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.

Restorative Justice (RJ) is a systemic response to wrongdoing that emphasises healing the wounds of victims, offenders and communities, caused by criminal behaviour. In cases of environmental harm, the affected community includes future generations and the environment itself. Because environmental pollution and the unsustainable exploitation of natural resources cause systemic harm to our shared life-support system, the Earth, the systemic response to these harms offered by RJ seems to hold real promise for the transformation of our relationship with Nature.

(note: in the Article-section the concept and history of RJ is repeated in both background articles, for the sake of completeness)

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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Effort Gives Way to Existence - a Poem by Naimaa

"I wonder if rain is scared
of falling
if it has trouble
letting go"

"I wonder if stars wish
upon themselves before they die
if they need to teach their young
how to shine"

"I wonder if sunrise
and sunset
respect each other
even though they’ve never met"

"I wonder if breath ever thinks of suicide
if the wind just wants to
sit still sometimes
and watch the world pass by"

"if smoke was born
knowing how to rise
if rainbows get shy back stage
not sure if their colors match right"

"if the soil thinks she’s too dark
if butterflies want to cover up their marks
if rocks are self-conscious of their weight
if mountains are insecure of their strength"

"if land feels stepped upon
if sand feels insignificant
if trees need to question their lovers
to know where they stand"

"I wonder
where the moon goes
when she is in hiding
I want to find her there"

"and watch the ocean
spin from a distance
listen to her
stir in her sleep

effort give way to existence"

From: Being Human by Naimaa
Text and image 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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Na mij geen zondvloed (Dutch)

Rechtsfilosofe Dorien Pessers gruwelt van de milieuschuld die de generaties van nu doorschuiven naar die van later en denkt na over manieren om een ecologische rechtsstaat vorm te geven.

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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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Words Matter

Guardian journalist and author George Monbiot suggests we change the way we talk about the living world. He proposes to replace our current terms, which reflect antropocentrism, economism and a techno-scientific approach to environmental harms, with new terms that he hopes will 'engage people, reveal rather than disguise realities, and honour what we seek to protect'.

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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 only destroying them.

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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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