Earth Restorative Justice
Restorative approaches to ecological harms

Environmental pollution and the depletion of natural resources have caused great harm to our Earth and her inhabitants. This website explores if Restorative Justice can play a role in healing ecological harms.

EFRJ Newsletter on Environmental Restorative Justice

The September newsletter of the European Forum for Restorative Justice (EFRJ) is entirely dedicated to Environmental Restorative Justice. Included are contributions by artist Maria Lucia Cruz Correia on participatory and restorative responses to ecocide through theatrical performance, Belinda Hopkins on Restorative Justice in times of Extinction Rebellion, and Martin Wright on restorative responses to corporate environmental crime, in particular the Bhopal disaster.

Scholars John Braithwaite, Miranda Forsyth and Deborah Cleland open the newsletter with a conceptual framework for understanding restorative environmental justice. They get to the essence of what we understand to be Earth Restorative Justice with the following powerful words:

Restorative environmental justice is philosophically much more than a set of techniques for doing justice for the environment in a more relational, more emotionally intelligent fashion. (...) It is about healing earth systems and healing the relationship of humans with nature and with each other. Because the relationship of human domination developed during the Anthropocene, restorative environmental justice should also be about humbling humans’ domination of nature. It is about tempering human power over earth systems and domination of the powerful over the less powerful. (...) This must involve a transformative mobilisation of the restorative power and the restorative imagination of humankind. It involves the insight that, by being active citizens of the planet, by participating in small ways in the project of healing our natural world, we heal ourselves as humans who only have meaning and identity as part of that natural world.

It is truly exciting to see the growing interest in the intersection of environmental harm and restorative justice, and the diversity of voices that enrich the conversation.

You can download the newsletter here: EFRJ Newsletter Restorative environmental justice.pdf.

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IUCN report Restorative Justice Responses to Environmental Harm

Earth Restorative Justice has been commissioned by IUCN National Committee of the Netherlands (IUCN NL) to write a report on Restorative Justice Responses to Environmental Harm. The report is now available, and can be downloaded here: Restorative Justice Responses to Environmental Harm.pdf.

The report explores if restorative justice offers a more inclusive way of responding to environmental harm caused by corporate offenders and leads to more satisfying outcomes, in particular for the victims and affected communities. It looks at best practices from New Zealand, Canada and Australia and describes how these practices could be relevant for IUCN's work in the global south.

It concludes that restorative justice does offer an innovative response to environmental harm in line with IUCN’s values such as collaboration, trust, nature conservation and restoration of social relationships. Moreover, restorative justice is an excellent match to IUCN’s diplomatic approach to natural resources conflicts and its role as a bridge builder between governments, businesses, CSOs and local communities. In particular, the British Columbia Community Environmental Justice Forums could serve as an example for the creation of localized environmental restorative justice pilot programs in IUCN partner countries.

The report was received positively by IUCN NL and opened the conversation for collaboration between Restorative Justice Netherlands and the environmental NGO.

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First European Seminar on Restorative Responses to Ecocide

On Friday 26 April 2019 the first European seminar on Restorative Responses to Environmental Harm and Ecocide took place in the Leuven Institute for Ireland, Belgium, hosted by the KU Leuven Institute for Criminology.
The presentations by keynote speaker John Braithwaite, Ivo Aertsen, Anneke van Hoek and other Restorative Justice specialists can be viewed here.

The seminar brought together criminologists, judges, RJ practicioners, students, government and industry workers - and an artist - in the exploration of enticing questions, such as: "Who are the victims of environmental harm, how are their rights ensured and how can they have a voice in restorative processes? Who speaks on behalf of future or past generations and nature (animals, plants, rivers, land, climate)? What kind of expertise is required to adequately speak for the non-human? How can we repair the irreparable? How can we assess who the perpetrators are and how can we ensure they participate in restorative processes?"

It was an inspiring and stimulating day, and participants committed to take this research subject further in their respective fields - and to follow up with future meetings and joint efforts.

I gave a presentation titled 'Reconnecting to Nature through Restorative Justice'. During my presentation I honoured Polly Higgins for introducing me to Ecocide law and Earth law back in 2013 (in my TED talk I tell about her influence on my life) and for encouraging me to take the idea of restorative approaches to Ecocide further. Polly Higgins was a dedicated and courageous woman, a true 'lawyer for the Earth' who spent the last ten years of her life fighting for the recognition of Ecocide as a crime against mankind. She also played a key part in the events that resulted in the creation of the seminar. She passed away on Easter Day 2019, only 50 years old. If you want to learn more about Polly's work and support her legacy, please visit her website.

The fact that our seminar took place in the Leuven Irish college, which in its courtyard has a centuries-old mosaic with the names of trees in Gaelic, seemed meaningful with Polly in mind. She cherished her Celtic roots and drew inspiration from her strong connection to the Scottish land.

Photo: the Leuven Institute for Ireland. Source: Wikipedia.

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Courageously Moving Toward Integrative Law Practice: Interviews

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.

Marianne Williamson

Inspired by this quote from Marianne Williamson, the online magazine The Conscious Lawyer approached five lawyers active within the integrative law movement to ask them about how they have moved, or are moving, through their biggest personal challenges and fears on the journey towards a more sustainable integrative law practice. Integrative law is an emerging worldwide movement to create a legal system that grants dignity and voice to everyone in the legal system, crafting values-based, creative, sustainable, and holistic solutions that build and strengthen relationships. It is is an integration of the practices and methods of the adversarial system with newly emerging more humanistic and relational approaches to law. Examples of integrative law are Restorative Justice, Earth Law, Therapeutic Jurisprudence and Conscious Contracts.

Click here to read the responses from US law professor, Dr. Marjorie Silver; Dutch integrative lawyer, Digna de Bruin; US mediator and forgiveness coach, Eileen Barker; US lawyer and member of the PISLAP network, Lyna Chai; and Indian human rights lawyer, Rajesh Deoli. And you can read an interview with Marianne Williamson here.

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Justicia restaurativa y transiciĆ³n ecosocial

Extracto de Justicia restaurativa y transición ecosocial escrito por Jorge, publicado en La Transicionera

Si queremos una vida buena compatible con el planeta debemos lograr seguridad por medio de aumentar la cohesión social y los mecanismos participativos de resolución de conflictos, no mediante el uso de la represión y la cárcel. Como escribí en otra ocasión, para comenzar a delinear un sistema de actuación frente a los conflictos penales que sea acorde con la dignidad humana y con los límites biofísicos, debemos trabajar en torno a tres ejes: relocalizar la justicia, reinvertir en la comunidad y adoptar el paradigma de la Justicia Restaurativa.

Para implantar la Justicia Restaurativa habría que trabajar, paralelamente y al mismo tiempo, con las instituciones y partidos políticos, por un lado, y con los movimientos sociales y la ciudadanía organizada, por el otro. Es decir, habría que convencer a las fuerzas políticas para que ofrecieran la Justicia Restaurativa como complemento al sistema de justicia habitual. El País Vasco y Cataluña llevan años ofreciendo servicios públicos de mediación penal en sus territorios, de forma que la ciudadanía y la judicatura van familiarizándose con el sistema y apreciando sus ventajas, en cuanto a mejora de la calidad democrática de la justicia y descongestión del sistema judicial. Poco a poco, la Justicia Restaurativa podría aplicarse a todo tipo de delitos y contribuir a reducir las tasas de encarcelamiento.

Al mismo tiempo, habría que explorar las posibilidades que ofrece la Justicia Restaurativa como alternativa al sistema de justicia habitual. Habría que trabajar a nivel local empoderando a las comunidades para que resolvieran sus conflictos por sí mismas, sin necesidad de recurrir a mecanismos formales de carácter estatal. En este caso, lo que habría que potenciar sería la formación y la concienciación entre los movimientos sociales y las personas de a pie, haciéndoles ver que tienen la capacidad de recuperar el control sobre sus propios conflictos.

En ambos casos, en línea con el pensamiento de Ivan Illich, la idea sería recuperar la vida convivencial, donde “el conflicto se vuelve creador de libertad”, y nos ayuda a construir sociedades justas, democráticas y sostenibles, que posibiliten la vida buena dentro de los límites ecológicos del planeta, conscientes de la imposibilidad y nocividad del crecimiento perpetuo.

Leer mas aqui.

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Australia should give victims a voice in tackling environmental crime

PhD Candidate Mark Hamilton and lecturer Hadeel Al-Alosi published an excellent article on Restorative Justice's benefits in addressing environmental crimes for the Australian Conversation website.

According to the two scholars, Australia is currently missing out on a hugely useful tool in the fight against environmental crime: restorative justice. This approach, which has been used successfully in New Zealand, deserves a nationwide commitment, they say.

Though restorative conferencing can require more time, money and energy than traditional court processes, this may be an investment well worth making for the environment. Embracing restorative justice would give victims a much-needed voice in the process, and create a better chance to heal ruptured relationships and restore the harm done to the environment as far as possible. As Trevor Chandler, a facilitator in Canada, succinctly puts it: “punishment makes people bitter, whereas restorative solutions make people better”.

You can read the full article here.

Mark Hamilton also gave an interview on Radio Adelaide, that you can listen to here.

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Restoring Justice for Land and Community

When I first learned about Restorative Justice (RJ), I visited the Zehr Institute for Restorative Justice and listened to their free webinars to get a better understanding of RJ and its connection to social justice issues such as racism, mass incarceration and gender inequality. These webinars were a wonderful tool to get better acquainted with RJ and I also recommend reading the groundbreaking book Changing Lenses by the institute's founder, Howard Zehr.

To my delight, on April 17th 2019 the Institute broadcasted a webinar on RJ and ecology, since 'we cannot have restorative justice without restoring our relationship to land and water'. Jonathan McRay was the guest speaker. He is the founder and caretaker of Blacks Run Forest Farm, a riparian nursery and folk school in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, USA. It's led by the principles of agroforestry, watershed health, and restorative justice, and guided by
'a desire to farm in the image of the forest and remediate the toxins that pollute our souls, society, and soil, from chemical leaching to white supremacy, through the healing work of our hands, heads, and hearts.'

I was impressed by his presentation. Here follow some things Jonathan said that particularly spoke to me:

-Conflict is the most renewable form of energy we have – we are going to keep having it, so how do we channel it into something that is healing and transformative instead of something that is destructive and erosive?

- Harm done to people and to the land are often the same. Hurt people hurt the land. So how can Restorative Justice help communities liberate the Earth and its creatures rather than destroy the Earth?

- The point of justice is to nurture and care for each other, and root ourselves in practices that help cultivate cure, nurturing, love and freedom from violence.

- It’s not about restoring some mythic pre-human Earth or Holocene, but it’s about restoring peoples’ and the lands dignity.

Jonathan not only addressed the philosophical roots of Blacks Run Forest Farm, he also spoke about their day-to-day work and challenges. This made the webinar both inspiring and down-to-earth and I heartly recommend checking it out: you can listen to it here.

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Ecosattva Vows

The Ecosattva Vows

by Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone, from Active Hope

I vow to myself and to each of you:

To commit myself daily to the healing of our world 

and the welfare of all beings.

To live on earth more lightly and less violently 

in the food, products, and energy I consume.

To draw strength and guidance from the living Earth, 

the ancestors, the future generations, and my siblings 

of all species.

To support others in our work for the world 

and to ask for help when I need it.

To pursue a daily practice that clarifies my mind, 

• strengthens my heart, 

• and supports me in observing these vows.

Dedicated to the loving memory of Polly Higgins
, 1968-2019

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Reconnecting with the Living Earth through Restorative Justice

I'm delighted that KOSMOS, a journal dedicated to 'Global Transformation in Harmony with All Life', has published my article Reconnecting with the Living Earth through Restorative Justice.

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Earth Restorative Justice featured in Cape Breton University course on environmental rights

Author and filmmaker Silver Donald Cameron teaches a 12-week course on environmental rights at the Cape Breton University in Canada. I'm featured in his class on Environmental Defenders, in which I speak about restorative justice approaches to environmental harm too. I explain how my work on Environmental Defenders led me to research restorative approaches to environmental conflict and talk about some of my findings.

You can watch the class for free, or visit other classes with interviews with 'warrior lawyers' Mumta Ito, Polly Higgins, Jan van de Venis, Pablo Fajardo, David Boyd, Mary Wood, Antonio Oposa, and Cormac Cullinan.

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Community Environmental Justice Forums

In the Canadian province of British Columbia, the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy uses restorative justice circles to address environmental offences committed by companies that affect the environment and local communities.

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Voice of Nature: a Restorative Court Performance

On 1 and 2 March 2019, artist Maria Lucia Cruz Correia and her team welcome you to Voice of Nature - the Trial: an unique, interactive performance investigating restorative responses to ecocide at the old courthouse in Gent:

"Voice of Nature' experiments with how law and justice can serve the ecosystem by proposing a “new type of court room” and create a new form of trial in which the voice of nature can be heard. It explores the difficulties of granting personhood to non-humans, or how to make a mountain or a river into a legal entity. The audience is invited into a process of transformation through the realms of fiction, magic and documentary, that can guide them to become law-bearers for nature.

In order to propose a new type of 'verdict' in the form of a restorative contract, we experiment with combining elements from a conventional court, restorative justice practices as well as transformative rituals. In this trial, humans and non-humans come together to find a collective language, focused on inter-being, intersectionality and restoration."

For more information and tickets, please visit the website of the Same Same but Different-festival.

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Help Wanted

A guest blog by Charlie Greene on how to play our part in these times of ecological and social crises.

We know we have work to do. We know we have hard labor ahead of us. Will we do it? Do we really believe that more knowledge and better understanding will help us to take on the hard labor we have been avoiding because it is not fair that no one of us is exempt?

What is this hard labor?

It is the labor of a mother peacefully giving birth to her child. It is the labor of a father pulling his children back up the snow sledding hill. It is the labor of a musician singing her heart out at the end of a far too long road tour. It is the labor of the farmer who is weeding 100 foot long rows after 100 foot long rows of his favorite vegetable, carrots, when the sun is beating his hat flat onto this head because he chooses sweat and sore muscles rather than pesticides. It is the labor of the nun who settles into the beginning of her fifth decade of daily meditation. It is the labor of children hard at their school work. It is the labor of the doctor who helps heal an indigent patient. It is the labor of Americans giving up our military control. It is the labor of ending War, the original politically correct word that humans find so much more comforting than what war actually is, state and non-state sponsored murder. It is the labor of the World Economic Forum divesting 99% of its money. It is the labor of ending poverty. It is the labor of creating a carbon-neutral human civilization. It is the labor of following the simple advice of every spiritual prophet since the beginning of time: Love our Neighbors as We love ourselves.
It is the work we must do with relaxed love, with a smile, with optimistic pain, with a rueful gladness. Work that will be bittersweet.

We are descendants Denisovans, Neanderthals, and Homo Sapiens who adapted, during the preceding 300,000 years, to the uncertain life of people on Earth.
We know that somewhere along the way humanity strayed onto a path that has reached a fork in the road where we must now, not tomorrow, make a great turning into uncertainty. Much like our ancestors who were determined to keep humanity alive through the most recent glaciation that stretched from 25,000 to 11,000 years before present.

With the 20/20 vision of hindsight, we can fault our Neolithic forebears who concurrently developed agriculture and slavery. We can blame faith communities who justified human sacrifice via inquisition, ethnic cleansing, economic greed, lust for power, and ritualistic offerings. We can shake our heads at residents in the early 20th century who decided that it would be more environmentally beneficial to convert from wood fuel to oil because the forests in the industrialized countries were almost gone, or to convert from horse to automobile based urban transportation in an effort to reduce flies and unpleasant odor. We can decry scientists who enabled poison gas, fire bombs, atomic weapons, and militarized drones. We can point incriminating fingers at Petro Giants, although we have known for 50 years that our willing purchase of gasoline and diesel fuels and our tacit acceptance of Big Oil’s cheap energy carried the price of ecosystem ruination.

But, to what end?

We can wait for more data, better understanding, better elected leaders, more opportune times, better technology, higher consciousness, more peaceful protest. We can take comfort in public statements of “I am better than Thou”. Or we can face up to the fact that we have been avoiding the necessity of the hard labor that we should have started no later than yesterday.

If we are to establish socially and ecologically just cultures by 2050, there is only one way to get there. Now, at the present moment, do the inevitable hard labor, the very hard work that requires us to live by the sweat of our brows, by the uncertainty of following our moral compasses, by making sure everyone has an equal share of life on Earth, even if that requires Americans to consume 10%, Europeans 15%, and the 4 billion humans in poverty 500% of what we do in January 2019.

We know enough now to roll up our sleeves. “Get to work” our grandchildren are telling us. Humans have figured out Earthly life as we have gone along for hundreds of thousands of years. It hasn’t always been pretty, but for better and worse, we are still here.

Our hard labor is an old dance we need to relearn quickly, and enjoy with smiles on our faces. It’s time to share the best of our humanity with each other, and with our ecosystem cousins.

Charlie Greene P.E.
Niles, New York 13118

Photo credits:

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Australian local Council fined for destroying sacred tree

The presiding judge allowed for a restorative justice conference. Restorative measures include increasing awareness and cultural sensitivity among Council staff about sacred Aboriginal objects; public education about the tree, improved Aboriginal consultation procedures and improvement of Aboriginal employment opportunities within the Clarence Valley.

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US Federal Court cites Dr Seuss's The Lorax in rebuke to US Forest Service

A federal court in the US has cited the classic Dr Seuss children’s book The Lorax as it lambasted the US Forest Service for granting an energy company permission to build a natural gas pipeline across two national forests.
“We trust the United States Forest Service to ‘speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues’,” the three-judge panel of the fourth US circuit court of appeals in Virginia wrote this week as it threw out the permit.

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Environmental Restoration: A Story of Hope

In 2017 filmmaker John Liu founded Ecosystem Restoration Camps, a worldwide grassroots movement that aims to restore damaged ecosystems on a large scale. Documenting the transformation of the Loess Plateau in Central China from a barren ground into an oasis convinced Liu that humans could restore ecosystems, rather than just acting as a destructive force on this planet. On 1 March 2019, the United Nations declared the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration 2021-2030, which aims to massively scale up the restoration of degraded and destroyed ecosystems as a proven measure to fight climate change, and enhance food security, water supply and biodiversity.

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Healing the Plant while Ignoring the Toxic Soil?

Fania Davis held a powerful keynote speech at the 10th international conference of the European Forum for Restorative Justice last Summer in Tirana, in which she pled for expanding the use of Restorative Justice from the 'micro'-dimension of interpersonal conflic to include the socio-historic structures such as racism, gender and economic inequity, that perpetuate individual harms. I argue we should look at environmental harms through a similar lense.

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The documentary that introduced me to Restorative Justice (Dutch)

Als ik je zie dan groet ik je - one documentary filmmaker's peronal search for Restorative Justice.

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Urgenda wins Climate Case appeal

Three and a half years after the historic Urgenda-verdict by The Hague district court, the Dutch judiciary, again, ruled in favor of Urgenda. The Hague Court of Appeal affirmed the 2015 decision of the Hague district court which ruled that the Dutch State violates its duty of care by not taking enough action to lower its CO2 emissions by 25% in 2020. This time, the Court of Appeal even took it one step further by basing the duty of care on the human rights provision of article 2 and 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights.

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Dutch Citizens win Climate Case against the State

Together with 886 citizens, Dutch NGO Urgenda brought a climate liability case against the Dutch state. I joined this case as one of the co-plaintiffs. Our argument was that the Dutch state neglects its duty of care towards us—its current and future citizens—by not reducing CO2 emissions quickly enough to avoid catastrophic climate change. We asked the judge to order the Dutch State to reduce its CO2 emissions with 25-40 % in 2020, the percentage that science and international agreements tell us is needed if we want to stay below the 2 degrees threshold.

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A Poem on Hope by Wendell Berry

It is hard to have hope. It is harder as you grow old,
For hope must not depend on feeling good
And there is the dream of loneliness at absolute midnight.
You also have withdrawn belief in the present reality
Of the future, which surely will surprise us,
…And hope is harder when it cannot come by prediction
Any more than by wishing. But stop dithering.
The young ask the old to hope. What will you tell them?
Tell them at least what you say to yourself.

Because we have not made our lives to fit
Our places, the forests are ruined, the fields eroded,
The streams polluted, the mountains overturned. Hope
Then to belong to your place by your own knowledge
Of what it is that no other place is, and by
Your caring for it as you care for no other place, this
Place that you belong to though it is not yours,
For it was from the beginning and will be to the end

Belong to your place by knowledge of the others who are
Your neighbors in it: the old man, sick and poor,
Who comes like a heron to fish in the creek,
And the fish in the creek, and the heron who manlike
Fishes for the fish in the creek, and the birds who sing
In the trees in the silence of the fisherman
And the heron, and the trees that keep the land
They stand upon as we too must keep it, or die.

This knowledge cannot be taken from you by power
Or by wealth. It will stop your ears to the powerful
when they ask for your faith, and to the wealthy
when they ask for your land and your work.
Answer with knowledge of the others who are here
And how to be here with them. By this knowledge
Make the sense you need to make. By it stand
In the dignity of good sense, whatever may follow.
Speak to your fellow humans as your place
Has taught you to speak, as it has spoken to you.
Speak its dialect as your old compatriots spoke it
Before they had heard a radio. Speak
Publicly what cannot be taught or learned in public.

Listen privately, silently to the voices that rise up
From the pages of books and from your own heart.
Be still and listen to the voices that belong
To the streambanks and the trees and the open fields.
There are songs and sayings that belong to this place,
By which it speaks for itself and no other.

Found your hope, then, on the ground under your feet.
Your hope of Heaven, let it rest on the ground
Underfoot. Be it lighted by the light that falls
Freely upon it after the darkness of the nights
And the darkness of our ignorance and madness.
Let it be lighted also by the light that is within you,
Which is the light of imagination. By it you see
The likeness of people in other places to yourself
In your place. It lights invariably the need for care
Toward other people, other creatures, in other places
As you would ask them for care toward your place and you.

No place at last is better than the world. The world
Is no better than its places. Its places at last
Are no better than their people while their people
Continue in them. When the people make
Dark the light within them, the world darkens.

- Wendell Berry

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