Rights of Nature for the Southern Resident Orcas Roundtable Discussion

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Please join our zoom roundtable discussion with leaders in environmental law to discuss the rights of Nature for the Southern Resident Orca.

About this event

Despite nearly half a century of statute-based environmental law (e.g. the National Environmental Policy Act, enacted in 1970; the Washington State Environmental Policy Act, enacted in 1973; the Endangered Species Act enacted in 1973), we are in a moment of growing environmental catastrophe.¹

This roundtable will provide an opportunity to learn about the current move towards legal articulation of the rights of nonhuman entities and beings, broadly called “Rights of Nature” or “Rights of Ecosystems” laws and resolutions. These approaches draw and operate in collaboration with Indigenous, Native and Tribal worldviews and are consistent with ecological, geophysical and evolutionary science, and facilitate a transformation in our relationship with Nature and nonhuman beings.

A coalition of NGOs, community groups, scientists, and Indigenous peoples support the passage of a State bill to recognize the Southern Resident Orcas as living entities with inherent rights. This roundtable is the second of its kind, designed to educate members of environmental and faith based communities on the benefits and challenges of Rights of Nature and how such a framework can help ensure the recovery of the iconic Orcas of the Salish Sea.

Last month, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced 22 animal and plant species extinct. Let’s not let the Southern Resident Orcas be next.

¹ See e.g. ipbes, The global assessment report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, Summary for Policymakers at 10 (2019) (concluding “Nature and its vital contributions to people, which together embody biodiversity and ecosystem functions and services, are deteriorating worldwide.”); UN, 2020 and Beyond https://www.un.org/en/un75/climate-crisis-race-we-can-win (last visited May 23, 2021 (quoting UN Secretary-General António Guterres as stating, “the climate emergency is a race we are losing, but it is a race we can win”).

Speaker Biographies

Elizabeth M. Dunne, Esq. serves as the Earth Law Center’s Director of Legal Advocacy. She brings 20 years of legal experience and a passion for designing legal frameworks that enable systemic change. She has advanced many of the groundbreaking Rights of Nature laws in the US and co-authored the US Chapter of the first Earth Law textbook - Zelle et al. (Eds.), Earth Law: Emerging Ecocentric Law—A Guide for Practitioners (Aspen Coursebook, Wolters Kluwer 2020). The story of her former client Grant Township’s fight against a frack waste injection well, based in part on the state constitutional right to a clean and healthy environment, is featured in the award winning documentary, Invisible Hand (www.invisiblehandfilm.com). She specializes in drafting laws for Tribal Nations, state and local governments, and ballot initiatives. Drawing on her experience as lead counsel in public interest class action lawsuits and as a law clerk to US federal District Court judges, Elizabeth is a leading practitioner in the development of litigation strategies that advance Earth Law. She continues to maintain her own visionary law practice.

Jennifer Calkins is an evolutionary biologist, writer and the Diehl Fellow at the Western Environmental Law Center. Her academic credentials include a Ph.D. in biological science, an M.F.A. in creative writing and a J.D. in law. For a decade, she taught biology and evolutionary biology at the University of Washington and The Evergreen State College. During that time also conducted research into the ecology and evolutionary biology of birds using field and genomic methods. Her peer reviewed humanities and scientific works are published in Configurations, Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, Molecular Ecology, Behavioral Ecology, and Animal Behaviour, among other journals. Her natural history writing has appeared online at The New York Times, National Geographic, and Voices for Biodiversity. As an attorney, she draws on this scientific knowledge in her efforts to protect the environment.

Lindsey Schromen-Wawrin is a lawyer working on both the theoretical and practical development of ecosystem rights and the necessarily interconnected issues of the relative power of the people, governments, and corporations. He has represented several ecosystems in court and has written Representing Ecosystems in Court: An Introduction for Practitioners (Tulane Environmental Law Journal, 2018, at http://celdf.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/Representing-Ecosystems-in-Court-31-Tul.-Envtl.-L.J.-279-1.pdf), and contributed to La Follette & Maser (Eds.), Sustainability and the Rights of Nature in Practise (CRC Press 2019) and Zelle et al. (Eds.), Earth Law: Emerging Ecocentric Law—A Guide for Practitioners (Aspen Coursebook, Wolters Kluwer 2020). He serves as a city councilmember in his hometown of Port Angeles, on nəxʷsƛ̕áy̕əm̕ lands, where he focuses on affordable housing and a resilient and healthy urban ecosystem. Lindsey can be reached at (360) 406-4321, keybase.io/lindseysw, or lindsey@ShearwaterLaw.com.

Photo by Jill Hein

This event is co-sponsored by the Earth Law Center and Legal Rights for the Salish Sea.

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Organizer Legal Rights for the Salish Sea/ Earth Law Center

Organizer of Rights of Nature for the Southern Resident Orcas Roundtable Discussion

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