BAY-DELTA TRIBUNAL PUTS STATE & NATIONAL LEGAL SYSTEM ON TRIAL
California’s Proposed Twin Tunnels Case to be Heard
Antioch, CA – “What would the San Francisco Bay-Delta ecosystem say?” is the question a panel of judges will consider when examining a case brought before them in the first-ever Bay Area Rights of Nature Tribunal based on an international rights of nature tribunal held in Paris during the climate talks last December. It’s a question gaining ground as dozens of U.S. and international communities and a handful of countries have begun recognizing rights and legal standing for ecosystems as a new framework for environmental protection. The tribunal will be held on April 30 at the Nick Rodriguez Community Center in Antioch, CA 9:30 AM-2 PM.
The case being brought before the tribunal address nature’s, community, and human rights violations presented by Governor Brown’s water policies, and particularly his proposed Twin Tunnel plan, which would significantly reduce flows needed for Delta waterways and fish. The tribunal is being put on by the Bay Area Rights of Nature Alliance (BARONA) —a network of organizations seeking to explore how recognizing legal standing for ecosystems can put new governance tools in the hands of communities.
In addition to detailing rights violations, Tribunal witnesses and experts will also offer solutions to water flow and economic development challenges that protect, not injure, human and nature’s rights. “We are pleased to work with BARONA to make the case for the San Francisco Bay-Delta,” says Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, executive director for Restore the Delta, a group that has been working to fight the governor’s plan and support sound water alternatives.“The Delta is an imperiled national treasure — a home for wildlife, fisheries, and human culture. After 30 years of over-pumping, the Delta Tunnels proposal would complete the destruction of the largest estuary on the west coast of the Americas. Those who view the Delta as simply another water source to be drained are in for a fight. The people and wildlife of the Delta will not be erased.”
“The proposed project not only violate nature’s rights and human rights, but also illustrates that our laws legalize such harms,” adds Linda Sheehan of the Earth Law Center. “This Tribunal is about confronting a system of laws that places people and nature in harm’s way, and demonstrating a new way forward.”
Rights of nature is a global movement that has been named one of the Top Ten Grassroots Movements Taking on the World by Shift Magazine. International Tribunals in Paris, Lima and Quito have recognized nature’s rights, as has the Pope and other leading figures. “Rather than treating nature as property under the law, rights of nature acknowledges that the ecosystem—in this case the Delta itself—is a rights-bearing entity,” concluded Shannon Biggs, Director of Movement Rights, a group that assists California communities pass laws that place the rights of communities and ecosystems above corporate interests. “Mendocino County and Santa Monica have already recognized these rights in order to ban fracking and develop sustainability initiatives.”
“We will fight oil until our last breath,” Manari Ushigua, president of the Zapara tribe (pictured with his sister, Gloria Ushigua) recently told journalists outside Ecuador’s Ministry of Strategic Resources. “Our spirit needs a healthy environment.”
Imagine that you live in a place where all of your ancestors always lived. Where you understood that the earth you were walking on was literally land made from the bones of those relatives. Where food was so abundant there was no need for stores. Where medicine for all of your illnesses grew in the form of plants all around you, your family and friends. Where there was no separation felt between you and the water, the air, or the trees. Imagine that you knew and understood the language of the forest, of all of the animals, and that you understood with every breath that you are a part of this very sacred system of life.
Now, the hard part. Imagine it is all being destroyed by fossil fuel extraction.
You have probably heard the statement that, “Indigenous peoples are on the front lines of climate change.” Its not just an expression. Living close to the Earth in a globalized world seeking “endless more” makes indigenous people vulnerable to the last gasp of the fossil fuel era.
Unfortunately, there are many examples of this which include the Beaver Lake Cree First Nations people whose territory includes the tar sands in Alberta, Canada, the Wangan and Jagalingou Aboriginal people in Queensland, Australia who are battling the government’s decision to allow a coal mine on their territory which would destroy their homes and sacred places, or members of the Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw Nation in Louisiana who just became the first official climate refugees in the United States.
A new development in the fossil fuel destruction of indigenous lands is what is happening now in Southern Ecuador to the Kichwa people of Sarayaku. The people of Sarayaku have been battling to keep oil extraction out of their territory for decades.
For a while, there was some good news. In 2007, President Correa initiated a proposal to protect Yasuni National Park with a proposition to world governments to contribute $3.6 billion. Yasuni is considered to be the most biodiverse place left on Earth. Even though the majority of Ecuadorians supported the Yasuni ITT Initiative, in 2013 President Correa scrapped it blaming lack of contributions by world governments.
The people of the Amazon need our help to stop oil today.
Fast forward to 2016: In January, President Correa signed deals with three fossil fuel extraction corporations from China to explore for oil on Sarayaku territory. This is the ancestral territory of the Sápara and Kichwa people of Sarayaku. They did not give their consent to this exploitation of their territory and have vowed to resist in defense of their rights, territories, living forests and our global climate. This land, comparable in size to the state of Vermont, located in the remote Sur Oriente in the southern Ecuadorian Amazon has been largely untouched, owing to the protection offered by the tribes who live there and consider it sacred.
Last year, Ecuadorian indigenous organizations asked China’s Prime Minister Li Keqiang to visit their territories in effort to stop the project, noting that in his own country, he promised to use an iron fist to “punish companies that violate Chinese environmental regulations,” and boldy stated that “fostering a sound ecological environment is vital for people’s lives,” and that pollution is “nature’s red-light warning against the model of inefficient and blind development.” Yet oil development is poised to begin in this land of beauty and proud people who have been taking care of some of the Earth’s most biologically diverse places.
Oil development will mean the death of this place, of the spirit of the land and the peoples who have defended and protected it since the beginning. Our Kichwa sisters and brothers need our help. They have been struggling for so long to keep their territory safe. Next week the women of Sarayaku will be conducting a women’s assembly to discuss what to do to keep their homes safe. Details here. Women from various nationalities, including Kichwa, Sapara, Waorani, Shuar and Achuar will be gathering in the Amazon city of Puyo for a march, press conference and assembly on International Women’s Day. They will be joined by indigenous and NGO allies from the Andes and North America. The women have recently gathered, but have not marched together in many years. Movement Rights board member, Casey Camp Horinek will be there as part of a WECAN women’s delegation to stand with the women of Ecuador.
On March 8th, International Women’s Day, they will march through Puyo to stand up for the life of their land. There are many ways to support their action—wherever you are.
SOLIDARITY ACTIONS IN SAN FRANCISCO BAY AREA
Here in the San Francisco Bay Area we will be conducting a solidarity action with them on the same day. We are meeting at the Chinese Consulate located at 1450 Laguna Street from 10:00 a.m. to at least 1:00 p.m. A letter will be hand-delivered on that day to Consulate officials. If you can, please join us. Details: We Stand With Sapara Women
CALL THE CHINESE CONSULATE ON MARCH 8
If you cannot join us, please call the Chinese Consulate in your area on March 8th. The San Francisco Consulate phone number is (415) 852-5900. We ask that you be respectful in your comments. The blame is not on individual people, but on the system that the United States has exported around the world which puts profits over the lives of people and which has allowed us the luxuries that we take for granted.
SIGN THE PETITION: support Sapara women & Indigenous Rights
The Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN), in concert with the Sapra and Kichwa women’s statements has put together a petition to let Ecuadorian and Chinese officials know the world is watching. The goal is 3,000 signatures but it would be great to have many more: Sign the Petition to Support Sapara Women Please sign and share with your friends. Our friends in Ecuador need our help. Please do what you can.
When we stand together we are strong. Let’s be STRONG.
For more information and to keep updated about ongoing fossil fuel issues in South America please go to Amazon Watch.
Movement Rights promotes community, indigenous, and nature’s rights by:
Empowering communities to write new rules. Providing organizing and legal support, we assist communities confronted by harmful projects to pass new laws that place the right of residents (and nature) above corporate profit. Building a vibrant movement for the rights of nature. Through savvy media campaigns, deep education and organizing, Movement Rights is a leading advocate recognizing legal standing for nature. Advancing Indigenous rights and traditional knowledge. Our organizing, research and reports highlights that as the defenders of the most diverse places on Earth, Indigenous peoples have a leadership role to play in the transformation of our culture and law toward ecological balance.