Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund: bringing real democracy and protection to communities and their environments

ImageIn a nut-shell, CELDF describes themselves as: a non-profit, public interest law firm providing free and affordable legal services to communities facing threats to their local environment, local agriculture, the local economy, and quality of life.  Our mission is to build sustainable communities by assisting people to assert their right to local self-government and the rights of nature.

Striving to put the Rights of Nature and communities ahead of the “Rights” of Corporations, CELDF originated in Pennsylvania, but they are now helping communities all across the U.S. Nation and extending help abroad: to see examples of their work abroad click continue reading!

ECUADOR – In 2008, CELDF assisted the Ecuador Constituent Assembly to draft Rights of Nature provisions for the country’s new constitution.  The constitution was ratified in September 2008, making Ecuador the first country in the world to recognize Rights of Nature in its constitution.

NEPAL – Following years of civil war, Nepal is now drafting a constitution.  CELDF is partnering with the Center for Economic and Social Development (CESOD) to establish Rights of Nature in the constitution.  CELDF presented draft constitutional provisions through a series of meetings with the Nepali Constituent Assembly in 2012.

INDIA – CELDF is partnering with Ganga Action Parivar and the Global Interfaith WASH Alliance to draft and enact the National Ganga River Rights Act – to establish the rights of the Ganga River and river basin “to possess fundamental and inalienable rights to exist, thrive, and regenerate their own vital cycles, structure, functions, and evolutionary processes” – as well as the rights of the people of India to a healthy river.  The campaign slogan is “Ganga’s Rights are Our Rights.”  In addition, recognizing the need to fundamentally change the paradigm of environmental protection in India, and are developing a constitutional amendment to establish Rights of Nature in the India Constitution.

AUSTRALIA – In September 2013, CELDF presented at the Australia Earth Laws Alliance (AELA) conference in Brisbane.  Following the conference, CELDF presented at a series of workshops, presentations, and meetings across Australia to share the CELDF organizing model with groups and communities facing fracking, coal seam gas drilling, and other fossil fuel extraction.  Extraction there is growing rapidly and increasingly communities are trying to say “no.”

EUROPEAN UNION – CELDF is assisting in the development of a Rights of Nature citizens’ initiative for the European Union.  Several years ago, the E.U. created a citizens’ initiative process.  That process, while non-binding, offers a way for people to demonstrate their support for a policy and have it presented formally to the E.U. Commission for its consideration.  This effort is intended to raise awareness on Rights of Nature and drive grassroots organizing in E.U. member countries.

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One thought on “Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund: bringing real democracy and protection to communities and their environments

  1. On the RED listserv, the question had been asked: “… The bans on fracking etc… are they simultaneous to /preceding the ‘rights to nature’ move, or a result of such a move?”

    In response, Mari Margil, Associate Director of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, wrote:

    > The first CELDF-drafted Community Bill of Rights law was adopted by the City of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 2010. The law – the first adopted by a city in the United States – establishes community rights and the rights of nature, and bans fracking as a violation of those rights. This work has now expanded to New Mexico, Colorado, Ohio, and other states, as fracking grows across the country.
    > The local Community Bills of Rights laws are not limited to fracking – they address a number of other threats as well. For instance, in New England, CELDF is organizing in communities to establish community rights and the rights of nature, while banning unsustainable energy and transportation developments as violations of those rights. As well, in other states, CELDF is working with communities to ban factory farming and GMOs through bills of rights laws which establish the rights of nature and the right to sustainable agriculture.

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