In her book Dare to be Great, which was updated and released one year after her death, Polly Higgins talks about the power of story and self-authorising your life. “Only you choose to cede your own self-authority to others, and only you can choose to take it back”, she writes. Polly knew the power of framing the narrative, and how this influences the outcome in terms of how we treat ourselves and the Earth. View the Earth as a thing, and it simply becomes a commodity that can be bought and sold without care for the consequences. But view the Earth as a living being and we embrace its intrinsic value, the very sacredness of life. Care replaces commodity and we shift from “I own” to “we owe a duty of care”, writes Polly.
I agree with her that there is great power in defining your experiences on your own terms and being the author of your life story, rather than being ‘colonized’ by other peoples’ stories about you or about your place in the Earth community. The dominant narrative of the industrial growth society which positions us as “owners” above the natural world is alienating and confusing to many who experience the non-human natural world as alive, vibrant, infused with meaning and life force. The worldview that the non-human natural world is inanimate and lacks an ‘inside’ can also cut us off from experiencing our wider circles of being and ecological selves. It’s hard to believe in your own agency as a change maker when your experience of belonging to the Earth community and ability to access the collective intelligence that abounds there is undermined by the disempowering narrative of the homo economicus.
If this is true, is it not an act of empowerment and liberation to discard the industrial growth narrative of ownership and domination and create space for a narrative about our place in the Earth community that is nourishing and heart-felt? Is that not our birthright, as children of Mother Earth? If we self-authorize our relationship with the Earth, we can better discern which economic and political narratives about our place on the Earth ring true to us, and connect to our ecological calling – our unique part to play in restoring the harm done to the Earth community.
A tool that can help in emancipating from the industrial grown narrative is to write down your green life story: the story of your embodied connection to the Earth. I received this method from Elly Verrijt, a missionary sister, Earth worker and pioneer in Spiritual Ecology. Guided by questions, you return to early childhood experiences of connection and interaction with the Earth, but also look at patterns of alienation that caused ecological woundedness and possible ‘unfinished Earth business’.
I like to share a few of the guiding questions here to give a taste of the process of self-authorising your place in the Earth Community:
If you resonate with the idea of self-authorising your place in the Earth Community by writing down your green life story, I would very much like to hear from you. Together, we can explore this process and see which narrative emerge! Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Image: connecting with my favourite tree in the Haarlemmer Hout
The application of restorative justice in response to environmental harm is a promising and rapidly developing approach. It presents a great opportunity to bridge the ineffectiveness of existing environmental responses and the pressing need to stop existing harmful practices, repair harms made and prevent future environmental damage, says Dr Brunilda Pali, who will give a keynote on this topic at the RJWorld 2020 eConference (22-31 August 2020).
The lecture promises to be a great introduction to environmental restorative justice and tickets are available through this link.
Image and source: European Forum for Restorative Justice
In her excellent book You Matter More Than You Think - Quantum Social Change in Response to a World in Crisis, prof. Karen O'Brien writes that action and agency are essential for achieving transformations to an equitable and thriving world. But it's not any kind of agency: the quality of agency is important when it comes to scaling transformative change.
In her book, O'Brien mentions the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). She laments the fact that educational curricula and capacitybuilding efforts to implement SDG 13, "Take Urgent Action to Combat Climate Change and its Impact", seldom address the sphere of personal agency, which is the foundation for quantum social change. However, connecting the sphere of personal agency to the SDGs is exactly what Earthinks does.
Earthinks is a platform for regenerative initiatives. I discovered it when looking for promotion channels for my ebook Stemmen voor de Aarde. The values behind Earthinks resonate with my own: it does not charge for membership and does not exploit user data for marketing purposes. Rather, it supports the agency of its users to become changemakers in the transition to a sustainable world. Earthinks invites its members to connect to the SDGs through the lense of their local reality and Earth connection. It offers an online space (the so-called "thinkspots") where you can nurture regenerative ideas, connect to others in your locality, and together translate these ideas into sustainable action.
Connecting the global to the local and personal, Earthinks offers a home where regenerative initiatives can take root and flourish. In my case, the support of Earthinks encouraged me to professionalize my ebook and present it to the world. The world needs more empowered change agents and I hope Earthinks will continue to nurture the agency of many people in the years to come.
Photo credit: Earthinks
Three years ago I heard Karen O'Brien, professor in Human Geography at Oslo University, speak about Quantum Social Change. It was fascinating to see how she connected the insights of quantum physics with the domain of social change and individual & collective agency. This month, O'Brien made the draft of her new book You Matter More Than You Think - Quantum Social Change in Response to a World in Crisis available for free and I can highly recommend it.
History tells us that progressive social changes - such as the abolition of slavery, equal rights for women and marriage equality - have been the result of small groups of individuals who see their world in new ways and act from deeper and more inclusive values. These groups with an expanded sense of social consciousness ascribed rights to previously excluded groups and worked for social and political change. O'Brien's theory of Quantum Social Change explains why their agency could generate such transformative change and - more importantly - how we can access this same quality of agency in response to the ecological, climate and social crises of the 21st century. According to O'Brien:
- Quantum social change means being self-aware and self-reflective about the beliefs we hold about the future. When we ground our speech and actions in universal values, we generate quantum fractals that replicate these values across all levels and scales (see image);
- When we connect to others from a place of interconnectedness (also known as 'interbeing'), we transcend fragmentation and separation and are able to access our collective intelligence. Our actions will be impactful beyond linear logic and help materialize new realities that reflect a culture of interbeing; and
- The potential for an equitable and thriving world exists in every moment and we can realize this potential by consciously choosing to “be” the new paradigm. The more often people embody the fractal of interbeing, the sooner we will notice transformative change in society.
To some, this might sound abstract or 'too good to be true'. Having witnessed the transformations that a change agent such as Polly Higgins helped enable, this quantum perspective rings true to me. Moreover, believing in your own agency is one of the most empowering things you can do:
"Every moment provides an opportunity to take actions that generate transformative change.", says O'Brien. "And if our beliefs influence the future, then believing in our capacity to create an equitable and thriving world matters more than we think."
Image: Quantum Fractals (Source: McCaffrey 2020)
The Amsterdam Centre for Transformative Private Law will host a three-day virtual conference, titled Private Rights for Nature from 3 - 5 June 2020. A range of legal scholars and practitioners will reflect on the private law dimensions of rights of nature over several virtual sessions.
I'm delighted to chair the panel on restorative justice and stewardship on Friday 5 June from 10:30-12:00 CEST.
Further information and a program for the conference can be found here. You can register by emailing Laura Burgers at email@example.com with your name and affiliation.
How can we stimulate care for the environment? This is the key question in the Positive Green Criminology research that I do with criminologist Anneke van Hoek. I recently came across the work of Neera Singh, professor of geography at the University of Toronto, and I think she has some invaluable insights to share:
Neera Singh writes about about “affective ecologies” — or how as humans we can begin to care for forests and non-human nature in the same ways one might care for their children or friends. “The idea of affective ecologies is trying get past the idea that nature is somehow separate from humans,” Dr. Singh explains. “We always talk about these things as something external. Words like ‘nature’ and ‘the environment’ don’t recognize the inherent interconnectedness humans have with the non-human world. If there are lessons to be learnt from the Covid 19 crisis, these relate to how human health is deeply connected to the health of the natural environment.”
Singh’s research is based on her work in the eastern India state of Odisha, where local, often Indigenous, communities have nurtured degraded forests back to health through caring labor. These forests provide sustenance, are the basis for livelihoods, and a source of culture and spirituality. Not only do they provide immediate economic and social benefits, they also form the basis for an ecologically sensitive worldview.
The villagers in Odisha did not participate in a classic "market solution" by which the state would pay people to act as conservators of state-owned forests. Instead, the villagers were allowed to provide their own self-managed community-based conservation, with other words, forest commoning. They picked berries, pulled out weeds and checked for any signs of pilferage or violations of rules of the commons. They developed affective ties with the growing plants, trees, birds and animals, and in so doing, forests are transformed from nature out there and become a part of the self that is nurtured through care.
The villagers thus developed an identity as “forest people” and “forest care-givers”, and the Odisha example illustrates how people can become commoners through the embodied practices of caring for the forests or other elements of nature.
Neera Singhs' research points to commoning as a key to developing ecological sensitivity and care for nature - I'm curious to hear what you think!
Sources & references for further reading:
Photo credit: Lake McDonald by David Rule
This blog was originally published on Earthinks.
A new edition of Polly Higgins' third book Dare to be Great has just been published.
In it, visionary 'lawyer of the Earth' Polly Higgins highlights the connection between what holds us back internally and the hurdles that we perceive outside ourselves. She offers tools of earth-care – the law of ecocide and creating a legal duty of care – accompanied by tools of self-care: the language of care, nourishment, self-authorising, setting intent, from intent to manifestation, planning your demise and the power of story.
You can watch the booktrailer with Marianne Williamson, Charles Eisenstein and Gail Bradbrook here.
On a personal note, I'm honoured to have told Marianne Williamson about Polly's work back in 2013 in this interview. Marianne later endorsed ecocide law when she ran as a candidate for the Democratic party, and she wrote the foreword to Dare to be Great.
At the occasion of the international Restorative Justice Week 2019, the European Forum for Restorative Justice (EFRJ) has explored the intersection of restorative and environmental justice in its booklet Environmental Justice Restoring the Future.pdf.
The booklet consists of three parts. Part one gives space to reflections on how restorative justice can contribute to environmental justice. Part two contains pioneering experiences in restorative environmental justice, which aim primarily to give a voice to all parties affected by or involved in environmental harm. Part three includes inspiring projects from activists and artists around environmental justice.
Our interview with restorative circles founder Dominic Barter is included in part two, and we co-authored the article on Green Criminology and Restorative Justicetogether with Dutch criminologist Anneke van Hoek, which can be found in part one.
By giving space to these ideas and initiatives, the EFRJ says it hopes to 'nourish the restorative imagination and create connections between different actors in order to collectively mobilise the restorative power (philosophy, principles and praxis) in the service of environmental justice.' More publications on the intersection of restorative and environmental justice are lined up, and we applaud the EFRJ for its pioneering work on this promising topic.
On Friday 13 December the Dutch Supreme Court ruled that the Dutch State, based on the human rights enshrined in Articles 2 and 8 of the European Covenant on Human Rights, has a positive obligation to reduce at least 25% of greenhouse gas emissions by the end of 2020, compared to 1990 levels.
The United Nations special rapporteur on human rights and the environment, David Boyd, calls this final ruling in the Urgenda climate case '“the most important climate change court decision in the world so far, confirming that human rights are jeopardised by the climate emergency and that wealthy nations are legally obligated to achieve rapid and substantial emission reductions.”
The Dutch government on April 24 2020 announced measures including huge cuts to coal use, garden greening and limits on livestock herds as part of its plan to lower emissions to comply with the supreme court ruling. The Urgenda Foundation said that these and earlier compliance measures totalled about €3bn euros, confirming the impact of the world’s most successful climate lawsuit to date. When Urgenda filed the initial legal challenge back in 2013, many lawyers and legal scholars were sceptical about the chances of success.
Urgenda's lawyer, Roger Cox, is one of the ten green pioneers I interviewed for my Dutch ebook Stemmen voor de Aarde (Voices for the Earth). The historic Urgenda victory gives a special meaning to one of the things Roger said in the course of our conversation:
If you think you stand for something, and if you think you can have some influence, then you just have to go for it and not ask too many questions about the result. If you just keep going and show your commitment, things will eventually happen. I have often thought of all those top athletes who are often asked the question: why did you succeed and so many others did not. (...) Because I have often thought during all those years that I should quit, because it took too much energy and such a great toll on my life, what was the purpose of it all? But in the end there has always been a voice that said 'just keep on going', that's what you do and ultimately, after 9 years, there is the result.
- Roger Cox, lawyer in the Urgenda climate case.'
You can read Roger's interview, and the inspiring stories of other green visionaries such as Polly Higgins and Cormac Cullinan, here.
Photo credit: AP Photo/Mike Corder
Vanuatu and the Maledives call for the International Criminal Court to seriously consider recognizing the crime of ecocide.
The Pacific island state of Vanuatu on Monday made a bold statement at the International Criminal Court (ICC)’s annual Assembly of States Parties in The Hague. It argued that the Assembly should consider seriously expanding the court's remit to include a crime of ecocide. Ambassador John Licht of Vanuatu, speaking on behalf of his government to the full plenary session of the Assembly, declared: "An amendment of the Rome Statute could criminalise acts that amount to ecocide. We believe this radical idea merits serious discussion."
Yesterday, the Maledives expressed support for an ecocide amendment as well: "Countries at the frontline of climate change, such as the Maldives, do not have the luxury of time to negotiate for another international legal instrument to fight against environmental crimes. We believe the time is ripe to consider an amendment to the Rome Statute that would criminalise acts that amount to Ecocide.'
Ecocide is the massive damage and destruction of the natural environment and the Earth's climate system. It is the first time since 1972 that state representatives have formally called for ecocide to be recognised at an international forum of such representatives. The last person to do so was Swedish premier Olof Palme in 1972 at the UN Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment where he described the air and oceans as a shared environment towards which we all must have a duty of care, declaring that "ecocide ... requires urgent international attention".
Stop Ecocide's co-founder Jojo Mehta, who was one of the speakers at a side event hosted on Monday by the Republic of Vanuatu called "Investigating & Prosecuting Ecocide: the current and future role of the ICC", said: '"This is an idea whose time has not only come, it's long overdue. The political climate is changing, in recognition of the changing climate. This initiative is only going to grow - all we are doing is helping to accelerate a much-needed legal inevitability.
Photo: Ambassador John Licht
This blog is based on a press release from Stop Ecocide.
Pope Francis has called on the international community to recognize ecocide as a “fifth category of crime against peace". He addressed members of the International Association of Penal Law in Rome at a conference on Nov. 15, which centered on the theme, “Criminal Justice and Corporate Business.”
“On this occasion, and through you,” the Pope told conference participants, “I would like to appeal to all the leaders and representatives in this sector to help with efforts in order to ensure the adequate legal protection of our common home.” By "ecocide", the Pope continued, "the loss, damage or destruction of ecosystems of a specific territory must be understood, so that its enjoyment for part of the inhabitants was or may be severely affected. This is a fifth category of crimes against peace, which should be recognized as such by the international community ".
He appealed to jurists and "to all the leaders and contacts in the sector because they contribute with their efforts to ensuring adequate legal protection of our common home". "We are thinking of introducing into the Catechism of the Catholic Church the sin against ecology, ecological sin, against the common home, because it is a duty," the Pope added.
Support for Ecocide Law also came from an ecumenical gathering of churches organised among others by the World Council of Churches last Summer. The gathering resulted in the Wuppertal call, which recommends to the World Council of Churches to 'explore the possibilities of a UN Council for the Rights of Nature and to explore recognition of ecocide as a criminal offence in the International Court of Justice [this should read International Criminal Court, FW].''
And while the Pope talked about the need to stop ecological sin, the Wuppertal call proclaims that the ecological crisis requieres ecological conversion (metanoia): a change of heart, mind, attitudes, daily habits and forms of praxis.
To restore our relation with the wider Earth community, we indeed need change on both levels. We need laws that protect our common home by criminalizing ecocide, and we need to realize - rediscover - our interconnectedness with the natural world. Restorative justice is uniquely equipped to contribute to both levels of change. Pope Francis also pleaded for restorative justice in his speech, when he said: 'we must head, certainly, towards restorative criminal justice (...) Our societies are called to advance towards a model of justice based on dialogue, on encounter, so that wherever possible, the bonds damaged by the crime may be restored and the damage repaired.'
This advocacy by the Pope to make ecocide a crime against peace and to move towards restorative criminal justice is fantastic high level support and an encouragement for all of us who plant seeds for a culture of Earth stewardship and ecological care.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Chauvethorses.jpg
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.
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.
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.
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.
Als ik je zie dan groet ik je - one documentary filmmaker's peronal search for Restorative Justice.
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.
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.
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