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February 24, 2018

ELGA – Keeping Nature Alive, For All Life

On behalf of ELGA’s Steering Committee, I have the pleasure of welcoming you to the first newsletter since the official launch of ELGA. At regular intervals, our newsletters will inform you about ELGA, its members and partners and our common course towards ecological law and governance.

We have been surprised and encouraged by the tremendous support for a global network of eco-lawyers. There is an obvious need for articulating the ecological approach to law and governance. It is quite simple: for law to protect the foundations of life, the protection of life must be an objective for all law. If the protection of human dignity is fundamental to all constitutions and laws, then so must be the protection of ecological integrity.

At ELGA’s launch meeting in Siena, participants visited Ambrogio Lorenzetti’s stunning 14th Century frescoes – ‘the Allegory of Good and Bad Government’ – at Siena’s Palazzo Pubblico. This picture shows ‘The Countryside of Fear’ – a small section of the Bad Government fresco.

The last decade or so has seen a notable shift in thinking about environmental law. Ongoing debates around the methodology of environmental law are no longer confined to specialists and are no longer ‘academic’. The fragmentation, human-centredness and ineffectiveness of environmental law is a widely shared concern. With the emergence of Earth jurisprudence, the Earth Charter, the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth, environmental rights, climate litigation, legal responsibilities and eco-constitutionalism, the question of an overall purpose came into focus. In short: should our laws serve only human needs or the needs of all life? Should law and governance aim for a compromise between economics and the environment (the ‘weak’ sustainability approach) or for the integrity of ecological systems, which all life (including economic life) depends on? This is the ‘strong’ sustainability – or ecological – approach to law and governance.

When we from the Steering Committee reached out to individuals, professional organisations and activist groups, we found hundreds of eco-law networks and tens of thousands of activists and scholars – a huge potential for change! Many of these talk to each other, but it seems timely now to co-operate more systematically and form a common voice, a voice that can no longer be ignored by decision-makers. When countries like Ecuador or Bolivia establish eco-constitutions and countries like New Zealand or India acknowledge rights of nature, then something is going on. When the United Nations General Assembly hears about eco-law developments on an annual basis, then states should take note. And when a US Court considers the right of future generations for ‘a balanced and healthy ecology’ as so basic that it ‘needs not even be written in the Constitution’, then the entire legal profession is called upon. The voice needed now must be loud and clear: preserving the integrity of ecological systems is of paramount importance to national and international laws, for the sake of all life on Earth.

Looking back on the past 18 months, ELGA has made great progress. The adoption of the Oslo Manifesto in June 2016 triggered a number of follow up actions. A Steering Committee was formed to work on a roadmap towards the establishment of ELGA. The Oslo Manifesto was discussed in law courses, in research papers and at international conferences. Hundreds of people and organisations have endorsed it and expressed their interest in joining ELGA. The official launch of ELGA in Siena and in Montreal in October 2017 brought together many leaders and representatives of national, regional and global networks. In the coming weeks we will be releasing the Siena Declaration, which arose out of the launch meeting, and also ELGA’s Strategic Plan, detailing objectives, governance structure, forms of membership and planned activities.

Launch meeting participants after ELGA’s official launch at the University of Siena, with University Rector Francesco Frati (centre front), who gave the opening address.

You can read more about all this by following the links above. Upcoming events are listed on our Events page. Please get in touch for further information or with your suggestions. Most importantly, it is up to each of us to keep this work and this momentum alive. With ELGA, you are part of an invaluable network of highly-skilled and passionate advocates, working together – across professions, across disciplines – to develop law and governance that protects the foundations of life. Together, we work to keep nature alive, for all life.

On behalf of the ELGA Steering Committee,

Klaus Bosselmann

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