Earth Law Center works to transform the law to recognize and protect nature’s inherent rights to exist, thrive and evolve.
We do this by building a force of advocates for nature's rights at the local, state, national, and international levels.
We envision a future in which humans and nature flourish together.
Programs and Priorities
Advocates for the earth are winning battles, but losing the war. Our current legal systems have reduced some forms of pollution. But they fail to address systemic problems, like climate change, loss of fish and wildlife, the spread of toxic chemicals, and the depletion of our rivers and streams. These are pushing the planet towards a precipice. To reverse the tide, we must evolve the law to protect the rights of nature.
Just as human rights were violated when other humans were considered to be someone’s property, the natural world is being abused because our legal system treats nature as property. This denies the underlying interdependence we have with nature, with which we co-evolved.
Through our Programs and Program Priorities, we advance the movement for nature's rights by:
- directly advocating for needed change,
- building partnerships with advocates worldwide for change, and
- providing the tools that advocates need to create change themselves.
We summarize our current Programs and Priority activities below.
We work internationally for systematic reform, defending the rights of nature in partnership with advocates for human rights and indigenous peoples rights. We campaign for nature’s rights at the United Nations, bring violations of nature’s rights to formal, international Tribunals, and shed light on the growing number of “co-violations” of human rights and nature’s rights worldwide.
Laws are important, but laws that are not enforced cannot succeed. To demonstrate how nature’s rights in law can be achieved in practice, we advance the rights of inland waterways and the oceans, with a focus on California policy and science.
Rights-based movements build momentum from the ground up, and the movement for nature’s rights is no exception. We work to build local and regional communities of people advocating for nature’s rights in their backyards. We act to pass and implement local laws that recognize nature’s rights, with a current focus on California generally, and Santa Monica and the San Francisco Bay Area in particular. And we hold local Tribunals to highlight co-violations of nature’s rights and human rights.
Successful movements require us all to be informed about the issues and solutions. We have developed course curricula to prepare tomorrow’s lawyers and other leaders for the challenges before us. We also conduct regular outreach directly to new advocates and partners for Earth rights.
what we've achieved
- Co-authored the first global experts report on Earth Jurisprudence requested by the United Nations.
- Co-organized and served as Prosecutor for the 2016 Bay Area Rights of Nature Tribunal.
- Co-organized and served as Co-Prosecutor at the Third International Rights of Nature Tribunal held in Paris December 2015.
- With Yale Law School, created and released a report highlighting 100 cases of co-violations (activities giving rise to both nature's and human rights violations) worldwide: Fighting for Our Shared Future: Protecting Human Rights and Nature's Rights.
- Co-drafted and ensured passage of Santa Monica’s “Sustainability Rights Ordinance,” the West Coast’s first “rights of nature” law
- Co-established the “Bay Area Rights of Nature Alliance” in the San Francisco bioregion
- Co-organized and served as Prosecutor for the 2014 Bay Area “People’s Tribunal” addressing co-violations of nature’s rights and human rights
- Brought instream water rights messages to the California State Legislature and Water Board
- Worked with Yale University Law School to develop an instream water rights campaign
- Developed and taught “Earth Law” graduate course at Vermont Law School and elsewhere