Friday, December 6, 2019

Tribes, City Governments Granting Nature Rights in Effort to Protect Environment

By Native News Online Staff - December 06, 2019 at 12:00AM

Published December 6, 2019

Long before environmental organizations and green movements were formed, tribes all over the world were the primary carers and protectors of Mother Earth. In their own unique way, they have shown how people can rely on and peacefully coexist with nature without abusing or polluting it. From a young age, tribal people have considered nature their home, thus recognizing it’s their duty to protect and preserve it. As mentioned in our post about the Protecting Mother Earth Conference, environmentalists, tribal leaders, and frontline grassroots groups looking for solutions to global environmental problems have often come together to join forces to protect Mother Earth. Similarly, in a renewed effort to further push for the protection of their natural resources, Ohio residents, who are composed of a significant number of people belonging to different ethnicities, have found a way to protect Lake Erie.

Vox reports that everything started with a group of people who had agreed that the government wasn’t doing enough to protect Lake Erie. The citizens of Ohio held a poll on February 26 of this year, asking whether the iconic Lake Erie should be granted the same legal rights as a person. As they were the very individuals directly affected by the pollution of the lake, it was no surprise that the poll overwhelmingly decided that yes, Lake Erie deserved personhood status.

Reports from the Chicago Tribune have revealed that granting personhood status to environmental entities has been effective in protecting specific watersheds, habitats, and species legally. Although the Lake Erie Bill of Rights is the first rights-based legislation geared towards protecting an entire ecosystem in the US, the approach has long been used by many environmental activists from other countries such as New Zealand and India. An article by The Guardian explains that the residents and tribal people of Ohio consider the Lake Erie Bill of Rights to be their way of taking responsibility for the welfare of the lake. They see it as the first step in helping to bring Lake Erie back to a healthy state, particularly due to the state’s unreliable access to clean potable water.

Studies from Closing the Water Gap found that communities across the Ohio Valley are among the 2 million Americans who do not have access to clean water, and that Native American households are 19 times more likely to lack indoor plumbing than white households. Steep declines in federal funding for water infrastructure – as well as historical discrimination – play large roles in the lack of access to clean water for many Ohio Valley residents. These issues have gone largely unaddressed since the 1980s, even as institutions have found ways to address other environmental issues. Capital Community Bank, a Utah bank that provides loans in Toledo, has introduced flexible loans for Toledo residents who want to go green and install solar panels in their homes, even partnering up with a local solar panel provider. Yet no institutions – whether federal or private – have thought to address the lingering problem of unclean water across the Ohio Valley. This has led Ohio residents to take matters into their own hands, resulting in the Lake Erie Bill of Rights.

Sadly, many companies across Ohio are already challenging the Lake Erie Bill of Rights through various lawsuits, and critics in the business and government sector also argue that the overly broad declarations could hinder the development of infrastructures in the area. Moreover, the law, as it stands, presents another challenge, as it recognizes nature as human property, thereby giving corporations the privileges to utilize it as they deem necessary. Immediately after the passage of the Lake Erie Bill of Rights, the Ohio General Assembly also approved a budget that would prohibit legal standings for the ecosystem. Despite all these challenges, residents are fighting with renewed vigor to ensure that the Lake Erie Bill of Rights won’t be the last impactful action they take.

The post Tribes, City Governments Granting Nature Rights in Effort to Protect Environment appeared first on Native News Online.

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