A Climate Change with Matt Matern Climate Podcast


88: Osprey Orielle Lake Discusses WECAN's Impact at COP27 & Climate Action

Guest Name(s): Osprey Orielle Lake

Matt Matern and Osprey Orielle Lake discuss the impact of climate change on women and the importance of their leadership in sustainability. She highlights WECAN’s initiatives and the outcomes of COP27, including the crucial loss and damage fund, advocating for more women in policy-making roles.

WECAN (Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network) >>

The Story Is In Our Bones (Book) >>

Episode Categories:
Show Links:
The Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN) International was created to accelerate a global women’s movement for the protection and defense of the Earth’s diverse ecosystems and communities. We focus on short-term and long-term systemic change and solutions to address the climate crisis and the root causes of environmental degradation and socio-economic inequalities…
The dominant cultural worldview is based upon extraction and exploitation practices that have brought us to the precipice of social, environmental, and climate collapse. Braiding poetic storytelling, climate justice and deep cultural analyses, and the collective knowledge of Earth-centered cultures, The Story is in Our Bones opens a portal to restoration and justice beyond the end of a world in crisis. Author, activist, and changemaker Osprey Orielle Lake weaves together ecological, mythical, political, and cultural understandings and shares her experiences working with global leaders, systems-thinkers, climate justice activists, and Indigenous Peoples. She seeks to summon a new way of being and thinking in the Anthropocene, which includes transforming the interlocking crises of colonialism, racism, patriarchy, capitalism, and ecocide, to build thriving Earth communities for all.
Osprey Orielle Lake is the Founder and Executive Director of Women’s Earth & Climate Action Network, International (WECAN). She works nationally and internationally with grassroots, Indigenous and business leaders, policy-makers and scientists to promote climate justice, resilient communities, and a just transition to a clean energy future…

You’re listening to A Climate Change. This is Matt Matern, your host. And I’ve got a special guest on the program today, Osprey Orielle Lake, the executive director of the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network, acronym: WECAN. And welcome to the program, Osprey.

Thanks so much for having me.

So, tell us a little bit about the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network and what it is when it was formed. And kind of its mission?

Yeah, well, we started really formally, in 2013. And I think like a lot of people who are involved in environmental issues, there’s certain moments that that call your attention. And for me, it was just looking at the lack of urgency and insufficient ambition of a lot of international climate agreements and national climate policies that really called me to, to found the Women’s Rights and Climate Action Network we can to really generate more education and activity from women leaders and their networks to accelerate a global women’s movement for the protection of defense of the Earth’s diverse ecosystems, our communities and the climate.

And we started with a very large summit that took place during the UN General Assembly in New York, with 100 women leaders from around the world. 50, from the global south 50, from the global north with well known leaders, and then a lot of grassroots leaders to talk about, you know, what we could do around the climate crisis and creating, you know, practical on the ground solutions, as well as policy action. And so that’s really how we got started. And we’re looking in our organization at both short term and long term systemic change. And, you know, how do we how do we deal with climate justice, social inequality, while we also wrestle with these incredibly complex problems? So that’s sort of a little bit at the beginning and why we got started.

Tell us a little bit about your journey. And what what brought you to, you know, we can how did how did you end up on that path as an environmentalist?

Well, I actually was an artist for many years, telling narratives, in in writing, and in sculpture form around our relationship with nature. And in many ways, this is an extension of that. I, you know, as I was saying earlier, I really feel that as the climate crisis and ecological crisis really increased, I wanted to do more.

And I do have some background, originally, when I started the organization with activism in the sense of being involved with a lot of protection of the redwood forests in California, I grew up in the town of Mendocino, in Northern California. And that’s always a big issue there around the logging of the redwood forests. And so, you know, it’s always sort of been part of my DNA, I guess, since my youth to be interested in environmental issues and care for nature.

But also, you know, as I evolved in my own education, understanding more and more the role of indigenous people and Frontline communities and the impacts of environmental degradation on frontline communities, so that also led me to understand more, there was also a gender lens. Because when we analyze the root causes of the climate crisis, we really can see that women experience climate change disproportionately, because their basic rights continued to be denied in varying forms and intensities across the world.

As an example, enforced gender inequality reduces women’s physical economic mobility, their voice and opportunity in many places. And this makes them more vulnerable to mounting environmental stresses. And so that, that was very interesting to me. And also at the same time, when I did a lot of research when I started the women’s growth and Climate Action Network, I found that it turns out you can’t get to sustainability without women’s leadership.

So as an example, you know, not only are women more unequally impacted, but when we look globally, we see that women are responsible for the majority of the world’s food production. In most global south countries, women produce between 40 to 80% of food, and are central stewards of seeds and agricultural goods. biodiversity, which, of course, is very tied into how we’re going to address biodiversity issues as well as climate issues.

I also just did a deep analysis of the study that we came out, actually with the report to really lift up this research that was done, that just a one unit increase in a country score and the women’s political empowerment index, which has to do with, you know, the role of women in society. And, and their role in politics. And socially, just a one unit increase produces an 11.51 decrease percent decrease in the country’s carbon emissions.

So in other words, when you’re empowering women, in a lot of different spheres, socially and politically, you actually get this very large reduction in carbon emissions. We also know, around forest protection programs, it’s very key to involve women, we know from United Nations studies, of course, water issues are really key to what’s happening with drought around the world because of climate change.

And when you involve women in these programs around water security, and and ensuring that there’s water for communities, you can’t have successful problems and successful solutions to these problems. And these programs unless you involve women, and women’s leadership, because they’re the ones who are attending to their home, caring for the food and caring for the family and collecting the water.

So there’s a variety of reasons that you actually really need to involve women in climate solutions. We also know this is true for climate policy that countries around the world that have more women, in their Parliament’s and governments have more success with their environmental policies. So really, from the grassroots level to the policy level, when I first started, we can we found that, you know, one of the key leverages to sort of navigating through this very challenging time of environmental climate crisis is, is to really empower women and lift up the role of women’s leadership.

So contrasting to that, and then I’ll close is that, you know, I just came back from COP27, in Egypt, from the UN climate talks, and the UN themselves came out with the study last year saying that 73% of the talking time that is taken up by governments, at the UN climate talks 73 to 74% is done by men. So we have this very unusual discrepancy about the role of women in the need for women’s leadership. And yet, they’re really not in positions of power as they should be, when we’re talking about environmental policy and climate policy.

Well, you know, I have been saying for a while that I believe the the revolution in the 21st century is going to be in terms of women’s rights around the world, and that there are so many places around the world where women are treated so poorly. And there is a great need to expand the rights of women to get equality in all ways.

And this is one of the main reasons why we’re in this shape that we’re in, because of not having women at the table and bringing the gifts that they have to the table so that we can solve our problems more effectively. And unfortunately, our society has, in many ways in many parts of the world and have been slow to adopt that. And even in the US where we’ve had great strides, there’s still room for improvement.

So that that being said, what do you see as, have you seen improvements in say, for example, the COP programs over the last few years, has the amount of participation by women at those meetings increased substantially or at all or gone backwards? And what are the steps that you and others are taking in order to increase the level of participation of women in policymaking as well as practical on the ground solutions? And just to to try for the audience. My understanding is that your organization has lots of powerful women on your board, which contribute to the work that you’re doing, and maybe you could speak a little bit about that as well.

Yeah, I would say that you know, from when we started the organization, you know, more formally in 2013 I will say things have improved not nearly enough but But when we started really working at the nexus of climate, and gender, you know, wasn’t even a discussion that people were willing to have with us, from funders to policymakers. And, you know, not just because of we can, but many, many feminist and women’s organizations around the world, I think we’ve taken a lot of good strides in in the last decade.

And, you know, one of the breakthroughs at the policy level, I will say, in terms of the COP is that there, there are different constituencies of civil society that are represented, whether that’s labor unions, or scientists and researchers. Indigenous caucus, there has been the formation of something called the Women and Gender Constituency, which is about I don’t know how many years old it is now.

But you know, it’s somewhere around 8 to 10 years. And that has been really powerful because that has given women and feminists an opportunity to have their own constituency and bring forward these issues that we’re talking about in terms of rights.

Well, obviously a lot to talk about in this area. And when we get back after the break, you can pick up your answer and you’re listening to A Climate Change. This is Matt Matern, your host, and I’ve got Osprey Orielle Lake, who is the Executive Director of the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network on the show today, and we’ll be right back to talk to her about these very important issues.

You’re listening to A Climate Change. This is Matt Matern. And I’ve got Osprey Orielle Lake, Executive Director of the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network on the show and osprey, you were at the COP meeting in, in Egypt, just tell us a little bit about what happened. And what was what, what if any breakthroughs occurred? And what if any, impediments were unable to be resolved?

Yeah, I just got back a couple of weeks ago, and still really processing and thinking about it was a, I was there for two and a half weeks, with an incredible delegation of Indigenous women that were on our weekend delegation from Brazil and Ecuador, and the Dr. Congo and the pumpkin nation. So I was really honored to bring a really powerful delegation of women to speak about what is happening in their communities and to speak with governments and to to host meetings and press conferences.

And I think one of the things that we need to look at is that, you know, ahead of the UN Climate Change, claimed climate change talk in Egypt, the UN put out, you know, their own report that current pledges by government, governments put the world on track right now, for 2.5 degree increase in warming by the end of the century, when we need to be, according to the IPCC scientists, we need to be at 1.5 degrees. And we need to decline by 45% by 2030, to do that.

So I think that we need to realize we’re in a very difficult situation with really unacceptable numbers. And so he went into a very difficult challenging negotiation with that in mind. And I think I’ll point out like two things that were really significant at this cop, you know, one, which I would consider a really big victory, which is for, you know, years now, some people say 30 years, it’s been a long time. Civil society, supporting vulnerable countries like island nations that are threatened by completely being disappeared by sea level rise due to global warming, has been fighting for something called a loss and damage mechanism, which is basically at its core, a term that refers to both financial and non financial losses and damages as a result of its role as a result of the climate crisis.

And it really requires financial investment for repairs, and is mostly the responsibility of wealthy countries who have caused most of the damage and causing most of the pollution in the atmosphere to pay their fair share to more vulnerable countries that are being impacted first and worse by the crisis, and have done the least to contribute to it. And this loss and damage fund has been discussed many, many times. And it has been a huge push by civil society to to demand that, that wealthy countries pay pay for this, the actual events that are already occurring not in the future sometime, but the climate crisis that is already upon us, like, as we saw with the floods in Pakistan.

So, the fact that at the end of the negotiations in Egypt, the cover text, in fact, there was an agreement that loss and damage mechanism was operational operationalized is a huge victory. So I would say that was a very big outcome, of course, we have to see if countries are actually going to put money into the loss and damage fund. And I should mention, this is on top of the Green Climate Fund, which was established some years ago, that are is is requiring $100 billion to be put into a fund for for mitigation and adaptation to the climate crisis. And that fund is not at this point being met by wealthy countries.

So, you know, these pledges and commitments are really important, because they’re leveraged for advocacy and leverage for us to, to move forward with governments doing the right thing around the crisis. But you know, there’s still a lot of work to be done to actually implement them, and for for the money to actually be there. But it was still a very big victory on loss and damage.

And I would also say it really needs to be noted that it’s sort of the first time that I’ve seen governments really acknowledge that there needs to be a climate justice framework, meaning that, you know, there needs to be an understanding that not everyone is equally responsible, or being affected equally.

And I think that that’s really important, because we know that indigenous black and brown communities, global south communities are being affected more due to colonization, and racism, and patriarchy and the systems of oppression that are all a part of the systems that we’re in including this economic model, that we’re in an endless growth, all of these intersectional issues always come forward when we’re at these climate talks, because everything is connected, and we can’t sort of separate out everything, when we’re talking about a relationship to nature, but we’re talking about a relationship to each other and how we’re going to unwind these very complex problems that we’re having.

So this loss and damage fund really starts getting at some of the root causes of the problem. And also speaks to climate justice and and people paying their fair share for their harms. The one thing that of many, that was very disappointing, that was very difficult is that India and of course, other countries, but India put forward a proposal to not only have there be a phase out of coal, which had been on the table since Glasgow, phase out of of, or I should say, phase down out of phase out phase down of coal, but to also add oil and gas.

And it was very interesting, because this phase out, which was surprisingly supported by, you know, around 80 countries endorsing the initiative, including countries like the United States, the United Kingdom, the European Union, all being part of this push for face down, was very significant, but ultimately failed and did and was rejected and was not part of the outcome agreement of the cop and 27. But I think it’s really of note that it actually was put on the table. And as something that we need to really look towards when when we look at COP28.

And realizing that, you know, this needs to be front and center. As many people know, the the Paris Climate Agreement that everyone is operating from, really speaks a lot to carbon emission reductions and country commitments to the reductions, but it does not address the source of the emissions in the atmosphere, which is fossil fuels. And so this has been a big push by civil society is that we must discuss fossil fuels. And I’ll just say one more piece on that, which is that one of the the initiatives that we can as a part of are on the steering committee of the fossil fuel Non Proliferation Treaty.

And I think this is a very exciting development that has a long history, but has a new reiteration that started in 2020. And basically, it is not Part of the Paris climate agreement that would be a parallel treaty that basically is designed to have countries have a mechanism to come off of fossil fuels phase out fossil fuels, and it’s designed on the nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty. Similarly, where you, you have to have countries agree, how do we have a fair and just an equitable way to transition off of fossil fuels.

So it’s comprised of three components. One is the end of the expansion of fossil fuel production, which the International Energy Agency, the IPCC, everyone is saying, we have got to stop fossil fuel expansion, if we’re going to stop this climate crisis. The second is the phase down of existing production in line with the 1.5 degree guardrail target. And then lastly, you know, enabling a global, equitable transition for every worker community and country to get off fossil fuels.

And I mentioned this because it was not actually on the sidelines, it became, you know, it’s not part of the Paris Agreement, as I said, but what is really interesting is that the country of Tuvalu joined Vanuatu, who endorsed the treaty at the UN General Assembly, in September of this year, and at the COP, the country of Tuvalu formally endorsed the Treaty on the floor of the UN climate talks. So now we have two countries who are really pushing for this agenda of a fossil fuel treaty.

And after that happened, there were multiple high level bilateral, multilateral meetings with at least 25 countries around this treaty. So I just wanted to mention that because it was, again, not part of the formal negotiations. But I think it’s important for people to know that there’s this discussion going on about like, how do we actually get countries to move off of fossil fuels.

That’s a lot of ground that you just covered. I guess, a couple of things. One, the the victory you described regarding the loss and damage fund, and what you did talk about that, right now doesn’t have a real mechanism for enforcement of that, or what that really means, is, is certainly a big issue for the future and how that’s going to shake out.

And right now, people are talking about how it’s going to happen. And that’s I guess, you’ve got to the journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step. So that was a step in the right direction. The question then is, what are those steps? What are those mechanisms for really moving that forward? Then you talked a bit about the climate justice framework, and you mentioned systems of oppression. And I guess the question there is, for the audience is exactly maybe going into what you’re, you know, defining what that means.

And also, potentially, in terms of selling it and being more persuasive. From a from a political standpoint, my two cents would be maybe coming up with a term that was not quite so in your face. That might be a little easier to, you know, for the listener, some listeners ears that may be a bit challenging.

So, anyway, we’ll be right back in just one minute. This is Matt Matern, and you’re listening to A Climate Change with that Osprey Orielle Lake, Executive Director of the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network. We can and we’ll be talking to Asprey when we get back in just one minute about these urgently important issues.

You’re listening to A Climate Change. This is Matt Matern. And I’ve got Osprey Orielle Lake, Executive Director of the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network on the show today. Right before the break, we were talking about COP27. And Osprey had been there and talked about a couple of what she says big victories and loss and damage fund, as well as the the climate justice framework which is being worked on even and also you refer to as free about the Paris agreement.

And having read the Paris Agreement, it seems awfully kind of fluffy as a trained lawyer. I reviewed it And I’m looking at it from like the standpoint of being a contract and being enforceable. And I think there are holes in it that are wider than, you know, trucks and planes can fly through this thing. So it just, there’s, they’re to me, it seems like there’s not much they’re there.

I realized it’s kind of a political document, which is mostly aspirational. And you hope that countries follow it. But there isn’t a whole lot of enforceability. And what are your thoughts about that, as well as the loss and damage fund as far as where that’s going? Are these just aspirational frameworks? And then the the real work gets done at the local level on the national level to correspond with these overarching goals?

Yeah, really good questions. I mean, I think that, you know, I think it’s really important to put the Paris Climate Agreement. And these climate talks these cops in context, like, as an example, an organization like ours, I would say, we spend maybe 1/6 of our entire year and energy and programmatic focus on it. Because if we were only going to rely on these international agreements, and that process at the UNFCCC, we would basically burn the planet, because they are too incremental. There are a lot of sort of pledges being made that don’t get followed up on or if they do, it’s too slow.

And so I think that, you know, contextually the COP is really good for a place we need an international forum for nation states to get together and deal with, with these collective crises of humanity and the earth. However, I would definitely agree with you that they’re completely insufficient. And so a lot of the work needs to be done at home at the grassroots level at the community level at the local and national level. But, but it is important that we have a global space international space for these discussions, and that civil society, you know, and and countries that are both being impacted, really push wealthy countries and governments to live up to the expectations of the Paris Climate Agreement.

So, in terms of that happening, what do you see on the ground? Since the Paris Agreement in particular, as to progress being? What do you How would you grade the world’s progress since the Paris Agreement was signed in 2015? I believe.

Yeah, I mean, I think that the the movements for, you know, food security and food sovereignty and agroecology, and people planting forests and forest protection and indigenous rights and feminist economies and looking at Circular economics, all these movements are tremendous what people are doing to heal the earth and stop plastic pollution is endless and beautiful and growing and flourishing.

So I would give communities and, you know, groups that are working in a variety of ways, a big A plus, I would not give governments a good grade. So I think that, you know, we’re caught in very complex economic, and political, geopolitical situations that make it really difficult for governments to work at speed and scale, but also not just that, with a framing that is equitable. I think governments are really struggling with that, like, how do you actually implement policies that are just unfair, and don’t adhere to corporate interests as an example.

And just to put it out there, you know, Global Witness came out with a poor report when we were at COP27, that there was 25% more fossil fuel industry representatives at this cop influencing the negotiations than last year. And there’s like the biggest, one of the biggest constituencies that are there, you know, lobbying for their interests. So I think we have a lot of work to do when it comes to how do we have these international agreements really work for people on planet versus corporate interests?

Well, I’m not gonna let you duck the tough question here. You know, what, what are the grades of government? I realized? It’s a very challenging question. But that’s why, you know, you’re the executive director, you make the tough calls. What do you say governments are doing across the board? How to how they get graded? A or F?

I would say, Yeah, I would, I would not look at them as one block, I would say that the wealthy countries are in the C and D, and maybe sometimes F category. I do think that island nations are more in the A and B category, you know, those who are who are looking at their very survival quickly, are doing far better and leading out on, you know, wanting there to be, you know, as I was mentioning, Vanuatu, and to follow, strongly calling for a fossil fuel Non Proliferation Treaty, I would give them an A.

So I think it depends on the country and the threats that they’re facing. And the you know, I think that New Zealand is doing a great job. So there’s good leadership happening in a lot of different places. But I think the wealthy countries are not faring well.

How about the US, where are we?

I think we’re sort of in this, you know, C to D range. I mean, I think that we are, you know, laggards when it comes to contributing to the 100 billion dollar fund. I think that we are need to be much, much, much more ambitious, on understanding, also false solutions to the climate crisis, versus really community led solutions, which is a whole whole topic. And I think that that what’s very difficult is how do we reframe that solving the climate crisis is not something we can buy our way out of.

And, you know, when we look at things like carbon offsets from forests, and some of these carbon trading schemes that the whole model continues to further this idea of endless economic growth, and who’s going to prosper from the transition to a new economy?

And I think, you know, that’s it’s a very complex topic that can’t, can’t be done in a short, short interview. But I would just say that I think we have to get at the core of what is an equitable resolve the climate crisis, and the United States needs to do much better on the equitable aspect of our climate programs?

Well, I would ask you, you refer to that there should be more ambitious solutions by our governments. What ambitious solutions, would you suggest the US government engage in saying named three to five that are more or less that you just think are the most important ones that we should be focusing on?

Well, I think, you know, the most important thing right now is the revolving door between the fossil fuel industry and government leaders. Right there full stop, we need to, you know, at these international forums, you know, we can state that we, you know, as I was mentioning, that we would support a fossil fuel face down as was pushed for COP27, and then come home and continue to expand fossil fuels. And so I think this is one of the biggest things we need to address is where the government leaders in the United States willing to stand up to the fossil fuel industry.

You know, we have, you know, all this fossil fuel leasing being opened up. We have the willow project up in Alaska, we have line five, from Enbridge, we have the mountain valley pipeline, we have huge expansion in the gold south with the Formosa plant, and more and more pipelines plant so we can’t be talking about, you know, ending the climate crisis or we, you know, at least, you know, lessening the impact of the climate crisis understanding it’s caused by fossil fuel and carbon emission, and then not do anything about reduction of fossil fuels. So that would be like the one big thing is how do we make this transition?

I you know, I’m there with you in terms of the ultimate goal. I guess I just say we do have the situation of the war in Ukraine, which is kind of blown up literally and figuratively. The fossil fuel situation for everybody? Yeah, so it’s, it kind of blew a hole and what would have been the phase downstream? strategy because of the problems that we’re facing in trying to deal with Russia and reduce any dependence that Europe and the US has on a, those fossil fuels coming out of Russia.

So you’re listening to A Climate Change. This is Matt Matern, your host, and I’ve got Osprey Orielle Lake, Executive Director of Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network on the show. And we’ll be right back in just one minute.

You’re listening to A Climate Change, this is Matt Matern. I’ve got Osprey Orielle Lake, Executive Director of the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network network, WECAN. And Osprey, were just talking about before the break to the fact that the war in the Ukraine has thrown a monkey wrench in the plan of reducing consumption of fossil fuel and because of the need to kind of substitute the Russian fuel that had been fueling Europe, with some American fuel and other countries as well.

So that being said, it probably exists in this Hobson’s choice right now that we either use a little bit more fossil fuel now than we’d like to ofs, you know, potentially drill some more now, to offset the Russian production, or take the Russian production and use it? Or I mean, the Europeans primarily, it’s it’s not a good choice. I think there there have been some silver linings in terms of, I think, you see, European countries, turning away from fossil fuels even more in the long term.

And you see a lot of people in Europe building out solar and, and even more when, because they realize that, that relying upon the Russian oil and gas industry is is an unstable and risky bet. So it may take a few years for this or more to for all this to roll out. But it may further speed the you know, getting off the addiction to fossil fuels. What do you say?

I completely agree. I mean, I think that it’s a, you know, again, we have many, many complex, interrelated issues of geopolitics and the climate crisis itself and how it’s playing out in terms of extreme weather events and the war in Ukraine. And so, you know, no one is saying that we’re going to turn off fossil fuels tomorrow. That’s why it’s a phase out or a phase down, is because it’s a process that has to be negotiated by, you know, global governments in a way that makes sense.

But the thing is, we need to get on with it. And that’s really, I think, the main point is that we need a mechanism to actually have governments collectively figure out how to do that. So yes, there is the situation in Ukraine and the need for Europeans to have, you know, the fossil fuels that they need through the winter. And, you know, no one is saying that that tab should be turned off immediately. It’s more the overview of how do we get on with this, this phase out in a equitable and consistent manner, at speed and scale and get into that dialogue very seriously.

And we also need to remember, there’s a lot of reports out there, not that I’ve delved into them, you know, as far as I wanted to, but there’s certainly a lot of reports around the kind of fossil fuel stocks that we have in place as well, and what is actually really needed, and how much the fossil fuel industries actually profiting off of this moment, while the gas prices are increasing.

So I think there’s a lot to be said about how governments need to be more engaged in regulation of the fossil fuel industry and also how we’re going to engage in this phase out. And of course, taking into consideration, you know, which countries need what when, depending on different geopolitical situations?

Yeah, certainly a very complex problem and we do need to start dealing with it more effectively and ambitiously, in that. We don’t have an infinite infinite amount of time to reduce our carbon emissions. to reach a potential tipping point that would put the earth in a downward cycle where it makes it unlivable for billions of people. So, obviously, we need to get our act together. Speaking of the Earth, I, we had talked about the rights of nature offline and like to have you talk about that, and, and what are the rights of nature, my understanding of it Central is that rivers and forests and things of that nature would have rights.

You know, currently, they don’t in at least in the US to sue for being polluted in. So it would be a fundamental change in the US legal system to give nature rights similar to humans as well as it, corporations have rights, and they’re not humans, but they have rights. And also ships even have rights, because there are certain maritime law that gives ships rights, but somehow nature doesn’t have a right. So what’s the what’s the status of this in the US as well as in other countries?

Yeah, thank you for bringing it up. I’m part of a network of people who are involved in this movement, it’s called the Global Alliance for the rights of nature. And it’s it’s a wonderful alliance that is international, that has been together, really, since Evo Morales and Bolivia called for the conference on Mother Earth, and, and climate in 2009. And so the global conference of nature was started in 2010, I believe. And basically, as you say, it’s really looking at how do we create laws around nature, that respect to natural systems and our elevates level of human rights.

And, you know, what we can see is that our current legal systems are on nature not working, or we would not be in this climate crisis or facing such horrible environmental degradation. So it’s not that environmental protection laws are completely unsuccessful, but they’re obviously not working to the level that they need to, because we keep having these grave threats, escalating. And so it is about looking very deep, differently, sort of at the DNA of our legal frameworks to respect the natural laws of the Earth, versus what we have now, which is a property rights system, in essence.

So instead of seeing nature as property, it’s seeing nature as a right sparing entity, and really changing the current structure of law to do so. Because otherwise, we’re going to continue to see these harms. And one thing that I think is, is really interesting, it’s about really advocating that breaking out of the human centered limitations of our current legal systems is is one of the most leveraged actions that we can take to really have a healthy and equitable future for everyone.

Um, and then I’ll just, you know, hand it back to you after saying that, you know, I think what’s really exciting is that it’s not just sort of a form of what’s called Earth jurisprudence or earth law philosophy. We are actually seeing the enactment of the rights of nature. So in the United States, there’s over three dozen local rights of nature ordinances in place where communities have protected their communities from harms to their waterways, or to certain industries coming in.

And it’s also happened at the national level in 2008, Ecuador became the first country in the world to recognize rights of nature in their constitution. And there’s been legal cases now being won in Ecuador using that constitutional right. The Ponca Nation, the indigenous nation of Ponca, nation here in the United States made history just earlier this year as the first tribe in the US to recognize rights of nature and law to protect their territory, from fossil fuel extraction to protect their waterways. I was also a few years ago in New Zealand, where their parliament has given the Wanganui river legal standing, and is protected under a form of rights of nature laws.

So it’s just to say that, you know, it’s way past an idea there are it’s one of the fastest growing movements internationally is this idea of bringing rights to nature. And I think it’s really exciting because it really puts humans in place to the ecosystem is which is where we really need to be.

Well, certainly it is important development and just from somebody who has an environmental lawsuit against Exxon, I can see the challenges of if you are dealing with it, from the standpoint of only being able to represent the humans involved, you have certain limitations versus say the, the air that we breathe, being polluted, may not have the same rights as and if you can’t show harm to a specific individual getting, say, cancer from the toxins being emitted, then you’re somehow prevented from getting a recovery, where it’s absolutely certain that they are putting carcinogens in the air and the regulatory limits.

But it’s very challenging to track that down to any one polluter, because there’s so many polluters out there, Exxon will point to well, there’s so many other sources of this pollution, how can we be responsible for this person’s cancer, which, you know, is a reasonable point as far as causation of an individual’s loss or damage, but there’s absolutely no doubt that they are damaging the air that we collectively breathe, and polluting it so that all of us are more likely to get sick and get ill, or get asthma or et cetera, et cetera. So this is a potential breakthrough.

I think we’ve run out of time, Osprey, but it’s been great having you on the show, and thank you for joining us and talking about all these important issues with us. And I think educating us to what’s happening out there in the world.

Thanks so much for having me on your show and a great conversation.

Thank you.

(Note: this is an automatic transcription and may have errors in formatting and grammar.)

Help Us Combat Climate Change by Subscribing to our Newsletter!