Tell the NC General Assembly: The People Want Rights of Nature!
North Carolina General Assembly
Dear Friends, Allies and Accomplices,
While ARTICLE XIV in the NC Constitution under MISCELLANEOUS Sec. 5 speaks to the "conservation of natural resources", its function is limited to state and local government bodies formally acquiring natural spaces to "preserve". What preservation then looks like depends on a GA vote, case by case, before any action can be taken. In NC, the deteriorating health of our water bodies and most vulnerable communities are intertwined, and ARTICLE XIV does not go far enough to protect us.
7 Directions of Service, Indigenous leaders and our allies believe the vision of NC conservation law must evolve towards Rights of Nature (RoN), beginning with our Rights for the Haw River Ecosystem legislation in 2023. RoN laws, though expressed differently depending on the context, recognize that an ecosystem has the right to exist, flourish, regenerate its vital cycles, and naturally evolve without human-caused disruption. RoN laws are both a preventative mechanism--guiding against the issuing of permits and approvals for destructive projects in the first place--as well as a defensive legal tool for communities to take legal action.
According to the “Rights of Nature” framework, an ecosystem is entitled to legal personhood status and has legal standing in a court of law against harms, including environmental degradation caused by a specific development project or even by climate change. As impacted community members, it can be any one of us who takes legal action on behalf of our ecosystem. With Rights of Nature, we move beyond the restrictions of "ownership" that often hamper conventional conservation law.
The goal of conferring rights to nature is to secure the highest level of environmental protection under which an ecosystem can thrive and whose rights are not violated. These nature rights are often associated with human rights, especially the right to a clean and healthy environment. The Haw River Ecosystem legislation is only the starting point. We envision RoN protections granted to ecosystems across the state.
We already have a number of NC General Assembly members expressing enthusiasm for our Rights of Nature initiative. The more we can show that folks are standing with us from across the state, the stronger our chance is to advance the Rights for the Haw River Ecosystem legislation to the next stage.
Make your voice heard and sign the petition!
North Carolina General Assembly
From: [Your Name]
We, the undersigned community members, believe that nature has the right to exist, thrive, regenerate, and be restored in North Carolina. As stated in the NC constitution, we also believe our communities have the right to a healthy environment. As your constituents, we are delivering this petition to urge our elected representatives to recognize these rights by passing a Rights of Nature law for the Haw River.
Going farther than ARTICLE XIV Sec. 5 “Conservation of natural resources” in the NC Constitution, Rights of Nature laws recognize ecosystems as having legally enforceable rights. Rights of Nature laws help prevent destructive projects from moving forward, and provide communities with a broader avenue for legal action. Over three dozen cities, townships, counties and tribal nations across the U.S. have adopted Rights of Nature laws and policies to protect their local ecosystems.
The Rights for the Haw River legislation specifies permitting guidelines to prevent projects that would violate the river’s rights, such as the Mountain Valley Pipeline Southgate Extension. The law would also authorize community members to file a legal action on behalf of the river to require its protection and restoration.
The health of our waterways, wildlife and communities in NC are inseparable, and deserve the highest level of legal protection. As our lawmakers, we ask that you do all that you can to support our community-led Rights for the Haw River initiative, and help pass the legislation, in any of–and not limited to–the following ways:
1. Advocating among your fellow NC GA members to advance the legislation
2. Making public statements and social media posts in support of Rights of Nature laws and Rights for the Haw River legislation
3. Spreading awareness and educating your constituents through sharing resources, connecting folks to local Rights of Nature organizers, etc.