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Last weekend, Live Mint & Wall Street Journal celebrated the work of three ELAW partners — Norma and Claude Alvares at the Goa Foundation and Ritwick Dutta at the Legal Initiative for Forest and Environment (LIFE). This dynamic trio and other inspired advocates in India co-hosted our 2012 ELAW Annual Meeting.
Here are some excerpts:
Norma Alvares & Claude Alvares: The power of two
This duo is one of the foremost reasons Goa retains its charm and a good measure of its environmental heritage.
“The serenity in this partnership — quite evident to anyone who visits the couple’s relaxed, hospitable home in the north Goa village of Parra — is the cornerstone of an extraordinary record of ferocious battles and activism that is one of the foremost reasons India’s smallest state still retains considerable charm and a good measure of its environmental heritage.”
Ritwick Dutta: The case for our forests
The 40-year-old lawyer has taken the battle for the environment to the courtroom with more than 350 cases.
“Dutta dismisses the argument that green laws and environmental activism are hurdles to growth. ‘That’s a myth that is being perpetuated. Virtually all projects –over 95% — are cleared; every day over 330 acres of forest land is diverted in India,’ he says. The cases that come for legal challenge are less than 1% of those approved… What drives Dutta is his determination to protect the last remaining natural wild habitats, and what he calls ‘environmental democracy, a process to arm communities with knowledge, and to give them a voice in projects which impact their lives and livelihood.'”
We are inspired by the work of Norma, Claude, and Ritwick, and hope you are too!
All the best,
ELAW partner Alejandra Serrano sent thrilling news this weekend!
The proposed “Ensenada” development, which threatened the stunning landscape and rich fisheries of Quintana Roo’s Holbox Island, has been shelved.
Alejandra and her colleagues at the Mexican Center for Environmental Law have worked since 2012 to protect islanders from this out-sized tourism scheme.
“The development would have devastated the Yum Balam Protected Area and local fisheries. The Environmental Impact Assessment was deficient and the company withdrew. Many thanks to the ELAW team for your technical support, friendship, and support to carry on.”
Community members were right to be concerned. The developer’s plans included hotels, villas, condominiums, offices, a shopping plaza, roads, and a helicopter pad, all located in the Protected Area. The community of under 2,000 would have been dwarfed by new housing for thousands of visitors. The developers also proposed cutting channels through pristine mangroves to increase waterfront acreage.
Read more here:
Communications Director & Fellows Program Coordinator
Download the latest issue of the ELAW Advocate.
“I never intended to become a lawyer,” Fernando told me.
As a child, Fernando read a marine mammal encyclopedia and dreamed of becoming a marine biologist. His father persuaded him that law was a practical tool and besides, Mexico City was far from the ocean.
After a few years at a private firm, Fernando secured a job with ProNatura, providing legal advice about conservation instruments for private lands. One day, Fernando’s boss mentioned plans for a marina in Bahia de los Angeles which would have spelled death for the whale shark population in that area. ProNatura does excellent work in private lands conservation, but fighting this marina was not a part of their mission.
With ProNatura’s support and encouragement, Fernando founded Environmental Defense Northwest, or DAN by its Spanish acronym, to take on the case. Only after the battle began did they learn that the marina was step one of the enormous Escalera Nautica project — a series of marinas and ports that would have industrialized the Baja California peninsula and radically altered this world-class landscape, devastating the marine mammals that migrate up and down this coast.
DAN stopped the marina, and the phone has not stopped ringing since. DAN will celebrate its 10th anniversary this year, and now has a staff of eight and a full docket.
In a globalized world, the Baja Peninsula is ideally situated for developments of all kinds, and the pressure is relentless. Among their projects, DAN is an integral part of the multi-faceted, coordinated campaign to preserve Cabo Pulmo, a biological wonderland off Baja California Sur’s southeast tip. Cabo Pulmo faces recurring threats from big resort developers.
“I’m glad I have these legal tools, and that we’re winning,” says Fernando, who lingers over a used copy of the marine mammal encyclopedia which he recently found for home.
When he’s not saving marine mammals and their habitat, Fernando is a skilled photographer, and loves teaching his 3-year-old, Constanza, world capitals and counting to 10 in different languages.
Fernando is a valued member of the worldwide ELAW network.
We applaud his good work!
China faces enormous environmental challenges. Ashley White, contract attorney, is helping the Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide (ELAW) reach out to new partners in China to build the worldwide corps of grassroots advocates.
Ashley traveled to Qingdao earlier this month to receive her Master’s degree in Environmental & Natural Resources Protection Law from Ocean University of China. She also traveled to Beijing where she met with Caidan Cao, Legal Coordinator for Greenpeace East Asia.
“Caidan is a passionate environmental advocate for energy, climate change, and marine protection, both within China and internationally,” says Ashley.
Caidan is challenging the harmful impacts of coal in China and strengthening ocean and coastal environmental protection in the East Asia region. Caidan spoke with Ashley about her work helping pollution victims and provided insight into recent reforms to China’s environmental laws.
ELAW is seeking support to bring Caidan to Eugene for an ELAW Fellowship, to build her advocacy skills and forge ties with her colleagues around the world.
Please contact me if you are interested in helping Caidan!
Communications Director & Fellows Program Coordinator
Mandakhaitsetsen “Manda” Urantulkhuur arrived from Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, last week for a 10-week ELAW Fellowship. This is her first visit to the U.S.
Manda began classes yesterday at the University of Oregon’s American English Institute and will work closely with ELAW staff to advance the economic, social, and cultural rights of Mongolia’s disenfranchised.
Manda is Coordinator of the Community Based Development Program at the Centre for Human Rights and Development. Her program has empowered women’s groups in Ulaanbaatar and Darkhan, and the provinces of Uvurkhangai, Dornod, and Khentii.
Manda has a bachelor’s degree in education from the Pedagogical University of Saint Petersburg, Russia, and a masters degree in Inter-Asia NGO Studies from Sungkonghoe University, South Korea.
Many thanks to Michael and SueAnn Rangeloff for being Manda’s host family for her first week in Eugene.
We will keep you posted on Manda’s work.
Communications Director & Fellows Program Coordinator
We were surprised and thrilled Saturday night to learn that we were receiving the 2014 David Brower Lifetime Achievement Award. The students of Land Air Water, the organizers of the Public Interest Environmental Law Conference (PIELC), awarded us this high honor.
We were so surprised, in fact, that we found ourselves speechless. Now, we want to thank the student organizers and the following people for inspiring us over the past 20 years:
David Brower was a guiding light for all of us. To be given an award with his name is the ultimate honor.
Our work at ELAW is a team effort. The most senior staff won this award, but our success would not be possible without the whole team, which includes: Jackie Chimelewski, Kalindi Devi-Dasi, Glenn Gillis, Maggie Keenan, Michele Kuhnle, Pedro Leon, Liz Mitchell, David Pugh, Heidi Weiskel, and Ashley White.
ELAW partners in 70 countries are standing up for the rights of communities. We are lucky and honored to be supporting their work.
We are humbled by this recognition.
Bern Johnson, Executive Director
Lori Maddox, Associate Director
Mark Chernaik, Staff Scientist
Meche Lu, Staff Scientist
Jen Gleason, Staff Attorney
When governments around the world sell the rights to exploit minerals, timber, oil, and gas, they enter into long-term contracts with the companies buying these resources. In the past, these contracts have typically been kept secret.
ELAW partners around the world are playing a big role in changing that practice. Through their efforts, the veil of secrecy surrounding natural resource contracts is being lifted and citizens are finally gaining the opportunity to understand how their resources are being managed, and at what cost.
ELAW is thrilled to be releasing a new publication, “Natural Resource Contracts: A Practical Guide,” which will help grassroots advocates around the world understand these agreements and advocate for stronger environmental, social, and fiscal provisions.
ELAW Staff Attorney, Liz Mitchell, wrote the guide. She observes: “As more governments respond to calls for transparency and release natural resource contracts to the public, ELAW saw the need for a plain language guide that helps demystify these complex agreements. This guide compiles lessons we’ve learned from reviewing dozens of natural resource contracts over the past decade.”
The guide is available on ELAW’s website. Many thanks to the Philip Stoddard and Adele Smith Brown Foundation for making this much-needed publication possible.
Communications Director &
Fellows Program Coordinator
Communities and ecosystems in Africa are under siege. Kenyans face eviction to make way for coal and hydropower projects, Lake Victoria is polluted, oil prospectors are invading Uganda’s Murchison Falls National Park, and the government of Tanzania is weighing opening traditional Maasai lands to foreign big game hunting operations.
The good news is that a strong, growing corps of grassroots advocates is meeting these challenges. In June, nearly 50 public interest attorneys gathered at the East African Public Interest Environmental Law and Litigation Workshop. The workshop was co-hosted by ELAW, the Institute for Law and Environmental Governance (Kenya), Greenwatch (Uganda), and the Lawyers’ Environmental Action Team (Tanzania), with the help of the Public Interest Litigation Committee of the Law Society of Kenya.
“The turnout was tremendous,” says Jen Gleason, ELAW Staff Attorney. “There was a good mix of new lawyers, more experienced mentors, and many women.”
Jen has coordinated ELAW’s work in Africa for 20 years. “Foreign investors are eager to exploit Africa’s natural resources. It is critical to connect the pioneering lawyers we have worked with for many years to a new generation of community defenders, to level the playing field.”
ELAW partners know best how to protect local communities and the environment through law. The key to our work is identifying strong partners and building lasting, local capacity. The following are profiles of some ELAW partner organizations in East Africa and snapshots of their current work. Read more.
Each summer, ELAW welcomes an interdisciplinary team of interns to our office in Eugene, Oregon. This week, Legal Intern Marissa Knodel blogged about her experience at ELAW on the Yale Center for Environmental Law & Policy website.
Marissa is earning a dual degree through Vermont Law School and the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. She is working with ELAW’s legal team to help communities around the world advocate for environmental justice.
Marissa begins her blog post: “The next time I am asked whether I can be an advocate for people and places with the least information, access to, and ability to obtain a just, healthy, and resilient future, and have a career, I can confidently answer ‘yes!’”
She goes on to say, “Largely dependent upon volunteers and unpaid interns, the ELAW community is more value- than profit-driven. Non-profit legal work, in sum, is simultaneously rewarding and humbling in the most satisfactory way. ELAW has already taught me that to be a more effective environmental and public interest lawyer, one must first identify as an environmental and community advocate.”
ELAW is delighted to be working with Marissa and other aspiring environmental and human rights defenders to build the next generation of committed public interest advocates.
To read Marissa’s full blog post, titled, “Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide in Eugene, OR: Where Lawyers are Advocates,” click here.
Keep an eye out for a future post about ELAW’s intern program and how you can get involved.