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Updated: 1 week 14 hours ago

Watch the video: “Water is Us”

Wed, 03/15/2023 - 10:10

“Water Is Us” was moderated by ORCRN’s board member and CELDF organizer Kai Huschke. Joining him was:

  • Craig Kauffman – UO Political Science Professor: environmental politics,
    ecological law, rights of nature, and sustainable development.
  • Kunu Bearchum -. Filmmaker & Multimedia Producer and 
    Chief Petitioner: Lane County Watersheds Bill of Rights
  • Michelle Holman – Community Rights Lane County member
    and Chief Petitioner: Lane County Watersheds Bill of Rights

On February 22nd the ORCRN’s Webinar Wednesday meandered through a variety of water topics, from current conditions of water access and water quality to how the law sees water, to the growth of rights of nature to protect and preserve water, to our cultural relationships to water and its value to life in Oregon and everywhere else on the planet.

Despite the importance of water, we mistreat, pollute, and destroy this life-giving resource at a magnitude that has brought us to the brink.

The post Watch the video: “Water is Us” appeared first on CELDF.

Categories: G1. Progressive Green

Guest Blog: We Must Overturn SCOTUS Decisions That Effectively Deny Rights to Black People

Tue, 03/14/2023 - 12:54


Written by Taru Taylor

This latest piece by Taru Taylor analyzes a very current problem, police brutality against Black community members, citizens, through a historical lens of laws and court cases that have shaped where we are today. Phrases like “innocent until proven guilty”, “unreasonable search and seizure”, “probable cause” and “due process and separation of powers” are all terms associated with protection of citizens in this country. In this piece Taylor is challenging us all to consider what it means to be a citizen of this country and if being a patriot means protection of its citizens…all its citizens?

Republished from Truthout with permission from the author.


The posting of this piece is a reflection of CELDF’s commitment to featuring diverse perspectives and ideas in the quest to bring about a community rights and rights of nature existence into full being. 

The post Guest Blog: We Must Overturn SCOTUS Decisions That Effectively Deny Rights to Black People appeared first on CELDF.

Categories: G1. Progressive Green

Conservation Today: Kai Huschke and the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund

Fri, 03/10/2023 - 10:00

“Kai Huschke, with the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, talks to us about the hierarchy of community rights, states rights, and corporate rights. We look at examples of Rights of Nature laws in other countries, and why it is so difficult to have community or nature rights under the United States system of capitalism. Community vs corporation examples include the timber and fossil fuel industries.”


The post Conservation Today: Kai Huschke and the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund appeared first on CELDF.

Categories: G1. Progressive Green

Wouldn’t You Say? – From Rights of Nature to Right Relationship

Fri, 03/03/2023 - 10:07

Feature photo by Mayur Gala

Law is Unnatural

Without turning our hearts away from the idea of legal rights for what is called “Nature,” and without abandoning the motivating spirit that instigated this movement, we must go further and enter into right-relationship with Nature, the ground of our being.

The legal idea animating the call for universal adoption of enforceable non-human Rights of Nature can be a bridge between where we have been as a culture and where we must go as a species. It may serve as a Petri dish in which proponents experiment with new human legal relationships to the natural world. But law’s dominant purpose has historically been to protect status quo power arrangements, not to advance and institutionalize legal rights, unless they are rights attached to property, wealth, and their accumulation.

We are right to advocate for and institute legal rights for the natural world. But, true to form, the tendency of law will be to adapt itself to superficialities, including the language of Nature’s rights. The probable effect will be not a true shift of behavior but that of a brand, a meme to promote a pretended transition from the society of extraction and consumption into a society of extraction and consumption that has shed its sense of guilt.

Photo by Markus Spiske

To land here as a destination vs. a waypoint is hardly the shift of our culture’s worldview required if our true goal is to instill the change of heart that can put a stop to our collective massacre of life on Earth. All such schemes promise to further debase the community of life, including human communities. Wouldn’t you say?

Natural Gaslighting

By grudgingly pretending to care about the natural world while continuing to prey upon it, all the while resolving to attach a market value to life in all its manifestations, plutocrats and consumers perform a shallow public ritual We’re getting and giving all the lip service we could ever hope for. What’s really needed is a new sacred bond, some honor-bound oath and commitment beyond the coercive power of law. We can not continue pretending to sustainably sacrifice life on Earth, one habitat, one species at a time, to wealth and greed and consumerism. It seems like we should know that in our hearts and not need the prospect of legal jeopardy to make us stop participating in gruesome ecocide.

Plutocrats are feverishly inventing market and property-based environmental-sounding subterfuges that amount to no more than gaslighting.

Natural Asset Companies (NACs) apply monetary value to parts and functions of Nature ostensibly beneficial to humans; corporate boards appoint humans as unelected representatives of Nature, as though they can unilaterally establish an Earth-friendly republic, by letting corporate governance continue to operate at the helm.

Origin of photo unknown

The cooptation of rights of nature language in perfunctory laws and corporate policies that subordinate the intended Rights of Nature cultural shift to market priorities, and the valorization (assigning monetary value) of amputated aspects of creation: these are not improvements on the regulation of the rate of pragmatic destruction instituted over fifty years ago by legislation like the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts. We’ve seen how those gaslit minimalist protections of Nature’s value to humans unfolded into the environmental disasters now confronting us on a global scale. 

Status quo betrayal of the transformative spirit that originally animated the Rights of Nature Movement is at hand. We should have expected it, but we shouldn’t tolerate it. We can’t end our complicity if we let the captains of capital bait and switch their way out of the called-for emancipation of Nature, so that we can continue to work their jobs and consume what they’ve extracted from us and the natural world. That would expose our complicity as a voluntary choice we are making. Wouldn’t you say?

Transitioning Away from Extractive Thinking

Words matter. They are the raw material of our thoughts. They extract and distill meaning. They shape our attitudes about the world and animate our behavior toward it, and the quality of our relationships with it, and with others.

Photo by Brett Jordan

“Rights OF Nature” is an example of how words can misguide our thinking and behavior toward the world we live in. “Rights of nature” is a framing with roots in the soil of law and governance; the very law, as John Locke declared, that “has no other end but the preservation of property.”

Our manner of expression betrays reluctance to abandon the mindset of extraction, in this case of some quality called rights from the abstraction of the real world that we call Nature. Are rights some quality, something of value to be mined and protected like precious gems, where law does the prospecting and lawyers haggle over which qualities must be protected and which can be extracted from the raw ore of the natural world?

I am trying to point out a habit of thought in which, despite our intention to protect the natural world, we continue to conceive of nature as a thing, separate and different in kind from our own essence. We name it “nature” like we name everything of use to us in the world. How can we live in harmony with Nature, which all humanity is part of, when the very words we use, as we attempt to return ourselves to our natural relationship with the world, hold the natural world at arms-length as a “thing’ in our thoughts?

Perhaps it’s difficult, after a few centuries of erecting factories and machines and ever-more synthetic environments for us to live in, to viscerally feel ourselves as part of Nature. We are used to extracting not only metallic ores and fossil fuels, but ourselves and our communities from the natural world, and yet we don’t notice the increasing distance placed between us and our natural habitat by the human-made environment. Even in defense of Nature, because our thinking has not changed from that of extractors and consumers, we can’t quite get it right. 

Photo by Ricardo Gomez Angel

According to Grist, “In June, state security forces in the United Republic of Tanzania engaged in a violent eviction campaign against Indigenous Maasai, shooting them and driving them from their lands . . . The violence was the Tanzanian government’s latest move in a years-long campaign to remove the Maasai and make way for game reserves, protected areas, and tourism.”

People ARE Nature, as surely as the flora and fauna that surround them. Our Indigenous relatives, like our animal and plant relatives, have not utterly forgotten their connection to reality.  But we moderns have. That’s our original sin and the cause of our self-eviction from the garden of life.

Our sterile, modern mindset has roots in the process of intellectual reductionism inherited from what’s been called the Enlightenment. Reductionism, dependent as it is on extraction and dissection of the world, is the brainchild of sixteenth-century luminary Francis Bacon. He purportedly summarized how he thought an enlightened humanity should treat Nature, using his new method of scientific reductionism, this way: 

My only earthly wish is… to stretch the deplorably narrow limits of man’s dominion over the universe to their promised bounds… [Nature will be] bound into service, hounded in her wanderings and put on the rack and tortured for her secrets. I am come in very truth leading you to Nature with all her children to bind her to your service and make her your slave … the mechanical inventions of recent years do not merely exert a gentle guidance over Nature’s courses, they have the power to conquer and subdue her, to shake her to her foundations.” 

Photo by Curioso Photography

Because we too are part of Nature, we will not escape suffering the turmoil and convulsions that the delusion of human exceptionalism has brought upon the community of life on Earth.The poisoned air and water, the rising seas and changing climate, the eternal silencing of millions of species: these are the inheritance of our arrogant rationalizations. 

At first, we may require coercive laws to restrain the repetitive rape of Nature for liability-free profit, and to put a stop to our consumerist complicity in these obscenities. But safeguarding the natural world with the shield of law alone won’t be enough. We must internalize how important it is for us to live in right-relationship with the world from which we arose and upon which we depend for our every breath. It’s a matter of life and death. Wouldn’t you say?

The post Wouldn’t You Say? – From Rights of Nature to Right Relationship appeared first on CELDF.

Categories: G1. Progressive Green

RIGHTS OF NATURE PANEL DISCUSSION: Tuesday, March 21, 2023 from 6:30pm – 8:30pm PST

Tue, 02/28/2023 - 11:32

Kai Huschke, senior staff at CELDF, a lecturer for CELDF’s Democracy School, and a board member of the Oregon Community Rights Network and Washington Community Rights Network will be a participating panelist in a discussion about rights for Nature.

The discussion will explore the Rights of Nature and why this legal framework and cultural way of framing the world is the next horizon of protecting the natural places we care about. This in-person event is FREE and open to the public at the Moot Court Room, GU Law School, located at 721 North Cincinnati St, Spokane, WA 99202.



The post RIGHTS OF NATURE PANEL DISCUSSION: Tuesday, March 21, 2023 from 6:30pm – 8:30pm PST appeared first on CELDF.

Categories: G1. Progressive Green

Raising Awareness through art – Andrea Bowers: Exist, Flourish, Evolve

Mon, 02/20/2023 - 07:42

Feature image by Andrea Bowers – “Honor Earth”

Jul 7-Dec 31, 2023 in Cleveland, Ohio.

The “Exist, Flourish, Evolve” art show will be held at The Cleveland Museum of Contemporary Art and will focus on Rights of Nature and the Great Lakes in particular.

Image by Andrea Bowers – “Everything is Part of Everything” Image by Andrea Bowers – “Plants Animals and Seeds are not Human InventionsImage by Andrea Bowers – “Every Storm Runs out of Rain”

Andrea Bowers, Los Angeles based activist artist, learned of CELDF when she heard about the Lake Erie Bill of Rights (LEBOR). She grew up in Ohio just a few steps from Lake Erie. After hearing about LEBOR Andrea reached out to CELDF to learn more about our work with Rights of Nature and asked how she could help the movement. Art has always been a way to inspire people’s thinking and challenge their beliefs, along with activism. We are thrilled with the collaboration between Andrea and CELDF and we can’t wait for the show to open!


The post Raising Awareness through art – Andrea Bowers: Exist, Flourish, Evolve appeared first on CELDF.

Categories: G1. Progressive Green

Public Interest Environmental Law Conference (PIELC) 2023 Panel: “Protecting our Vital Watersheds – Transitioning to Rights of Nature”

Thu, 02/16/2023 - 06:32

March 3rd at 1:15pm to 2:45pm PST/4:15pm to 5:45pm EST

CELDF’s Kai Huschke will be facilitating this panel on “Protecting our Vital Watersheds – Transitioning to Rights of Nature” focused on giving entities in nature such as rivers and watersheds legal rights. Rights of Nature is increasingly being advanced throughout the world. Join us in exploring Indigenous perspectives on watersheds, the importance of recognizing their ecological complexities, and the importance of protecting them with Rights of Nature Law.

This year’s PIELC theme is “Reconnecting and Transitioning Together” and will take place from Thursday, March 2, 2023, to Sunday, March 5, 2023. Please keep an eye out for any updates at PIELC.


The post Public Interest Environmental Law Conference (PIELC) 2023 Panel: “Protecting our Vital Watersheds – Transitioning to Rights of Nature” appeared first on CELDF.

Categories: G1. Progressive Green

Community Conversation: Rights and Rites

Tue, 02/14/2023 - 07:41

Thursday, February 16, at 7 PM EST

CELDF invites you to join this conversation with Talking Wings about our connection to and responsibility to Nature. Blake Lavia and Tzintzun Aguilar-Izzo together make up Talking WingsBlake is a filmmaker, illustrator and author and Tzintzun is an environmental artist-scholar and story weaver, striving to plant the seeds of a regenerative future. This amazingly creative team was able to take CELDF’s verbal description of our Rights of Nature work and transform it into creative illustrations and logos to convey our message visually. Art has always played an important role in movements for systemic change.

Using illustrator and writer Shaun Tan’s short story “Bears with Lawyers” as a touchstone, this discussion will interrogate the societal conception of rights (and rites) within our current legal system and beyond.

Is our current legal system the only valid governance structure? What is the difference between the “western” conception of rights and the ancestral notion of rites and rituals? Do other species have their own societal rights and rites? Are human beings the only stewards of planet Earth?


The post Community Conversation: Rights and Rites appeared first on CELDF.

Categories: G1. Progressive Green

“Water is Us” – This Time on Webinar Wednesday…

Thu, 02/02/2023 - 10:35

February 22nd from 6:00 – 7:30 PM PST

On February 22nd at 6pm PST, the ORCRN’s Webinar Wednesday will meander through a variety of water topics, from current conditions of water access and water quality to how the law sees water, to the growth of rights of nature to protect and preserve water, to our cultural relationships to water and its value to life in Oregon and everywhere else on the planet.  “Water Is Us” will be moderated by ORCRN board member and CELDF organizer Kai Huschke. Joining him will be:

  • Craig Kauffman – UO Political Science Professor: environmental politics,
    ecological law, rights of nature, and sustainable development.
  • Kunu Bearchum -. Filmmaker & Multimedia Producer and 
    Chief Petitioner: Lane County Watersheds Bill of Rights
  • Michelle Holman – Community Rights Lane County member
    and Chief Petitioner: Lane County Watersheds Bill of Rights

Please send your request for the Zoom link to:

The post “Water is Us” – This Time on Webinar Wednesday… appeared first on CELDF.

Categories: G1. Progressive Green

Yamhill County, Oregon, Virtual Democracy School

Wed, 01/25/2023 - 10:29

The Yamhill County Raging Grannies are sponsoring and online virtual Democracy School. Democracy School is made up of 4 sessions. Please plan to attend each of them.

The dates of the sessions are as follows:

  • Tuesday, April 11, 2023 from 6:00pm to 8:30pm (PST)
  • Wednesday, April 12, 2023 from 6:00pm to 8:30pm (PST)
  • Tuesday, April 18, 2023 from 6:00pm to 8:30pm (PST)
  • Wednesday, April 19, 2023 from 6:00pm to 8:30pm (PST)

$40 registration fee

Direct questions to Joni Zimmerman at


The post Yamhill County, Oregon, Virtual Democracy School appeared first on CELDF.

Categories: G1. Progressive Green

Wouldn’t You Say? – Saving the Economy Means Not Saving Nature

Thu, 01/19/2023 - 06:52

Feature photo by Photo by Towfiqu Barbhuiya

For over fifty years in the United States environmentalists have tried to “protect the environment” by regulating the rate of destruction of the natural world. Despite the Clean Water, Clean Air and Endangered Species Acts, creation of the federal EPA and state-level agencies, changing the rate of destruction has succeeded in lulling conservationists into a stupor for more than fifty years, while Nature bleeds out. 

Who will argue that we must continue to subject the living planet to the deceit of scientifically managed ecocide, whether through more environmental regulations, hollow “30 X 30” plans, or poster-child activism of the “Save the Polar Bear” variety? 

Photo by Gryffn M

We know why the strategy of regulating the rate of ecological destruction failed – it was never meant to halt the profitable extraction of resources, the use of toxic technology and energy sources, and the over-production of frivolous commodities out of the very substance of the living world. 

The arguments against adopting local, state, national and international Rights of Nature laws that criminalize extinguishing communities of living beings for the accumulation of commercial profit insist that “the economy” must be protected at all costs. Especially against constraints on ecocide.

Feels like the mainspring in the wind-up toy of modern industrial society just popped a weasel. Wall Street and the survival of life on Earth, including human life, are in direct competition for strong political action and Wall Street is winning hands-down. That’s irresponsible, in fact it’s reprehensible. Wouldn’t you say?

Privatizing the Rights of Nature: the Latest Scam

It is still controversial to demand legal recognition and enforcement of the Rights of Nature, because the commodity-consuming society we’re constantly reeled back into by commercial propaganda is hooked up to an I-V drip shooting high-grade disinformation straight to our brains through every electronic orifice we’ve been gullible enough to bring into our homes and our children’s lives. Those sounding the alarm against further commercial exploitation of the environment are cast in the role of Luddites naively opposing so-called scientific “progress.” But science has been enlisted as Wall Street’s offensive lineman, clearly no longer an objective observer in the game of being human. The results of environmental impact statements and scientific studies on mining, logging and water usage are routinely skewed to handicap nature, to give the destroyers a seat at the table where the acceptable amount of poisoning and habitat eradication are negotiated. Environmental bureaucrats sit on team Wall Street’s side of the table. Meanwhile, Nature hasn’t been invited. Her interests are mostly irrelevant and her defenders are routinely sidelined for lacking legal “standing” to represent those interests. 

In industrialized nations, Nature is believed to be a smorgasbord of consumables, and in legal terms is utterly subordinate to the laws of property – which means that her every aspect is subject to privatization, removal from the sphere of public interdependence, and subject to monopolization over her uses and who will benefit by her exploitation.

Now the Rights of Nature paradigm is gaining traction globally. It’s an idea with deep roots in Indigenous cosmology, wherein the people who never separated from Nature conceive of Earth as a living community to which they belong. Initial industry reaction to advocates for the Rights of Nature was dismissive, then hostile.

These days, capitalists still insist that Nature consists of infinitely subdividable parcels of property. Property law still protects wealth accumulation against even nominal environmental regulations. The legal doctrine that if you own it, you can destroy it has not changed.

Photo by Christine Roy

But now Wall Street’s flying monkeys of capital are suddenly willing to publicly embrace Nature’s rights as a slogan and simultaneously invent clever ways to rebrand it, to make Rights of Nature work just fine for the bottom line. 

There’s clever guile behind money-powered projects to co-opt Rights of Nature as a market-friendly meme. According to the Next Billion website, quoting from “Natural Asset Companies (NACs): A New Way to Invest in our Planet” by IE Magazine Correspondent David Stead,Natural Asset Companies (NACs) are a potential game-changer on a global scale. NACs will be newly formed, sustainable enterprises that hold the rights to the productivity and health of natural assets like land or marine areas. They are a new asset class on the New York Stock Exchange enabling owners to convert nature’s value into financial capital, using that capital to re-invest in the natural assets to protect them or improve their sustainable use.”

Preternaturally, this scheme will guarantee that the legal owners of ecosystems will have authority to decide which and how many habitats get protected, and which and how many get “improved” for their owners’ sustainable use, and they can decide what that means, even to the point of evicting Indigenous and non-indigenous residents of land to which they lay claim, on the premise that they are diligently protecting Nature and her rights. 

Illustration by Blake Lavia

NACs are poised to write the final chapter in the privatization of everything, bringing to fruition what George W. Bush ominously proposed twenty years ago as the establishment of an “ownership society.” Corporate ownership and control over strategic swaths of the natural environment would effectively complete the enclosure of the commons, posting virtual No Trespass signs everywhere, placing the environment off limits to the bulk of humanity, and commandeering all of her for commercially defined sustainable use.

That seems more like a plan to undermine the fundamental principle of the Rights of Nature movement, which recognizes those rights as legal obligations on all of us not to place human interests above the integrity of the natural world, its biodiversity and ability to sustain its organic functions.

Preventing the emancipation of Nature by doubling down on her legal status as property seems like a very bad idea. Wouldn’t you say?

Normalizing Abnormality

With the normalization of Natural Asset Companies, the empire of capital or, more tellingly, the totalitarian matrix of deceit that is capital, will have transformed the world in its image. In direct opposition to the Rights of Nature movement’s insistence on humanity’s return to right-relationship with the rest of creation, promoters of NACs seek to immortalize the mindset that is responsible for climate change, human bondage to debt, and the sixth and intentionally inflicted great extinction event on Earth.

In 2006, following consideration of legal arguments for establishing rights for ecosystems raised by law professor Christopher Stone, in his 1972 book Should Trees Have Standing?, I was involved in drafting the first law to be enacted anywhere recognizing such rights. Two years later, the people of Ecuador, with a large Indigenous population, ratified a new national constitution recognizing the Rights of Pachamama (Mother Earth). In the ensuing years, other nations as well as numerous U.S. local governments have initiated legal actions affirming the legal status of Nature as a rights-bearing entity.

Yet, as with so many attempts to advance rights for people dehumanized in the legal realm by empire, religion, colonization and politically manufactured bigotries, reactive counter-measures are in play to neutralize the advancements of the movement to institutionalize enforceable Rights of Nature. One might ask: why has the legal system, along with the other arms of government, so predictably found it expedient to rule in favor of corporations dead-set on making a profit regardless of the ill health inflicted on human and non-human life? It is astounding to watch one court decision after another not only uphold the property-based rights of corporations over the human and civil rights of people but, even more baffling, that the courts refuse to hear arguments that would challenge that supremacy. 

Photo by Annie Spratt

Until you realize that rights vested in property and transmitted to owners of that privileged property are the cornerstone of U.S. federal and state jurisprudence. Many judges have gone the extra mile to expand those privileges and sanction community legal counsel for challenging the corrupt arrangements. 

Legal precedent has normalized a judicial pathology that goes undiagnosed by political scientists and pundits.

At the risk of expediting the die-off of most life on the planet, including most humans, judges continue to turn a blind eye toward the rights of natural communities – where humans live in harmony with their environment – while giving full-throated support for legal rights vested in corporate property.

Decades ago, satirist Robert Anton Wilson toyed with red-baiting apologists for the “cold war” between the Soviet Union and the United States, saying they were “immanentizing the eschaton.”  In other words, they were hurrying along the end of the world with their nuclear brinkmanship. Some true believers in the Book of Revelations were eager for the final showdown. Skeptics of their Christian utopian fantasies agitated for nuclear disarmament. Only the realization that a nuclear strike by one would precipitate a devastating nuclear strike by the other was effective in creating a stalemated detente. They called that pragmatic epiphany MAD, for “mutually assured destruction.” 

Where’s the equivalent realization that the transformation of capital into an accelerating march toward global extinction is a bad idea? The eschaton is imminent, with no god promising eternal life for capital’s faithful. With no promise of any life, for that matter. Aren’t they in the least concerned? Are they so afraid of change? They’re going to hate the changes they’re working so hard to bring about.  Wouldn’t you say?

The post Wouldn’t You Say? – Saving the Economy Means Not Saving Nature appeared first on CELDF.

Categories: G1. Progressive Green

Badges and Incidents of Slavery

Mon, 01/16/2023 - 12:57

Written by Taru Taylor


Half a decade ago I boycotted my law-school graduation ceremony. Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) had recycled a photo of me for one of its “diversity” advertisements, without my permission. I was thus tokenized as an “underrepresented minority.” 

This experience almost defeated my purpose for attending CWRU in the first place. For I was determined to go where my LSAT score (law school admissions test) matched the school average. I took “meritocracy” seriously. I never wanted to go through the back door as a “minority.”

One CWRU law professor who’s white and liberal told me that my boycott was an “overreaction” to an “honest mistake.” A Black civil rights attorney and fellow law-school alumna said that although she understood where I was coming from, she “would’ve handled it differently.” My protest got some support from a handful of professors, students, alumni and alumnae. But the overall campus vibe was that I’d made a mountain out of a “microaggression.”


Fast forward to fall 2020, just a few months after the George Floyd tragedy. Local community stakeholders petitioned Cleveland State University (CSU) to take down the name “John Marshall” from its law school. I drafted the petition after reading Paul Finkelman’s Supreme Injustice, especially its chapter on Marshall’s proslavery judging and slaveholding. But what jump-started my efforts was a previous petition drafted by Hanna Kassis, an alumnus of the University of Illinois College of Law who successfully led the fight to rename his alma mater. The CSU board of trustees did finally expunge “Marshall” last November 17, 2022.

Photo by Jon Tyson

Cue outraged reaction from the right. One CSU alumnus’ letter to the editor blamed the decision on the “woke crowd” and on “current Bolsheviks of thought.” The Kwarcianys’ letter epitomizes the paranoid style which frames any fight against institutional racism as “cancel culture” run amok.

As if canceling white supremacy were a bad thing.

Badges and incidents of slavery

We’re now in 2023, the third year of the George Floyd era. It also marks the fifty-fifth anniversary of the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy. Zoom out and it’s 531 years since Christopher Columbus set foot on American soil. Zoom in and I will have lived in Cleveland for eight years come August. 

My law-school experiences typify the U.S. problem of internal colonialism. That is, historian and former Ebony editor Lerone Bennett Jr.’s idea that white colonizers and colonized Blacks underpin U.S. demographics. No American city better fits the profile of Blacks segregated in poverty amidst white suburban affluence. Cleveland is where Third-World conditions meet “First-World problems.”

Cleveland thus provides the backdrop for this essay on badges and incidents of slavery. I started off this essay by narrating two of my racist experiences while living here. I will use the concept of internal colonialism to explain why they were badges and incidents of slavery. This legal term of art denotes the Thirteenth Amendment, which gave Congress the power to abolish slavery and its badges and incidents.   

Internal colonialism

The marketing ad that used my Black face in the name of “diversity” was not a “microaggression.” The campaign to take down a judicial icon of the antebellum slave power was not “cancel culture.” Understand: these were badges and incidents of slavery.

In Jones v. Alfred H. Mayer Co. (1968), the Supreme Court held: “Congress has the power under the Thirteenth Amendment rationally to determine what are the badges and incidents of slavery, and the authority to translate that determination into effective legislation.” And so, it behooves American citizens who are Black to define badges and incidents of slavery in our own terms. To inform public opinion; to instruct 535 U.S. congressmen and congresswomen to legislate thereby. Especially, the Congressional Black Caucus.

Our definition starts with the fact that Black Americans are here because so many of our ancestors were kidnapped from Africa; trafficked across the Atlantic; enslaved in the Americas. Our very presence in the Western Hemisphere is an incident of slavery. Our Black skin was arbitrarily attainted into a badge of slavery. 

Photo from the British Library

The U.S. ruling class that dates from the 1606 founding of the Virginia Company eventually forced Blacks into hereditary servitude, even as they coerced many of their fellow Europeans into indentured servitude. Each of our country’s original 13 colonies fit the pattern of European exploitation of American Indians, Irish Catholics, and Africans. 

We should therefore define badges and incidents of slavery within the context of Lerone Bennett Jr.’s essay on internal colonialism titled “System.” Every colonial system is based on a relationship of dominance and subordination. The European system resulted from the slave trade and military conquest. He defines colonialism as: “a mass relationship of economic exploitation based on inequality and contempt and perpetrated by force, cultural repression, and the political ideology of racism.”

Bennett refers to the U.S. variant as internal colonialism. Its demography scans a white developing center and a Black underdeveloped circumference—white suburban enclaves and Black inner-city ghettos. The Black-bourgeois class mediates between the white center and the Black circumference. “What Britain was to Ghana, what France was to Senegal, white America was (and is) to the Black colony of America.”

But Bennett’s main point is that racism isn’t personal. It’s institutional. The question of white personal prejudice doesn’t matter. Black-bourgeois mediation doesn’t matter either. Racism holistically maintains white dominance and Black subordination through interlocking institutions. “The system is a synthesis of individual acts and institutionalized practices. Programmed by socioeconomic arrangements and propelled by the feedback of past and present exploitation, the system produces racist results from actions that may not be consciously racist.” [my italics]

Therefore, badges and incidents of slavery are racist results some 400 years in the making. They are institutional, not personal.

The boycott and the petition as badges and incidents of slavery

One of the administrators who was involved in the “diversity” ad summoned me to her office shortly after my op-ed explaining my boycott appeared in print. She told me that she felt personally attacked. She was on the brink of tears as she explained that my article’s conclusion—“I am not your Negro”—hurt her feelings. She felt like those words were directed at her. 

But by making it all about her feelings, she missed the point of my protest. A protest that was so important to me that I denied my mother the opportunity to watch her son walk across the stage to receive my diploma. My fight was against institutional racism. Her feelings were beside the point. (What about my feelings?)

CWRU had exploited me as a marketing tool. Nor was any payment for my unwitting service forthcoming. Moreover, my alma mater labeled me as a so-called “underrepresented minority,” as if my place in the school weren’t merited. Unjust enrichment resulted whereby a white institution benefited at the expense of a Black man. The marketing ad was therefore an incident of slavery.

Photo by Gabriel Kramer / Ideastream Public Media

“John Marshall”—badge of slavery—is the easier argument. The man owned hundreds of slaves. One of my op-eds thus argued that his name was a proslavery symbol just as inflammatory as the Confederate battle flag. It parallels law professor Alexander Tsesis’ argument that Confederate monuments are badges of slavery. He argues that people should use the Thirteenth-Amendment ban against badges of slavery, as needed, to demolish racist monuments. 

“These monuments commemorate the achievements of military prowess in support of slavery. They are not solely historical markers nor burial obelisks but symbols of racist heritage.” We Clevelanders petitioned CSU to expunge a name that commemorated judicial achievement in support of slavery. We helped take down a badge of slavery.


American Revolutionaries led by Benjamin Franklin and George Washington defeated King George III. In the words of The Declaration of Independence, they won a “separate and equal station.” They leveled up by way of the “Laws of Nature.” And by way of the self-evident truths that “all men are created equal” and governments derive “their just powers from the consent of the governed.” They pitted natural rights against the divine right of kings.

But white America pretends to what Bennett describes as the “divine right to appropriate the services and resources of the colonized.” They have hypocritically kept natural-law doctrine away from Blacks. They refuse to acknowledge natural rights with reference to Blacks.

The Dred Scott decision of 1857 expressed their controlling idea: “the negro had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.” Then, after the Civil War ended in 1865, they instituted Jim Crow. In other words, they segregated Blacks into a colonial situation. The “separate but equal” doctrine of Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) persists.

Photo by Tasha Jolley

We must understand badges and incidents of slavery within this historical context. The colonial relationship of white dominance and Black subordination does change from time to time. The Supreme Court said as much, in Jones v. Alfred H. Mayer Co., when it described the Black Codes as substitutes for the slave system. In turn, “the exclusion of Negroes from white communities became a substitute for the Black Codes.” And so on.

The challenge: How to overcome the white dominance/Black subordination relationship. How to decolonize.

How to fight badges and incidents of slavery, but not petty-like as in a game of whack-a-mole. How to fight racist results, not personal prejudices. How to overcome racist institutions.

In short, how to level up to parity within the “new world order.”

We Blacks must embrace natural law. Become human-rights advocates in the spirit of Malcolm X. But we must do so in corporate terms. Our fight is against institutional racism, therefore we must build institutions. We have been subordinated as a group, therefore we must uplift ourselves as a group. We have been oppressed as Negroes; we must overcome as Maroons.

Author’s Note:
 I went to law school to learn all about how We the People are sovereign and how as jurors and electors we “check and balance” the other three branches of government. A lot of this stuff I should have learned in grade school. Please email me at with questions or comments or further dialogue.

The post Badges and Incidents of Slavery appeared first on CELDF.

Categories: G1. Progressive Green

Tumbled by the surf: Figuring out which wave to ride next for recognizing rights

Thu, 01/05/2023 - 09:06

Feature Photo by Jeremy Bishop

By Kai Huscke, Tish O’Dell, and Chad Nicholson

The overturning of Roe v. Wade (Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization) and the weakening of the EPA (West Virginia v. EPA) by the US Supreme Court sent shock waves across the nation, generating a flurry of coverage, activism, and policy development at the national and state level. Those court decrees have emboldened many and outraged many more.

And as the reverberations continue to be felt today, there are a number of critical analyses as to how we have arrived here that are still not being discussed as they should be. The activism and conversations generated have largely stayed only at the surface level of reflection and not looked deeper into root causes and definitely not looking further out on the horizon…to the future. The dialog has focused mainly on electoral politics and electing one party over the other as the path to getting back what was taken. Are we actually riding a wave toward a solution or are we being tumbled about in the surf?

Photo by Alex McCarthy

As we analyze these court opinions from 2022, we are reminded that they have roots that go back to the early 1970s, an era of much resistance and many challenges to the status quo of the time. Back then the people used many approaches to push for transformational change – direct actions/civil disobedience, legislation, court challenges, music and art. It is an era defined by social and cultural unrest. 

Roe v. Wade, decided in 1973, was the subject of the Dobbs decision. To refresh everyone’s memory, the recent Supreme Court case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization ruled that the US Constitution does not confer a right to an abortion. With this one decision, Roe v. Wade was overruled and states were handed the authority to regulate abortions. The Clean Air Act initiated in 1970, was the subject of the West Virginia v. EPA decision. That case centered on the ability and authority of the EPA to regulate carbon dioxide emissions related to climate change. 

And let’s remember there was much more happening 50 years ago in addition to the Roe case and the EPA being created. Women fought for the Equal Rights Amendment, which was ratified by Congress in 1972, though it later died and was therefore never added to the Constitution.

In addition, the Equal Employment Opportunity Act passed in 1972, after other major Civil Rights legislation passed in the late 1960’s including the Voting Rights Act (1965) and the Civil Rights Act (1968). None of these changes came easily, the marches, the protests, the court filings, the horrifying deaths of women, the photos of rivers on fire and the polluted air we breathe, all led to the federal legalization of abortion and a federal agency, the EPA, to protect the environment. Victories to be celebrated for the ages….or so we thought.

Photo by Unseen Histories

But how did so much promise for equality, environmental and human protection and justice get so twisted and turned upside down? Roe has been overturned. The authority of the EPA has been gutted and the Earth is on the verge of ecological collapse despite the adoption of major national environmental laws. People of color are still not treated equally. Workers are earning less today when adjusted for inflation than they were in 1968. And the 100+ year quest of women to be recognized as equals through the Equal Rights Amendment has yet to be adopted.

Asking Big Questions  

There was so much energy for change in the 1960’s and into the 1970’s. There was a deep commitment and positive attitude to change societal structure and values. The goal was for the people to have a real voice in creating a government and society that reflected the people’s values. Values of equality, fairness, equity and protection of the environment that sustains all life. What we should be doing is learning from these examples. What did they do well and where did their movements fall short? As a culture we seem to only focus on “wins” and perceived victories and tend to sweep losses and ugly truths under the rug. Maybe if we did more reflecting on our failures and shortcomings, the rights of all people, future generations, and nature could be genuinely protected and enforced and not simply glorified as hollow victories that can be pulled out from under us at any time the political winds change. 


Maybe we need to start at the beginning with a reflection on Democracy. When we use the word, it is assumed that the people have some voice or hand in the decisions and laws that are made to govern over all of us. Well, this could be our first clue as to why the “promise of the 70’s” has not panned out for the majority of people and nature. It turns out that there is a difference between having a “voice” and having real decision making authority.

Did we ever get to vote on whether women have the right to an abortion? Did we ever vote to turn over the protection of our community’s air, food, water and other necessary life sustaining functions to government non-elected agencies? Think of almost any major issue that is important to you and ask yourself if the government has ever given you the chance to vote on it.

Many of you will be saying, but we live in a “republic”, a “representative democracy”. Well if we go down that road, the representatives you elect are actually supposed to represent yours and the community’s views, values and best interests, but are they? Today we see electeds making decisions and passing laws that represent the monied interests and their own personal interests over the people and environment. One of the more definitive examples proving this is the Princeton Study. This deeply researched report clearly shows that people’s interests are not being represented, that the US is no longer a democracy, but rather an oligarchy in which only the interests of the wealthiest are represented by the government.

On a daily, ad nauseum basis, the media and the politicians speak of democracy and the importance of preserving it. Whether it is sending weapons, sanctioning other countries or threats of war to protect “democracy” abroad, one would think we must live in a democracy here. Functionally though, we don’t have a democracy, yet we have an innate pull to want to believe in and defend the idea of democracy. What would it look like if we actually created a real democracy– one that addressed the needs of people and nature and corralled the devastating impacts of concentrated wealth and power? What would your community look like if citizen power was a cultural, practiced norm and not simply a pipedream used as propaganda by those who want nothing to do with sharing power?

Political Parties?

A second big conversation topic we should be dialoguing about has to do with political parties. For all intents and purposes, we live in a two-party system. The theory is that your party will represent your interests and values. The reality of that looks different from the local up to the state and then on to the national, but the net effect is that powerful economic interests are having their needs met while the majority of people and nature are either ignored, placated, or used as pawns in dangerous political games that impact economics, civil rights, and environmental health. The separation between the two major parties is quite narrow despite the rhetoric trumpeted by each. The two-party system has shown its distaste for democracy and an undying allegiance to concentrated power. Even George Washington warned us back in his 1796 Farewell Address about partisanship and political parties:

It serves always to distract the Public Councils and enfeeble the Public administration. It agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which finds a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions. 

Photo by Library of Congress

It makes sense that if there are only two parties to choose from, it creates an either/or situation. Are you with us or against us? Well, let’s be real, all our personal beliefs and views don’t fall into two distinct categories. We are all combinations of many beliefs and experiences that shape our views. And yet we throw out labels like liberal/conservative, red/blue, left/right all the time.  These all come with assumptions and prejudices and sure don’t help us come together to dialog on important issues. And how many elections have you felt like you were forced to choose between the “lesser of two evils” or that you had to vote against a candidate and platform instead of for one that you truly believed in? 

What would it look like if campaign finance was overhauled to protect the people and not the wealthy elite? What would it look like if there was a robust political arena dominated by ideas and not by self-serving interests of political parties which are merely corporations interested in its primary shareholders over that of the masses? What if citizen assemblies and citizen forums were the dominant means of political discourse?

Capitalism: The American Dream or Nightmare?

Lastly, we need to look at our deep seeded belief that capitalism is not only the best way, but the only way. We need to be able to have open dialog about a system that is based on producing and consuming more and more, year after year, and if that is really sustainable and in line with our values.

Photo by Mike Erskine

We know that the United States only has about 5% of the world population but we consume at a rate of over 20% of the world’s resources. We take and take from nature and poorer countries and even US communities without concern for the sustainability of this consumption.

With capitalism at the forefront and the rights of corporations to increase profits year after year, we have to ask if this represents our values? How does this connect to the rights of women and rights of nature, the environment? These are the tough questions we should be grappling with and figuring out a better, more sustainable way, if we want a future for life on this Earth.

Organizing for Big Change

If the promises of the 70’s were thwarted largely because the people attempted to make change working through the system but we now realize that the system itself, corrupted by monied interests, cannot actually provide what is needed to create the just and healthy communities for future generations, what are we left to do? The good news is we have been here before in history. It was in those moments when people gave up hope of making change within the system that people conceived of alternatives or alternative systems. 

The word alternative means a choice or an option. We must reject knee-jerk reactions when alternative approaches and solutions are brought forward. We should pause and think critically about what we are being told in the media—is it propaganda to keep us from contemplating alternatives? We must think about our history- the Revolutionaries were proposing an alternative to being a colony of England, abolitionists were fighting for an alternative to slavery, the suffragists for an alternative to patriarchy and on and on. Reflecting back on the promise of the 70’s, people like The Janes provided a medical alternative to women in Chicago, the Black Panthers an alternative to community policing and providing basic services to community members, Maine farmers turned away from industrial agriculture in 1971 and created an organic model and the Public Worker Strikes of the 1970’s, where workers had to fight not only against employers but also the unions that were supposed to represent them.

An illegal national postal wildcat in 1970—not approved by union leaders—set contract standards postal workers are still defending today. The government tried to use the military to deliver mail. Photo: San Francisco Bay View.

All the changes that were inspired in those times were amazing and many people put time, effort and even their lives on the line to take a stand for what they believed in. But nothing in life remains static. Change is part of life. So when looking ahead, we need to learn from the past and evolve to new ways of thinking and creating for what works now and into the future. We need to consider whose voice and whose power is considered when making important democratic decisions that will affect all of us and not just leave it to a minority with power. We need to ask if we can get to where we want to go by working within the existing system or do we have to take more risk and go outside the system using an alternative means to get there? Do we want to keep being thrown about struggling for air, water and rights or can we learn how to change so we can create new ways to not control but to ride in harmony with the waves?

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Categories: G1. Progressive Green

Wouldn’t You Say? – Materialism is Substance Abuse, Literally

Tue, 12/20/2022 - 11:14

Feature photo by Jon Tyson

What’s Radical about Conservation?

As ten thousand plus participants gathered in Montreal for COP-15 discussions on preserving this planet’s biodiversity, the two main proposals on the table are wholly deficient. The other big issue, which precipitated a walk-out by representatives of developing nations, had to do with, of course, money, and what the major polluting nations will pay to address the calamity they’ve brought on. What’s been agreed to there is laughably inadequate.

The 30 X 30 proposal to protect 30% of Earth’s biodiversity – or is it 30% of the lands and seas, irrespective of the diversity of life there? – by 2030 is not only inadequate; the premises defining the parameters of the proposal are rooted in the very mindset that’s killing entire species at an accelerating rate. What is left of biodiversity is nothing more than an abstract idea kept aspirational by our refusal to quit the behavior that’s causing the sixth great extinction. The “nature forward” proposal seems to have effervesced into the warming air that clearly will not be limited to a 1.5 degree Celsius increase in temperature. 

Photo by Matt Palmer

So, what about 30 X 30?

In his book” Ecocene Politics,” Mihnea Tanasescu writes:

“The practice of conservation in a world of modern development has increasingly focused on the specialness of protected areas: an area being the most biodiverse, the most unique, and so on, is a frequent rationale for conservation. Without denying the unique features of each and every environment, the insistence on uniqueness also encourages the homogenization that is a hallmark of modern development. We are heading towards a world where most of the available space is a sacrificial zone for the accumulation of capital, while the rest is a carefully curated bestiary of ‘the miracles of the natural world’.”

Tanasescu goes on to note that

“ . . . the history of walling places off as conservation reserves is also tied to the creation of poverty and destitution. This is partly because classical conservation is . . . based on a radical separation of humans and wild nature . . . Instead of focusing on the uniqueness of what is left over, it is more radical to focus on restoring environments everywhere, such that every human being is part and parcel of a greater natural community in which they ritualistically participate.”

And so, the question naturally arises: which position is likely to actually save the planet’s biodiversity from annihilation? The proposed 30 X 30 conservation scheme that would perpetuate the separation of humanity from the natural world, or a historic revocation of the extremist ideology that casts humanity as having transcended membership in the web of life, as demonstrated by this plan to segment off a small portion of the planet for critters we find interesting – leaving the rest for the mechanized destruction of Nature?

Photo by Ian Mack

Repudiating belief in humanity’s supposed superiority over Nature would go further to conserve the natural world than any quantitative setting aside we devise.A return to an active and humble membership in the web of life, would in fact constitute a conservative position, not a radical repudiation of reality like the one that was haggled over in Montreal. Wouldn’t you say?

The Age of Denialism

How we manage to describe a problem prescribes the range of possible solutions to be considered. By choosing a plan that is rooted in reductionism – the scientific philosophy and belief that we can better know the nature of Nature by separating parts of creation and studying them in isolation from their natural context – we miss addressing the actual reality of the problem. Life on Earth is dying, not simply because there aren’t enough acres and hectares left unspoiled by human behavior to sustain the multiplicity of life forms. They are dying because we’ve made them discontinuous with the rest of the biosphere.

Setting aside 30% of the land and oceans for life to try to hold on while we continue to despoil the other 70% and expect it to do what it once did when it had 100% of the planet, is wrongheaded not because the numbers are lopsided. It’s doomed to failure because, although we’ve been spectacularly good at reducing the empirical world we call “Nature” down to quantifiable numbers and scientific measurements, parcels of property and pockets of resources, the purely quantifiable aspects of Nature don’t describe what Nature IS, only how we find it useful to us. 

The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund is committed to unpacking the spectrum of ways humans relate to the rest of the natural world. In our recent newsletter, we featured how we live from Nature, which emphasizes Nature’s capacity to provide resources for sustaining the livelihoods, needs, and wants of people, such as food and material goods. These are legitimate values, but they must be balanced with the other ways that are necessary to relate, including:

  • Living with nature: which has a focus on life ‘other than human’ such as the intrinsic right of fish in a river to thrive independently of human needs 
  • Living in nature: which refers to the importance of nature as the setting for people’s sense of place and identity 
  • Living as nature: which sees the natural world as a physical, mental, and spiritual part of oneself

Let’s be clear, “saving” less than a third of Earth from exhaustion and extinction isn’t possible. Biodiversity isn’t preserved by promising not to kill the last 30% of viable habitats any more than getting sober for an alcoholic means promising to cut back on how much booze is consumed on any given bender.

Giving up the Jack Daniels of fossil fuels for the Budweiser of lithium battery-powered electric cars – to be charged with electricity generated by what? – isn’t getting serious about our real addiction, which is not to fossil fuels, but to high-energy production that supposedly makes human life better.

Hiding from ourselves the destructive nature of energy extracted from the biosphere in amounts that can entertain us, transport us, package our every processed meal, and have little impact on our privileged lives is not an environmentally friendly plan. It’s an excuse to ignore the survival needs of generations yet to be born while we keep feeding our insatiable addiction.  

Photo by Jakob Owens

It’s out in the open and everybody’s talking about it: we’re on the verge of giving up on stopping climate disaster by limiting global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees. Just like we have been consistently for the past 50 years. Now we’ve hit rock bottom, but we’re going to continue to guzzle relatively cheap energy out of the environment as if there’s an open bar at the wedding of Mother Nature to our royal step-dad, the Market of Capital. The tantrums of power have prevented us from calling it out for what it is: the essence of denialism.

Environmentalists among us remain comfortably numb in the role of sober enablers. Apparently stymied by the thought that it’s impolite to be back-seat drivers, Nature’s supposed organized champions avoid causing a scene, even when the drivers of ecomodernism are bombed out of their minds on kick-ass profits and headed for a cliff.

But are they . . . in fact are we such efficient enablers that we can quietly accept industrial society’s plans to make amends for raping the land and poisoning the water we drink, by setting a goal of becoming 30% sober eight years from now, while gaslighting us not to notice the corresponding fact that we will have to tolerate the ongoing abuse of the other 70% of life to feed an addiction we’re not prepared or allowed to seriously talk about?

It’s time for some tough-love, in fact, an intervention. Wouldn’t you say?

What’s Really being Conserved? 

According to the article “Plans to protect 30% of the planet by 2030 could be ‘devastating’ for Indigenous people,” published by Euronews, “Only 3 percent of the world’s land remains ecologically intact, and biodiversity loss continues at an alarming rate.” And another estimate informs us that “Wildlife have endured an average 69 percent drop in monitored populations of mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and fish since 1970, according to the latest Living Planet Report (LPR) from WWF International.”

It’s not a triviality that “conserving” 30% of Earth’s biodiversity could be used as a rationale for amputating indigenous people from the land. Only in a plan still rooted in the absurd belief that humans exist in a reality separate from Nature could the last remnants of humans living in natural relationship with their native ecosystems be parted from the land, ostensibly to save it. The land is an inalienable part of their lives, and they are part of the living environment they inhabit. It’s the rest of us inmates in the asylum of modernity who’ve turned our backs on reality.

Photo by Adam Kool

Turning what’s left of “pristine” nature into gated communities for a select portion of aesthetically pleasing life on Earth requires an obstinate commitment to the lie that humans are discontinuous with Nature.

Dispossession of the surviving human contingent from Earth’s remaining biodiverse ecosystems will fail to preserve the slivers of land set aside as free-range zoos for non-human “wild” life. Land appropriated in this way will save and conserve only one thing: the reductionist paradigm, from which industrialized ecocide and genocide emerged and are perpetuated.

The optics of this illusion of conservation don’t stand up to scrutiny. If the numbers above are anywhere near correct, and we’ve lost 69% of Earth’s biodiversity over the last 50 years, then what’s come out of COP-15 at best will preserve 30% of what’s left. it will be 30% of the remaining 31% which, by my calculations, means (30% X 31%) 0.093% or a bit less than 1% of Earth’s pre-1970 biodiversity. This is the reality of what’s been settled on by the gathering in Montreal, despite the earnest efforts of many of the participants. They negotiated with addicts to materialism. There was no intervention.

Let’s be generous and call the COP–15 agreement a plan for conserving 1% of Earth’s biodiversity. That means that negotiators agreed to sacrifice 99% of Earth’s remaining biodiversity on the altar of human consumption for profit. That seems more like an abject failure than swearing off our modern addiction to materialism. Wouldn’t you say?  

The post Wouldn’t You Say? – Materialism is Substance Abuse, Literally appeared first on CELDF.

Categories: G1. Progressive Green

Grant’s Fight is Our Fight

Tue, 12/20/2022 - 09:37

Feature photo by Mike Belleme for Rolling Stone

How is it that Grant Township, Pennsylvania (population less than 700) is always in the news? More importantly, how is the fight, the resistance, and many of the key elements for the deeper transition we need worldwide centered in this tiny township? 

Since 2014 Grant has been making headlines, and 2023 is not going to be any different. The people, alongside the elected officials, have been fighting the siting of a highly toxic fracking waste injection well since 2014, and the stakes continue to be raised. 

To date, not a drop of fracking waste has been deposited within the community thanks to their steadfast refusal to be yet another sacrifice zone, with no thanks to the courts or environmental regulatory agencies (or Pennsylvania’s current attorney general and governor-elect Josh Shapiro, despite his office’s settlement recently in another PA sacrifice zone in Dimock). CELDF has been proud to stand with Grant throughout.

Photo by the Indiana Gazette

Longtime readers are probably familiar with many of the contours of Grant’s fight. For newer readers, there are volumes of links, newsletters, press releases, legal briefs, and local/state/national/international media that can give a broader picture, listed below. 

For now, as we close out 2022, here’s a quick by-the-numbers:

  • Grant Township is a small rural community in Indiana County, PA, with an annual tax revenue of around $30,000
  • Grant Township has twice banned injection wells via local laws, once via ordinance, and once via a Home Rule Charter enacted by a majority of the people within the Township
  • Grant Township has been sued twice in federal court by Pennsylvania Energy Company (PGE), a multimillion-dollar fossil fuel corporation that wants to inject waste within the Township against the will of the community
  • Grant Township has also been sued in state court by the PA Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), with the DEP claiming that it’s the DEP’s responsibility to oversee frack waste disposal, not the community’s responsibility
  • Let that last point sink in: DEP, funded by taxpayer dollars, is suing the community for trying to protect its environment
  • There is 1 federal Environmental Protection Agency permit authorizing frack waste injection in Grant Township
  • 2 state DEP permits authorizing injection have been issued, and later revoked
  • Grant Township, and Grant Township’s CELDF-supported attorneys, have been hit with fees and sanctions in the tens of thousands of dollars for working to protect the community’s rights
  • Grant Township has also passed a local law that authorizes nonviolent direct action within the community, if the courts do not uphold the people of Grant Township’s rights to protect the health and safety of the community

As we reflect at the end of another long year, we must understand, and never forget, that what has happened in Grant Township to date is not an accident. The system – corporations, courts, state and federal agencies – crash down on efforts that assert rights and resist oppression, and try to force those involved in those efforts into submission.

Grant is yet another community that is supposed to take the brunt of the defects of the system and just live with them. Grant, like so many other places, is supposed to just accept the injustice. Yet the people of Grant have said “no,” and continue to say “no”- “no” to becoming another Dimock, “no” to becoming another energy colony. 

For as wild as the story has been so far, Grant Township’s fight is not unique. Their resistance draws on centuries of struggles against those who put property and dollars above the interests of people, communities, and nature. What’s happening in Grant is also not unique to only rural communities, or poorer communities.

Grant Township is Everywhere, USA, and what’s happening there can happen to any of us. 

A federal lawsuit and a state lawsuit (now before the PA Supreme Court) continue into 2023. As we head into the new year, please join us in continuing to stand with Grant Township. And let’s not only support them with words or dollars, but also follow their lead and bravely build on their efforts in the communities where we live. 


If you’ve not heard about Grant Township’s fight before, here is a link to much more background, a timeline, and court documents. Grant Township has also been featured in national media, including Rolling Stone and The New Republic, as well as a full-length documentary titled Invisible Hand.

Please contact Chad Nicholson with further questions or comments:


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Categories: G1. Progressive Green

Do No Harm: Protecting the Rights of Mangroves in Ecuador From Injury

Sat, 12/10/2022 - 10:19

Feature photo by Rod Long

Once again an important court decision upholding the legal rights of nature has come out of the country of Ecuador. This high court decision protecting the inherent rights of mangroves (September 2021) actually came out before the Los Cedros (November 2021) decision which CELDF featured in September 2022. It’s an important decision for the recognition and enforcement of another distinct yet interconnected ecosystem’s rights. This decision not only recognizes the rights of mangroves by preventing harm, it is also holding those accountable for harm already done. It is why CELDF has put time and resources into the English translation of both these decisions. The hope is that more people, including judges and lawyers all over the world will read them and gain an understanding by these real world examples of how courts could uphold and lawyers argue for the Rights of Nature if they were codified into law.

Mangroves, according to the Ramsar definition, are considered wetlands – an area that CELDF is also helping to evolve by participating in the drafting of the Declaration of the Rights of Wetlands. Mangroves are a group of trees and shrubs that live in the coastal intertidal zone, which in Ecuador and elsewhere in the world often constitute zones of conflict between the needs of the ecosystem and commercial and industrial activities of humans.  This particular case from Ecuador deals with certain articles of the regulatory code or what is known as the Organic Code of the Environment (“COAM” Código Orgánico del Ambiente). One of the central challenges in this case centered around a listing of allowable activities in mangroves where there is a general catch-all provision that does not explicitly specify the need to protect the integrity of mangroves. The court ruled that this was a violation of the rights of mangroves.

It is worth repeating that this case is significant because it takes action to rectify a condition that could lead to harm of mangroves and violate the mangrove’s rights before such harm occurs. Like Los Cedros the orientation of the court stemming from the constitutional language protecting nature or Pachamama is about precaution and prevention, not just monetary awards after the harms have occurred.

Read the Ecuadorian high court decision to protect the rights of mangroves in English or Spanish.

The post Do No Harm: Protecting the Rights of Mangroves in Ecuador From Injury appeared first on CELDF.

Categories: G1. Progressive Green

Cleveland State trustees vote unanimously to strip John Marshall’s name from the college of law

Wed, 11/30/2022 - 05:22

Feature Photo by Gabriel Kramer / Ideastream Public Media

Taru Taylor, a guest blogger with CELDF, helped spearhead efforts to rename law schools named after Former Chief Justice John Marshall, a key architect of the United State’s constitutional system who owned 200 slaves. CELDF along with many others signed onto the calls for law schools to rename themselves and reconnect with their white supremacist pasts. We congratulate Taru’s and the local community’s efforts in this significant name change and recognize that more actions are necessary to end systemic racism and achieve equity and balance of power. You can read Taru’s previously posted blog on this topic, John Marshall: A Case Study of Institutional Racism. CELDF congratulates all of the participants in this effort!

Taru Taylor

By Robert Higgs,

CLEVELAND, Ohio – Cleveland State University’s law school will now bear the name Cleveland State University College of Law.

The name change was approved unanimously Thursday by CSU’s board of trustees to eliminate references to legendary U.S. Chief Justice John Marshall from the Cleveland State University Cleveland-Marshall College of Law, in light of his history as a slaveholder.

Cleveland State University College of Law

In a message to the CSU Law College Community, Lee Fisher, dean of Cleveland State University College of Law made the following comments:

“The Law School Name Committee met over 18 months, and sought wide and deep input from all Law College constituencies. The Name Committee created a Law School Name Website and comprehensive resource materials on institutional name change issues: the Law School Name Resource Guide. The process included six virtual public forums which included nationally prominent speakers from universities which have dealt with similar naming issues, a 45-page Law School Name Framing Document that presented different views on the Law College name issue, and an online survey sent to over 4,000 Law College alumni, students, faculty, and staff as well as CSU and Cleveland legal community members.

I support the CSU Board’s decision. We cannot ignore the reality that Chief Justice John Marshall bought and sold hundreds of slaves throughout his adult life, and unlike many of his contemporaries like George Washington, did not free any of his slaves; nor can we ignore his troubling beliefs, statements, and actions relating to slavery. His actions and views are contrary to the shared values of our Law College and the University – an unwavering commitment to justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion. 

My view is that changing our Law College name is not about erasing history; it is about understanding the inherent complexity of our history and reckoning with that history in the context of our present-day values. Chief Justice John Marshall’s contributions to American jurisprudence are significant and enduring, and his writings, decisions, and judicial legacy will continue to be an important part of our curriculum and the education of all CSU College of Law students, but we need to recognize the distinction between history and bestowing honor. Naming rights are a highly cherished honor that should be reserved for those whose actions are consistent with the shared present day values of the Law College and University and those with the strongest ties to our Law College – either through their service or their philanthropy. The fact is neither Chief Justice Marshall nor his ancestors have any ties to Cleveland, CSU, or our Law College.”

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