Written by Tara Sitser
(c) Feb 2022
Leadership Team Member of Al Gore's Climate Reality Project; Animal Rights Activist; Mom of Senegal Parrot, ToQer; Wife of Art Brickman; Chocoholic; Singer/Songwriter/Percussionist; Catch up on the latest Tara's Thoughts – offerings about climate issues, animal rescue, musings about current events, the written word and people who write. Tarasitser.blog
Written by Tara Sitser
(c) Feb 2022
The ongoing climate crisis has already impacted our lives in serious ways. Extreme weather events. Earthquakes and tornados in places that have never had them before. Wildfires greater and more frequent than ever that have devasted entire towns. Rising seas levels that threaten coastal communities. And so much more.
Many people all over the world are working to reduce the effects of climate change and save our biosphere. But unless we human beings change the way we perceive our world, and find ways to respect rather than exploit the earth and its many non-human inhabitants we will always be in danger of destroying the very environment that keeps us alive.
This change in our belief system starts with understanding and accepting the concepts behind the Rights of Nature movement. It starts with realizing that everything on this planet, the oceans, the forests, the animals, the land itself, has a right to its own existence. Which means the right to be unencumbered by human notions of “ownership” and “property”. The right to thrive.
On Thursday, November 9, 2021 at 7:00 pm PST the San Fernando Valley chapter of the Climate Reality Project will be hosting a panel of creative artists and activist at the forefront of the Rights of Nature Movement. Our guests will be two of the producers of the documentary film “The Rights of Nature: A Global Movement” and two of the principal activists who appear in the film.
You can view the film on YouTube for free whenever you like and then join us on November 9th for our discussion to learn more about the history of the Rights of Nature movement and find out what is being done to make sure your children grow up in a world where there is air to breathe and a chance that your grandchildren will know, first hand, what a tree looks like.
Below, Judy Glass, Chair of the Environmental Justice and Rights of Nature Committee and a Climate Reality Project Leadership Team Member, offers an introduction to the subject of Rights of Nature as a lead in to what we anticipate will be an eye-opening conversation.
To introduce our discussion of Rights of Nature, I’d like to begin with the highlights of the evolution of the rights of humans—which we know is part of the rights of nature, though too often not thought of that way.
The evolution of human rights has both a political and an economic dimension, both relevant to thinking about Rights of Nature. To provide context for our program tonight, I want to acknowledge the work of Christopher Stone, recently deceased, who more than 50 years ago authored a pioneering work on Rights of Nature called “Do Trees Have Standing? Toward Legal Rights for Natural Objects”.
In his introduction, Stone quotes from a 19th C court decision refusing women the right to practice law in Wisconsin. The court comments that the nature of woman—purity, delicacy, subordination of hard reason to sympathetic feeling—disqualify her for the battle field of forensic strife. Stone editorializes that the movement to confer new rights is “bound to sound odd or frightening or laughable…because until the rightless thing receives its rights, we cannot see it as anything but a thing for the use of “us” –those who are holding rights at the time….”
Here are some significant dates in the history of increasing political rights for human beings:
English Barons forced the king to renounce certain of his rights, particularly habeas corpus
Parliament shares governing rights with the King. English Bill of Rights-includes end to cruel punishments
US born into age of Enlightenment; Declaration of Independence—all men are equal; have inalienable rights from God; life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness
France – Decl. of the Rights of Man
US Constitution: Freedom of speech, religion, assembly; right not to incriminate oneself
19th Century in America:
No property qualification for voting; Women can enter professions, can divorce; inherit property; Get custody of children
Blacks freed from slavery; black men get the vote. But reconstruction denies to blacks the freedoms promised by the 13,14,15 Amendments
Women get the vote after 75 years of agitation; Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s finally delivers, at least on paper, on many promises of the Constitution
Significant Constitutional protection of economic and social rights for LGBTQIA+ individuals & communities
I separated the human struggle for economic rights because here the analogy with the rights of nature movement is so compelling. The building blocks—the resources– of any economy are land, labor and capital. From the point of view of the economy, labor is a cost, a commodity. But labor is human life, and the struggle for economic rights for workers and consumers is ongoing. The struggle to reduce hours of work or to gain legal rights to organize unions took all of the 19th C and half of the 20th. Reducing child labor, requiring minimum years of schooling, minimum wages, paid vacations, pensions, social security—none of that happened before the mid 20th century; recognizing health care as a right still is not established in the US, nor are economic protections for LGBTQIA+ individuals and communities guaranteed in their implementation.
These are rights of nature, rights of human nature. All hard fought, over many years.
Similarly to labor, land was seen as a cost, as commodities, as resources to be used to create wealth. In the late 20th century, though, another quantum leap occurred when new laws like the Endangered Species Act, and the Environmental Protection Act morphed into a discussion with a Rights of Nature emphasis. Enter Christopher Stone, and nations like Ecuador and New Zealand, and local communities like Santa Monica, and film makers like our guests tonight whose consciousness mirrors that of indigenous peoples around the world, arguing for giving “standing” to trees, rivers, and other natural entities, to sue for protection, for life and their right to thrive, their right to be other than resources.
Chair, Environmental Justice and Rights of Nature Committee
Climate Reality Project Leadership Team Member
San Fernando Valley Chapter
Please join us at our November Chapter meeting by registering at bit.ly/SFVCR
And join in wherever you can in establishing and protecting the Rights of Nature so that you don’t have to worry about what you will say when your grandchildren look up at you and ask, “What is a tree?”
Mark your calendar for the next meeting of
Tuesday April 13, 7-8:30 pm
We are honored to create space to hear voices of local International Indigenous Youth Council members. The International Indigenous Youth Council seeks to organize youth through education, spiritual practices and civic engagement to create positive change in our communities.
“Through action and ceremony, the IIYC commits to building a sustainable future for the next seven generations. We look forward to sowing seeds of mutual aid and solidarity.”
Register now at bit.ly/SFVCR
This post is directed to all the writers out there who may have an interest in sharing your vision for a world that has found its way through the Climate Crisis. AND there is prize money involved here, folks! Grist is accepting submissions through April 12, 2021 (11:59pm US PST).
What is Grist? Here it is in their own words:
“Our independent, nonprofit newsroom pursues in-depth stories on under-covered topics like clean energy, sustainable food, livable cities, environmental justice, and a better economy. We elevate solutions, expose inequity, and give our readers the context, knowledge, and tools to make a difference.
Grist was founded in 1999 as one of the nation’s first online-only publications, covering serious topics without taking ourselves too seriously. TIME magazine calls Grist the Colbert Report of climate change … except with real reporting and analytical journalism.”
And here is their Media byline:
“A non-profit news organization for people who want a planet that doesn’t burn and a future that doesn’t suck.”
Well said!! OKAY, so. Here is what Grist is offering via FIX, their Solutions Lab:
“All 12 final stories will be published in a digital collection on Fix’s website, and the authors will be celebrated in a public-facing virtual event.”
Here are the rest of the details and submission guidelines:
“Welcome to Imagine 2200 — a new climate-fiction contest by Fix, Grist’s solutions lab. What we’re seeking: short stories that envision the next 180 years of equitable climate progress. What we’re offering: $8,700 in prizes, publication, and a reason to stay hopeful.
The world is crazy right now, and the stakes are high: just, you know, our entire frickin’ future. Our newsfeeds are full of denial, delay, and doom that make us want to scream into our pillows. But that’s just the old story. At Fix, we are telling the new story, of a path to a clean, green, and just future, and the people who are driving it. Our mission is to make the story of a better world so irresistible, you want it right now.
With that goal in mind, we decided to launch our first foray into the world of hopeful, forward-looking fiction — to inspire visions of the future that haven’t even been dreamt up yet, and welcome more voices into the climate conversation. Join this uprising of imagination, and help us turn the page on earth’s next chapter.
Nuts & Bolts
Find more information about the contest at Grist.org/fix
And head over to their Submission Portal for complete guidelines: Grist.submittable.com
(When you are ready, click the SUBMIT button at the bottom of the Portal page.)
Please let me know if you decide to submit your story. And, by all means, share this opportunity with any other writers you know.
I will end with one more quote from the Grist web site:
“Climate, sustainability, and social justice are the most important stories on the … well, on the planet right now. The stakes are high: just, you know, our entire frickin’ future.”
So write your hearts out and use your vision to inform, educate and enlighten, well, everybody you can so we can create a healthier world that, as they say on the Grist site, doesn’t suck.