How do we protect what we love; this place, our families, the orca, the salmon, eagles and raven, the many species that make the Salish Sea home?
How do we safeguard that which we depend on?
Our group, Community Rights San Juan Islands, has been exploring these questions. We recognize that existing laws too often favor corporations and neglect community concerns. Witness communities in America that find they can’t refuse toxic waste pits and fracking wells, even when these industrial projects pollute their water and air. These are painful cautionary tales and we want our story to go differently.
Community Rights San Juan Islands is working to ensure that our community has the right to say “No” to harmful industries and impacts and to say “Yes” to a healthy ecosystem.
We are working to bring an initiative forward that recognizes the rights of the Salish Sea to survive and thrive. We understand that our well-being is tied to the health of the Salish Sea and that we need to shift our relationship to the natural world, from seeing nature simply as property to recognizing that nature and every creature it supports has the right to exist independent of our wants and desires.
Around the world, the Rights of Nature movement is gaining momentum: Ecuador, New Zealand, Nepal, Columbia, Sweden, Bolivia, Tamaquah and Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania, and Lane County in Oregon, have all recognized rights of nature and community rights in their laws. All these achievements were hard fought, and all have been challenged in some way, so we are beginning this initiative process knowing we are in it for the long haul.
We believe it is a journey worth taking; that must act now to prevent oil spills, increased air pollution, plastic contamination and other perils that threaten the Salish Sea.
We must no longer treat the natural environment as merely an economic asset.
We must stop climate change.
We must prevent industry from ravaging the land and sea.
We must assert our rights and honor our responsibilities as a community to protect our local ecosystem.