This article by Sandy Kurtz appears in The Pulse, December 13, 2017.
How weakening of water protections affect us all, here and abroad
The recent weakening of water protection in Chattanooga’s stormwater ordinance favors homebuilders over water quality despite numerous citizen objections based on engineering and scientific knowledge.
The process allowed homebuilder profit at the expense of water quality. It begs at least two questions: Do streams have rights? Should they be given legal rights as has been done with corporations?
Apparently, Chattanooga’s answer is no, but in Ecuador it’s yes. That country has just written a new constitution giving nature the legal “right to exist, persist, maintain and regenerate its vital cycles, structure, functions and its processes in evolution”. It mandates that the government take “precaution and restriction measures in all activities that can lead to the extinction of species, the destruction of the ecosystems or the permanent alteration of the natural cycles.”
In New Zealand, the Whanganui River and Te Urewera National Park were designated as legal persons with guardians appointed. These guardians have a legal mandate to assure that the rights of those ecosystems are protected in perpetuity including biological diversity, ecological integrity, and the cultural heritage.
In the U.S., Tamaqua Borough, Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania passed a local ordinance in 2006 that stopped sewage sludge dumping and included a provision recognizing the rights of natural communities to flourish. Four years later, Pittsburgh became the first major U.S. municipality to recognize rights of nature.
In Colorado, a lawsuit was filed against the state of Colorado seeking to win Colorado River personhood. For years, people have been withdrawing too much water until the river hardly reaches the ocean as it used to. Doesn’t a river have the right to a minimum flow of water? This case was withdrawn after the state leveled sanctions against the law firm bringing the case. MORE…