened our circle of compassion to our wider Earth family, as Albert Einstein urged, then we would feel Mother Earth’s deep pain for the loss of her children killed because of the Tar Sands extraction and those yet or never to be born. How can we put profit over life? Earth is a Living Being
This is the understanding of many indigenous peoples, and scientists such as James Lovelock and Stephan Harding. As Dzomo la Mupo
(Voice of Earth), Sacred Site custodians in Venda, South Africa explain: ‘Minerals and metals are the heart of Earth. If we remove them, it is like removing a person’s heart. It will kill the person. It is the same with our Earth, who will die if minerals or metals are removed. Her life force will be drained.’
The powerful imagery of Earth as a living body helped me understand what Earth must feel when activities such as the Tar Sands extraction grabs and gauges her skin/land leaving huge scars, sucks and pollutes her blood/water supply, and chokes her with filthy air. As we are all interconnected and interdependent, if we damage one part of Earth’s body we damage the whole of Earth, and ultimately damage ourselves. Earth speaks to us
If only we, particularly in industrialised countries, took the time to listen and feel what Earth is saying, and stop stifling her voice with our human-centred desires. Earth is warning us that she is reaching her threshold of tolerance to human destructive behaviour. Will we continue to disobey Earth’s laws and destroy our Earth family like a cancer OR will we abide by Earth’s laws for the benefit of the whole Earth Community? As a mother, Earth is forgiving and compassionate but even she has limits. We need to re-learn our eco-literacy of Earth’s cycles, rhythms and boundaries. Our indigenous elders who have been reading Earth’s laws for centuries can guide us. Mr Bannerman accepted Earth’s proposal for there to be a Guardian of Earth on the board of his company who would determine whether activities were in the best interest of the wider Earth Community. We are all Guardians of Earth
We all have the responsibility to amplify Earth’s voice. For the sake of past, present and future generations, we must respect the rights of the Earth Community to exist, habitat and fulfill our function in the evolutionary process, and live within Earth’s laws. Elder Thomas Berry, who developed the philosophy of Earth Jurisprudence, explained that the ‘Great Work’ ahead of us is to live in a mutually enhancing relationship and tread softly on Earth. Sentencing
Reminding us that ‘Earth is a precious heritage’, Judge Ian Lawrie ruled that, given his genuine participation in restorative justice process, Mr Bannerman's sentence would be deferred for six months. During this time he has to uphold his commitments, agreed during the restorative justice process, to maintain suspension of mining in the Tar sands, meaningfully involve indigenous peoples in the decision-making process, appoint a guardian of Earth and future generations, and transition to renewable energy.
A short film of the event is available here Parts 1
Fereshteh with Conor and Occupied Times editor Michael
Wild Law UK supporter Fereshteh Ehsan writes about last night's highly successful Occupy Law event at Tent City University, London. The distinguished panel at this event included Prof Conor Gearty (an eminent human rights lawyer), barrister Sarah Sackman, New Statesman blogger and city lawyer David Allen Green, barrister with a reputation for defending the underdog David Wolfe, and occupy Defendant George Barda. All the panellists expressed support for Occupy lsx in its mission to achieve systemic change and justice. Many wild lawyers attended this event and nobbled the speakers afterwards! Justice for the planet is a core concern of occupy, as noted in Occupy LSX's initial statement. Fereshteh Ehsan
What emerged from the Tent City University debate last night was the ready acknowledgement by the eminent panel of lawyers of the need to maintain common land, the importance of the right to peaceable protest as a justified means of drawing attention to an unacceptable state of affairs and the vital role of the law in championing the rights of the people.
There was recognition that people play the part that they can in whatever position they are in to change law and society for the better, whether it be, for example, through protesting, journalism or practising law and that sometimes it can only be through a combination of these means that dramatic change can be achieved - as emphasised by David Wolfe and Conor Gearty.
The impeccable Sarah Sackman gave the inspirational analogy of the American black people’s struggle and success in achieving recognition of equality in the first half of the 20th century and the vital role that the law played alongside civil disobedience. David Allen Green’s strong support of his fellow panellists (on first hearing the Cathedral’s charge that the presence of Occupy presented a threat to health and safety he declared it a sham in his article in the New Statesman) was tempered only with one proviso: that civil disobedience should not be the first recourse to changing the law as the law itself provided means for change but that where there was no other way, peaceful demonstration was a necessary and acceptable means of drawing attention to an unacceptable state of affairs or rather in his apt words, “you need to throw everything up into the air!”
Occupy LSX is back in court on Wednesday 22 February to hear whether judges will allow permission to appeal. Readers may also be interested in Conor Gearty's article in the Occupied Times on the role of the Cathedral in the eviction case.
, freelance journalist 5 February 2012.
Some 50 people crammed into the Tent City University outside St Paul’s cathedral earlier today to take part in a discussion
about the reasons for the continuing failure of the UN talks. The latest round of talks in Durban, South Africa in December ended with little more than voluntary agreements and plans to do something at some point in the future. Friends of the Earth International produced a pithy analysis of the outcome entitled Disastrous “Durban Package” Accelerates Onset of Climate Catastrophe
George Monbiot was the panel’s star attraction. After Durban he wrote a column in The Guardian
which asked: “So why is it so easy to save the banks and so hard to save biosphere? If ever you needed evidence that our governments operate in the interests of the elite, rather than the world as a whole, here it is.”
The event was organized by the Occupy LSX Energy, Equity and Environment
working group who had previously agreed a statement
on the Durban conference which pinned the blame of the ongoing failure of the UN climate talks to adequately address their central mission of “avoiding dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system” on the influence of vested interests. The problem was therefore systemic and required systemic solutions. The group’s statement supported the outcomes of the World Peoples’ Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth and called for the UK government to introduce “a declaration of rights for all species and protection for the earth systems, ecosystems and habitats that support them “ and legislation to make ecocide a crime.
If systemic reform of the UNFCCC system does not come quickly, and adequate solutions to keeping within our rapidly diminishing carbon budget not implemented, then it will be a walking zombie, that has demonstrably failed in its task. Would adopting a Declaration on Earth Rights and other international legal measures such as outlawing Ecocide and respecting planetary boundaries help fix a broken system? Claire Morris
who had traveled across African to Durban as part of the Climate Justice Caravan listed a number of examples that she had witnessed of special interests interfering with the process in Durban.
Asad Rehman of Friends of the Earth had been in Durban and did not have a good word to say about the outcome. Civil society, he said, had to be involved in the process just to make sure the outcome was not as bad as it could otherwise have been. The glimmer of hope in the talks did not lie inside the conference centre but in the Occupation outside the centre with its daily general assemblies based on consensus decision-making. A large and vociferous group of civil society representatives also demonstrated their deep displeasure with the talks by occupying the conference
Asad celebrated the diversity of opinions that the global climate movement had when it came to solutions, but George Barda, a litigant in person in the case between Occupy London and the Corporation of London, argued that when it came to addressing the climate problem, a global solution was needed and the solutions favoured by the 99% needed to be clearly articulated if we were to have any success. Thankfully, that was one of the tasks that Occupy as a global movement had been working on - constructing a common narrative that links the environmental, economic and democratic crises and advocates a shared vision of solutions and a better world.
Crowd outside the Royal Courts of Justice today after the judgment (18 Jan 2012)
*UPDATED 19 January 2012 - with judgment*On Wednesday 18 January 2012 in the High Court occupiers and many supporters, along with the City of London Corporation, were in court to hear the judgment in the case to evict the occupiers from land around St Paul's Cathedral. The occupiers claim that they have the right to protest; but the Corporation owns the land and (successfully) contended that the occupier's human rights are outweighed by other factors and the public interest.
The judge ruled in favour of the Corporation. The judge fully accepted the Corporation's case on all the substantive points and made clear that in his judgment, the presence of the tents is causing ‘various kinds of harm’, including to worshippers who use the cathedral and access to the highway. These harms, in the judge’s view, outweighed the interference with the occupiers’ Article 10 (freedom of expression) and Article 11 (peaceful assembly) rights under the European Convention on Human Rights. The judge refused permission to appeal, agreeing with the Corporation’s argument that the appeal had no realistic prospect of success.
Sadly, the judgment is not unexpected. Whilst the judge did note that "No one has doubted, or could, the significance of the causes the Defendants promote, or the sincerity and passion with which they are doing this," from the perspective of the current legal system, this is irrelevant. What is also irrelevant from the perspective of the legal system are the “compellingly important” (in the words of Defendant George Barda) issues that are raised by the occupation - such as massive inequality, the destruction of the life support systems of this planet, the greed of the 1% at the expense of the 99%, and the growing democratic deficit.
Such issues, which are fundamentally about justice, are not for the court to consider. The court cannot adjudicate on the merits of the occupation.
This case highlights that the legal system is part of the problem – it is part of the ‘system’ we are seeking to radically change. The law itself is not neutral – we have inherited a legal system designed to support the industrial economy and not for the benefit of people and planet. The private property rights of the Corporation have trumped the right to protest.
In terms of where Occupy goes from here, John Cooper QC confirmed in court today that he would be seeking permission to appeal from the Court of Appeal itself, on behalf of principal named Occupy Defendant Tammy Samede. His argument will be based on the proportionality principle – the remedies sought by (and granted to) the Corporation, in his argument, are not the ‘least intrusive’ or most proportionate means of addressing the concerns of the Corporation. He has until Friday 27 January to lodge an application for permission and until that date, the Corporation will not enforce the eviction order.
This buys us a bit of time and gets us some media coverage. But we need to start thinking about how to radically change our legal system so that it delivers just outcomes for the 99%. The model of local Community Rights Ordinances is working well in dozens of towns in the US - such a model of local community self governance could be exported over here and could be an effective means to bring power back to the people.
by Melanie Strickland