Posts tagged earth

Legal rights for Mother Nature

The following came out today from the University of Iowa:

Law professor leads initiative to protect environment for future generations

A University of Iowa law professor is spearheading an effort to make environmental rights as much a part of the legal vocabulary as economic or property rights so future generations can enjoy a safe environment.

“Our growing climate crisis demands that our laws take seriously the legal rights of children and future generations to inherit a clean, healthy and sustainable environment,” says Burns Weston, professor emeritus in the UI College of Law, senior scholar of the UI Center for Human Rights and project director of the Climate Legacy Initiative (CLI). “In turn, the present generation must take legal responsibility for the ecological legacy we leave behind. It is a rank injustice to our heirs if our behavior does not change.”

The CLI, a joint project of the UI Center for Human Rights and the Environmental Law Center of Vermont Law School, seeks to broaden and deepen the legal means for protecting the earth’s environment for future generations. This week, it is releasing a major policy paper titled “Recalibrating the Law of Humans with the Laws of Nature: Climate Change, Human Rights, and Intergenerational Justice,” authored by Weston and Tracy Bach, CLI associate director and a researcher and professor at Vermont Law School.

“The Climate Legacy Initiative’s work is intended to spark public and professional discussion about how our laws can adapt to and confront the climate crisis,” Weston said. “We seek a fundamental rethinking of how the law, both nationally and internationally, can be made a better steward of the environment, especially in the face of unprecedented climate change.”

The CLI legal and legislative strategy will be unveiled at meetings next Thursday, April 23 of the University of Iowa Center for Human Right and the Iowa City Foreign Relations Council. The ICFRC meets at noon at the Congregational Church, 30 N. Clinton St. in Iowa City. Admission is $7.50 for members, $8.50 for nonmembers.

The UI Center for Human Rights presentation begins at 8 p.m. in 1505 Seaman Center for Engineering. Admission is free.

He said a legal approach is just one tool in confronting this huge challenge, but it is critical.

However, Weston said this not a task for the law alone. “Law underwrites all we do and how we go about doing it,” he said. “In a democratic society, this makes law’s relation to the environment everyone’s problem and everyone’s responsibility, and it cannot wait. Events may overturn intention unless we are expeditious.”

The CLI policy paper lays out a legal framework for constructing intergenerational rights and duties, and for assessing the strengths and weaknesses of existing law. It also offers 16 recommendations that governing bodies from local to global can implement to safeguard the environment.

The CLI engaged more than 40 legal and public policy experts from across the country to help with the policy paper, including Jonathan Carlson, a professor in the UI College of Law; Jerald Schnoor, a professor in the UI College of Engineering; Maureen McCue, an adjunct professor in the UI Global Health Studies Program and coordinator of the Iowa Physicians for Social Responsibility; and Sharon Benzoni, formerly a research associate at the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, currently executive director of the Council for International Visitors to Iowa Cities and the Iowa City Foreign Relations Council.

“The CLI’s ultimate goal is a fundamental change in the way legal systems think about the environment,” said Weston. “We hope it leads to a paradigm shift in the way the law — and everyone and everything else — relates to the environment.”

Weston said that the obligation to do right by our children and grandchildren carries great moral weight, but that this has not been reflected in our legal systems to a degree sufficient to meet such environmental challenges as climate change. The concept of the common good, he said, is not only to establish a civil society for the current generation, but to make sure a functioning society can be handed to our heirs and their descendants.

In an environmental sense, he said, this means that current generations must act to ensure future generations’ rights to, for instance, biological diversity, environmental quality, and access to resources.

“Leaving the earth better than we found it is not merely a nice idea,” Weston said. “It is our responsibility to our children, grandchildren, and generations beyond.”

However, Weston said that for this to happen the legal system must be reformed. As it is now, he said environmental rights and especially those of future generations are only peripherally considered by the legal and political system, if they’re considered at all. Most of the time, they’re trumped by such values as property rights and economic development.

“We must align the laws of humans with the laws of nature,” he says.

Among the CLI’s 16 legislative, regulatory and judicial proposals:

–Urging states to adopt constitutional amendments implementing environmental rights for future generations and to pass state laws to enforce them.

–Enacting a National Environmental Legacy Act that would require defining in concrete terms the environmental legacy that should be left to future generations and providing a mechanism to ensure it.

–Creating “Environmental Stakeholder Trusts” such as “sky trusts” to safeguard and make clear the shared ownership of our environmental commons.

–Instituting cap and trade regulatory strategies.

–Asking governments to establish offices of “legal guardians” to act on behalf of the ecological rights and interest of future generations.

–Urging the United Nations General Assembly to adopt a declaration formally recognizing the atmosphere as a global “commons” shared by present and future generations.

Weston said the CLI will spend the coming months discussing their policy proposals with public policy organizations, think tanks, citizens groups, scholars, political and government leaders, faith-based organizations and others.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Service, 300 Plaza Centre One, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500

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“Compostales”

   The winner of our compost contest was announced  and her essay on composting magic was posted earlier, but there were others who shared great advice and fun stories. Dustin Hinrichs, one of our judges, noted that he enjoyed reading the “compostales.” I like Dustin’s terminology, so here are some of the compostales that were also entered in the contest. More will be posted later. Enjoy, and thanks to all who entered!

 

Duane Thys of Cedar Rapids:

 

I LOVE COMPOST!!

 

I  HAVE BEEN COMPOSTING FOR OVER FORTY YEARS.   PRESENTLY I HAVE TWO PLASTIC BINS AND A WIRE CAGE.  I ‘FEED’ THE BINS FROM THE CAGE WHICH  HOLDS  LEAVES AND GARDEN REFUSE.  I LAYER GRASS CLIPPINGS, KITCHEN SCRAPS, DRYER LINT, PAPER, ETC.,  WITH THE LEAVES AND GRASS CLIPPINGS.    I HAVE NEVER HAD ENOUGH COMPOST.  I   TOLD MY WIFE THAT I WOULD LIKE TO HAVE ALL THE COMPOST IN THE WORLD.  SHE THINKS  I’M NUTS.

 

I ALSO RAISE RED WORMS.  THESE ORIGINALLY WERE FOR FISH BAIT ALTHOUGH I SECRETLY WAS THINKING ABOUT MORE COMPOST.  THIS TURNED OUT BETTER THAN EXPECTED.  THE WORMS MAKE EXCELLENT BAIT , BUT THE COMPOST IS  AWESOME.   USING TWO BUCKETS  I DEVISED A COMPOST TEA MAKER .  THIS BREW MAKES EVERYTHING FROM ASPARGAS  TO ZENNIAS  GROW. 

 

GETTING ENOUGH ORGANIC MATERIAL  HAS BECOME A PROBLEM.  THE WORMS NOW EAT ALMOST ALL THE KITCHEN  SCRAPS SO MY OTHER COMPOST SOMETIMES GOES WITHOUT.  I TAKE LEAVES AND GRASS CLIPPINGS FROM  NEIGHBORS.  (EXCEPT THE  ONES WITH DOGS) 

 

I WAS TAUGHT NOT TO WASTE ANYTHING  SO, COMPOSTING COMES NATURALLY TO ME.  I CAN’T UNDERSTAND WHY SOMEONE WOULD THROW AWAY PERFECTLY GOOD GARBAGE.

 

Neena Miller of Scotch Grove:

 

   The first time I was aware of the benefits of composting was when I was in ninth grade and had a pony (1968.)

   Mucking out the stalls was my chore to do, in order to have my beloved pet, and, although it was hard work, it was very beneficial (especially to the summer garden.)    Throughout my life, I have always known my mother to continue the composting tradition by collecting kitchen scraps and lawn clippings to add to the compost bin.

   Today, I continue that tradition on the farm. I have a bucket under the sink for all kitchen scraps. I keep a dishcloth over the top, to keep away gnats.    In the garden, I have a circle of wire (like chicken wire) where I deposit the kitchen scraps from my bucket, layering with yard clippings, leaves, manure and pulled weeds.

   The different “green” debris and manure, which I variegate in the pile, create heat, which cooks the compost pile, creating a germ free “super” fertilizer for my new garden and potted plants. The “waste” factor of using a garbage disposer and flushing these valuable nutrients down the drain, or throwing leftover food products in plastic, non-biodegradable bags into our garbage dumps is huge.

   In a situation in which we cannot dispose of kitchen waste immediately, we might simply freeze it in a plastic bag until we can. This way, our world and our lives can be replenished the way nature, and ultimately God, had designed.

 

 

Nancy Feldmann of Manchester:

 

I like to compost. It’s my way of giving back to the earth. You might say I’m a naturalist at heart, because I love gardening, composting, sun drying my laundry and saving gray water. I grew up on a farm in NE Iowa and things I learned there brought me to where I am today – an avid recycler of almost any product. All of my containers are recycled, I buy in bulk and reuse containers whenever possible. My composting method right now consists of a plastic laundry hamper with holes in it -I’d love to move up to more modern technology. All of my compost feeds my garden soil, which in turn feeds my family. (Did I also say I am a Supervisor at Goodwill? I believe in helping people learn to be independent. Our people is our most important job at Goodwill and recycling is our second most important, which really coincides with my beliefs of giving back.)

 

 

Heather Hospodarsky of Cedar Rapids:

 

I love my newly found composting routine.  We have a family of 6 and eat a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables.  My newest composting helper is a cat litter bucket with a tight fitting lid.  I was unable to find a bucket that would hold a few days worth of compost until a friend, with cats suggested this.  It stays in the garage and I take the compost there as needed.  Our bin several yards from our house and we empty the bucket a few times a week.  It feels so good “recycling” our food waste instead of sending it to the landfill. 

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