The highest court in the Philippines issued a similar order some 25 years ago. U.S. courts should follow this principle. Our St. Johns County Commission and other governments in Florida must create an Ombuds to argue for protection of our environment and public rights to environmental protection. Quo vobis videtor? (How does it appear to you?)
Here's what Justice William O. Douglas wrote in his dissent in the Mineral King case, Sierra Club v. Morton, 405 U.S. 727 (1972):
- See generally Data Processing Service v. Camp, 397 U. S. 150 (1970); Barlow v. Collins, 397 U. S. 159 (1970); Flast v. Cohen, 392 U. S. 83 (1968). See also MR. JUSTICE BRENNAN's separate opinion in Barlow v. Collins, supra, at 397 U. S. 167. The issue of statutory standing aside, no doubt exists that "injury in fact," to "aesthetic" and "conservational" interests is here sufficiently threatened to satisfy the case or controversy clause. Data Processing Service v. Camp, supra, at 397 U. S. 154.
- In rem actions brought to adjudicate libellants' interests in vessels are well known in admiralty. G. Gilmore & C. Black, The Law of Admiralty 31 (1957). But admiralty also permits a salvage action to be brought in the name of the rescuing vessel. 75 U. S. 476 (1869). And, in collision litigation, the first-libeled ship may counterclaim in its own name. The Gylfe v. The Trujillo, 209 F.2d 386 (CA2 1954). Our case law has personified vessels:"A ship is born when she is launched, and lives so long as her identity is preserved. Prior to her launching, she is a mere congeries of wood and iron. . . . In the baptism of launching, she receives her name, and, from the moment her keel touches the water, she is transformed. . . . She acquires a personality of her own."Tucker v. Alexandroff, 183 U. S. 424, 183 U. S. 438.
- At common law, an officeholder, such as a priest or the king, and his successors constituted a corporation sole, a legal entity distinct from the personality which managed it. Rights and duties were deemed to adhere to this device, rather than to the officeholder, in order to provide continuity after the latter retired. The notion is occasionally revived by American courts. E.g., Reid v. Barry, 93 Fla. 849, 112 So. 846 (1927), discussed in Recent Cases, 12 Minn.L.Rev. 295 (1928), and in Note, 26 Mich.L.Rev. 545 (1928); see generally 1 W. Fletcher, Cyclopedia of the Law of Private Corporations §§ 50-53 (1963); 1 P. Potter, Law of Corporations 27 (1881).
- Early jurists considered the conventional corporation to be a highly artificial entity. Lord Coke opined that a corporation's creation "rests only in intendment and consideration of the law." Case of Sutton's Hospital, 77 Eng.Rep. 937, 973 (K.B. 1612). Mr. Chief Justice Marshall added that the device is "an artificial being, invisible, intangible, and existing only in contemplation of law." 17 U. S. 636 (1819). Today, suits in the names of corporations are taken for granted.
- Although, in the past, Mineral King Valley has annually supplied about 70,000 visitor-days of simpler and more rustic forms of recreation — hiking, camping, and skiing (without lifts) — the Forest Service, in 1949 and again in 1965, invited developers to submit proposals to "improve" the Valley for resort use. Walt Disney Productions won the competition, and transformed the Service's idea into a mammoth project 10 times its originally proposed dimensions. For example, while the Forest Service prospectus called for an investment of at least $3 million and a sleeping capacity of at least 100, Disney will spend $35.3 million and will bed down 3,300 persons by 1978. Disney also plans a nine-level parking structure with two supplemental lots for automobiles, 10 restaurants and 20 ski lifts. The Service's annual license revenue is hitched to Disney's profits. Under Disney's projections, the Valley will be forced to accommodate a tourist population twice as dense as that in Yosemite Valley on a busy day. And, although Disney has bought up much of the private land near the project, another commercial firm plans to transform an adjoining 160-acre parcel into a "piggyback" resort complex, further adding to the volume of human activity the Valley must endure. See generally Note, Mineral King Valley: Who Shall Watch the Watchmen?, 25 Rutgers L.Rev. 103, 107 (1970); Thar's Gold in Those Hills, 206 The Nation 260 (1968). For a general critique of mass recreation enclaves in national forests see Christian Science Monitor, .Nov. 22, 1965, p. 5, col. 1 (Western ed.). Michael Frome cautions that the national forests are "fragile" and "deteriorate rapidly with excessive recreation use" because"[t]he trampling effect alone eliminates vegetative growth, creating erosion and water runoff problems. The concentration of people, particularly in horse parties, on excessively steep slopes that follow old Indian or cattle routes, has torn up the landscape of the High Sierras in California and sent tons of wilderness soil washing downstream each year."M. Frome, The Forest Service 69 (1971).
- The federal budget annually includes about $75 million for underwriting about 1,500 advisory committees attached to various regulatory agencies. These groups are almost exclusively composed of industry representatives appointed by the President or by Cabinet members. Although public members may be on these committees, they are rarely asked to serve. Senator Lee Metcalf warns:"Industry advisory committees exist inside most important federal agencies, and even have offices in some. Legally, their function is purely as kibitzer, but, in practice, many have become internal lobbies — printing industry handouts in the Government Printing Office with taxpayers' money, and even influencing policies. Industry committees perform the dual function of stopping government from finding out about corporations while at the same time helping corporations get inside information about what government is doing. Sometimes, the same company that sits on an advisory council that obstructs or turns down a government questionnaire is precisely the company which is withholding information the government needs in order to enforce a law."Metcalf, The Vested Oracles: How Industry Regulates Government, 3 The Washington Monthly, July 1971, p. 45. For proceedings conducted by Senator Metcalf exposing these relationships, see Hearings on S. 3067 before the Subcommittee on Intergovernmental Relations of the Senate Committee on Government Operations, 91st Cong., 2d Sess. (1970); Hearings on S. 1637, S.1964, and S. 2064 before the Subcommittee on Intergovernmental Relations of the Senate Committee on Government Operations, 92d Cong., 1st Sess. (1971).The web spun about administrative agencies by industry representatives does not depend, of course, solely upon advisory committees for effectiveness. See Elman, Administrative Reform of the Federal Trade Commission, 59 Geo.L.J. 777, 788 (1971); Johnson, A New Fidelity to the Regulatory Ideal, 59 Geo.L.J. 869, 874, 906 (1971); R. Berkman & K. Viscusi, Damming The West, The Ralph Nader Study Group Report on The Bureau of Reclamation 155 (1971); R. Fellmeth, The Interstate Commerce Omission, The Ralph Nader Study Group Report on the Interstate Commerce Commission and Transportation 15-39 and passim (1970); J. Turner, The Chemical Feast, The Ralph Nader Study Group Report on Food Protection and the Food and Drug Administration passim (1970); Massel, The Regulatory Process, 26 Law & Contemp.Prob. 181, 189 (1961); J. Landis, Report on Regulatory Agencies to the President-Elect 13, 69 (1960).
- The Forest Reserve Act of 1897, 30 Stat. 35, 16 U.S.C. § 551, imposed upon the Secretary of the Interior the duty to "preserve the [national] forests . . . from destruction" by regulating their "occupancy and use." In 1905, these duties and powers were transferred to the Forest Service created within the Department of Agriculture by the Act of Feb. 1, 1905, 33 Stat. 628, 16 U.S.C. § 472. The phrase "occupancy and use" has been the cornerstone for the concept of "multiple use" of national forests, that is, the policy that uses other than logging were also to be taken into consideration in managing our 154 national forests. This policy was made more explicit by the Multiple-Use Sustained-Yield Act of 1960, 74 Stat. 215, 16 U.S.C. §§ 528-531, which provides that competing considerations should include outdoor recreation, range timber, watershed, wildlife, and fish purposes. The Forest Service, influenced by powerful logging interests, has, however, paid only lip service to its multiple use mandate, and has auctioned away millions of timberland acres without considering environmental or conservational interests. The importance of national forests to the construction and logging industries results from the type of lumber grown therein which is well suited to builders' needs. For example, Western acreage produces Douglas fir (structural support) and ponderosa pine (plywood lamination). In order to preserve the total acreage and so-called "maturity" of timber, the annual size of a Forest Service harvest is supposedly equated with expected yearly reforestation. Nonetheless, yearly cuts have increased from 5.6 billion board feet in 1950 to 13.74 billion in 1971. Forestry professionals challenge the Service's explanation that this harvest increase to 240% is not really overcutting, but instead has resulted from its improved management of timberlands. "Improved management," answer the critics, is only a euphemism for exaggerated regrowth forecasts by the Service. N.Y. Times, Nov. 15, 1971, p. 48, col. 1. Recent rises in lumber prices have caused a new round of industry pressure to auction more federally owned timber. See Wagner, Resources Report/Lumbermen, conservationists head for new battle over government timber, 3 National J. 657 (1971). Aside from the issue of how much timber should be cut annually, another crucial question is how lumber should be harvested. Despite much criticism, the Forest Service had adhered to a policy of permitting logging companies to "clear-cut" tracts of auctioned acreage. "Clearcutting," somewhat analogous to strip mining, is the indiscriminate and complete shaving from the earth of all trees — regardless of size or age — often across hundreds of contiguous acres. Of clear-cutting, Senator Gale McGee, a leading antagonist of Forest Service policy, complains:"The Forest Service's management policies are wreaking havoc with the environment. Soil is eroding, reforestation is neglected, if not ignored, streams are silting, and clear-cutting remains a basic practice."N.Y. Times, Nov. 14, 1971, p. 60, col. 2. He adds: "In Wyoming . . . , the Forest Service is very much . . . nursemaid . . . to the lumber industry. . . ." Hearings on Management Practices on the Public Lands before the Subcommittee on Public Land of the Senate Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs, pt. 1, p. 7 (1971).Senator Jennings Randolph offers a similar criticism of the leveling by lumber companies of large portions of the Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia. Id. at 9. See also 116 Cong.Rec. 36971 (reprinted speech of Sen. Jennings Randolph concerning Forest Service policy in Monongahela National Forest). To investigate similar controversy surrounding the Service's management of the Bitterroot National Forest in Montana, Senator Lee Metcalf recently asked forestry professionals at the University of Montana to study local harvesting practices. The faculty group concluded that public dissatisfaction had arisen from the Forest Service's "overriding concern for sawtimber production" and its "insensitivity to the related forest uses and to the . . . public's interest in environmental values." S.Doc. No. 91-115, p. 14 (1970). See also Behan, Timber Mining: Accusation or Prospect?, American Forests, Nov.1971, p. 4 (additional comments of faculty participant); Reich, The Public and the Nation's Forests, 50 Calif.L.Rev. 381-400 (1962).Former Secretary of the Interior Walter Hickel similarly faulted clear-cutting as excusable only as a money-saving harvesting practice for large lumber corporations. W. Hickel, Who Owns America? 130 (1971). See also Risser, The U.S. Forest Service: Smokey's Strip Miners, 3 The Washington Monthly, Dec.1971, p. 16. And at least one Forest Service study team shares some of these criticisms of clear-cutting. U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Forest Management in Wyoming 12 (1971). See also Public Land Law Review Comm'n, Report to the President and to the Congress 44 (1970); Chapman, Effects of Logging upon Fish Resources of the West Coast, 60 J. of Forestry 533 (1962).A third category of criticism results from the Service's huge backlog of delayed reforestation projects. It is true that Congress has underfunded replanting programs of the Service, but it is also true that the Service and lumber companies have regularly ensured that Congress fully funds budgets requested for the Forest Service's "timber sales and management." M. Frome, The Environment and Timber Resources, in What's Ahead for Our Public Lands? 23, 24 (H. Pyles ed.1970).
- Permitting a court to appoint a representative of an inanimate object would not be significantly different from customary judicial appointments of guardians ad litem, executors, conservators, receivers, or counsel for indigents. The values that ride on decisions such as the present one are often not appreciated, even by the so-called experts. "A teaspoon of living earth contains 5 million bacteria, 20 million fungi, one million protozoa, and 200,000 algae. No living human can predict what vital miracles may be locked in this dab of life, this stupendous reservoir of genetic materials that have evolved continuously since the dawn of the earth. For example, molds have existed on earth for about 2 billion years. But only in this century did we unlock the secret of the penicillins, tetracyclines, and other antibiotics from the lowly molds, and thus fashion the most powerful and effective medicines ever discovered by man. Medical scientists still wince at the thought that we might have inadvertently wiped out the rhesus monkey, medically, the most important research animal on earth. And who knows what revelations might lie in the cells of the black-back gorilla nesting in his eyrie this moment in the Virunga Mountains of Rwanda? And what might we have learned from the European lion, the first species formally noted (in 80 A. D.) as extinct by the Romans?" "When a species is gone, it is gone forever. Nature's genetic chain, billions of years in the making, is broken for all time." Conserve. — Water, Land and Life, Nov. 1971, p. 4. Aldo Leopold wrote in Round River 147 (1953):"In Germany, there is a mountain called the Spessart. Its south slope bears the most magnificent oaks in the world. American cabinetmakers, when they want the last word in quality, use Spessart oak. The north slope, which should be the better, bears an indifferent stand of Scotch pine. Why? Both slopes are part of the same state forest; both have been managed with equally scrupulous care for two centuries. Why the difference?" "Kick up the litter under the oaks and you will see that the leaves rot almost as fast as they fall. Under the pines, though, the needles pile up as a thick duff; decay is much slower. Why? Because, in the Middle Ages, the south slope was preserved as a deer forest by a hunting bishop; the north slope was pastured, plowed, and cut by settlers, just as we do with our woodlots in Wisconsin and Iowa today. Only after this period of abuse was the north slope replanted to pines. During this period of abuse, something happened to the microscopic flora and fauna of the soil. The number of species was greatly reduced, i.e., the digestive apparatus of the soil lost some of its parts. Two centuries of conservation have not sufficed to restore these losses. It required the modern microscope, and a century of research in soil science, to discover the existence of these 'small cogs and wheels' which determine harmony or disharmony between men and land in the Spessart."
- Senator Cranston has introduced a bill to establish a 35,000-acre Pupfish National Monument to honor the pupfish which are one inch long and are useless to man. S. 2141, 92d Cong., 1st Sess. They are too small to eat, and unfit for a home aquarium. But as Michael Frome has said: "Still, I agree with Senator Cranston that saving the pupfish would symbolize our appreciation of diversity in God's tired old biosphere, the qualities which hold it together and the interaction of life forms. When fishermen rise up united to save the pupfish, they can save the world as well." Field & Stream, Dec. 1971, p. 74.
The Supreme Court granted the Colombian portion of the Amazon tropical forest the status of “personhood”, so the forest has rights under the law. Lawyer David Boyd joins us – he teaches at the University of British Columbia, and is author of The Rights of Nature. Welcome back to Living on Earth David!
Colombia's top court orders government to protect Amazon forest in landmark case
By Anastasia Moloney
BOGOTA (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Colombia’s highest court has told the government it must take urgent action to protect its Amazon rainforest and stem rising deforestation, in what campaigners said was an historic moment that should help conserve forests and counter climate change.
In their ruling on Thursday, the judges said that Colombia - which is home to a swathe of rainforest roughly the size of Germany and England combined - saw deforestation rates in its Amazon region increase by 44 percent from 2015 to 2016.
“It is clear, despite numerous international commitments, regulations ... that the Colombian state has not efficiently addressed the problem of deforestation in the Amazon,” the supreme court said.
The ruling comes after a group of 25 young plaintiffs, ranging in age from seven to 26, filed a lawsuit against the government in January demanding it protect their right to a healthy environment.
The plaintiffs had said the government’s failure to stop the destruction of the Amazon jeopardized their futures and violated their constitutional rights to a healthy environment, life, food and water.
Bogota-based rights group Dejusticia, which supported the plaintiffs’ case, said the verdict meant it was the first time a lawsuit of this kind had been ruled upon favorably in Latin America.
“The Supreme Court’s decision marks an historical precedent in terms of climate change litigation,” said Camila Bustos, one of the plaintiffs and a researcher at Dejusticia.
In its ruling, the court recognized Colombia’s Amazon as an “entity subject of rights”, which means that the rainforest has been granted the same legal rights as a human being.
“The ruling states the importance of protecting the rights of future generations, and even declares the Amazon a subject of rights,” Bustos told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
The court ordered the government - both at the local and national level - along with the environment and agriculture ministries and environmental authorities to come up with action plans within four months to combat deforestation in the Amazon.
The Amazon’s destruction leads to “imminent and serious” damage to children and adults for both present and future generations, the judges said.
The ruling stated that forests were being felled to make way for more grazing and agricultural land, as well as coca crops - the raw ingredient for cocaine - illegal mining and logging.
Deforestation is a key source of greenhouse gas emissions driving climate change, which damages ecosystems and water sources and leads to land degradation, the court said.
“Without a healthy environment, subjects of law and living beings in general will not be able to survive, let alone safeguard those rights for our children or for future generations,” the ruling said.
The lawsuit follows a surge in litigation around the world demanding action or claiming damages over the impact of climate change - from rising sea levels to pollution.
Reporting by Anastasia Moloney @anastasiabogota, Editing by Robert Carmichael. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit news.trust.org
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