We are wrapping up the look back at our favorite ELAW moments from 2010, with entries from ELAW’s Executive Director, Bern Johnson, and Associate Director, Lori Maddox. Bern and Lori have been with ELAW from the beginning. They have been a part of many landmark victories and memorable moments. Like so many members of the ELAW network, they have also become fast friends with partners around the world, working together for years and sharing more than legal resources.

Thanks for reading in 2010. We hope you will feel inspired to share these stories with others and continue following ELAW in 2011.

Lauren, ELAW Office Manager

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Bern Johnson, ELAW Executive Director
Saving Pellew Island

Saving Pellew Island is a favorite victory.  Pellew Island is a tiny little dot of 1.5 acres off Eastern Jamaica’s Portland Parish.  I’ve never seen it.  I’ve never even been to Jamaica!

Yet, I smile when I think about Pellew Island.  I know that people in Jamaica have been enjoying Pellew Island for generations.  I know it is home to native trees, a pristine beach, healthy seagrass beds, and coral reefs.  I know that one of our partners in Jamaica—Diana McCaulay—spent many happy hours on Pellew Island as a child.

I also know that the owners of Pellew Island proposed to build four villas on the island—they were advertised for sale on www.privateislandsonline.com for $2.5 million apiece.  Building these villas would have destroyed living things on Pellew Island and forever changed it—it would have ceased being a natural place that Jamaicans could enjoy.  And, I know that in Jamaica it is hard to win lasting victories for the environment, especially when someone stands to make big money by destroying natural treasures.

So, I am thrilled that Jamaica’s government rejected plans to build these villas on Pellew Island.  When I think of this tiny island, I am reminded:  Greed does not have to win–people can decide that some places are too unique and too special to be sacrificed for profit. Profits come and go, but I hope Pellew Island stays pristine forever.

Lori Maddox, ELAW Associate Director
ELAW – My Extended Family

Zschiesche family in Eugene

When I reflect on what might be my ELAW “pick” for 2010, what comes to mind FIRST is a steady stream of faces of the people in the ELAW network -who form an integral part of my extended family.  Watching Thuli Makama receive the Goldman Prize in San Francisco, welcoming Thuli and her daughters to the home of an ELAW Director in Berkeley, watching the teenagers compare notes about school in Berkeley and Swaziland.  Welcoming Jean Andre Victor, of Haiti, to my local Eugene international potluck group.  Birdwatching in Costa Rica at 6am with Ritwick (India), Ipat (Philippines) and Ian (Australia) – while swapping organizing strategies and stories of our work.  Welcoming the dawn on Solstice Day from the top of a mountain with my family and the Zschiesche family, in Eugene on a fellowship from ELAW Germany.

Because for me, the greatest thing about ELAW is how our relationships help us get up every day and fight the good fight even better.  Michael Zschiesche visited Eugene in the early 1990s, when we were both a lot younger, and had big ideas, but very small organizations.  Now Michael leads the Independent Institute of Environmental Concerns (UfU) in Berlin, and we both have the good fortune to be part of a much bigger international ELAW family.  When Michael was here the first time, ELAW was comprised of a dozen or so advocates in as many countries.  Now we are 300 strong, in 70 countries.  His visit in 2010 helped me reflect on how far we have come, and what we, together, are accomplishing.  The volume of excellent work that my ELAW heroes churn out is astounding.

Coqui, ACCSD's first staff member

In addition to the wisdom of experience like Michael’s, I cherish the constant inflow of fresh perspective and new ideas.  This year I helped some great folks in Belize launch new organizations that will help advance environmental law.  So another “pick” would have to be celebrating the first staff and the new office of the Ambergris Caye Citizens for Sustainable Development (ACCSD) in San Pedro, and (office coming soon) its sister organization in Placencia: the Peninsula Citizens for Sustainable Development (PCSD).

And one final Belize “pick:” the publication of Stand Up, Speak Up, a citizens guide to public participation in Belize by BELPO.  The Guide is already in its second printing, and citizens around the country are using it to challenge a constant stream of short-sighted development schemes that threaten Belize’s unparalleled natural treasures.