Quite often, legislation passed in prior years has implications for the future. A resolution is a formal expression of opinion or intention made. A proclamation is an official declaration to make something known. It is a public and official announcement. It does not mandate anything, but it does inform the public of an ideology or philosophy favored by its supporters. This type of resolution can lead to future legislation and most likely this one will.
R2023-30 proclaims and urges support and policy implementation for the government to grant inherent rights to a local whale and ecosystems. I wrote about this in my March 15 e-letter. I’m not really sure which entity holds jurisdiction for such authority, as it would necessarily require a change in our form of government, at least in my non-legal and humble opinion.
It is believed the Southern Resident Orca (not to be confused with the Transient killer whale) numbered around 200 prior to the 20th century. In October 2020, their population was estimated to be 74. For a brief history of their population over the years, click here. Proclaiming a desire, and urging action, to grant inherent rights to a community of orcas and the ecosystems upon which they depend, equivalent to our inherent human rights, tells me there is more meaning behind the words than what we think or comprehend.
We already have laws that require humane (dignified) treatment. The Marine Mammal Protection Act protects whales, dolphins, porpoises, seals, sea lions, sea otters, etc. A problem is that some humans don’t follow the law. We know that increasing or changing laws doesn’t necessarily change the lawbreaker’s behavior, because they continue to break the law, particularly when there are no consequences.
The resolution cites the orca’s low numbers, declining salmon habitat and runs, increased competition for prey, pollution, vessel traffic, and noise as reasons for the need to support giving them inherent rights (the fundamental right a person has or those rights which are inherited at birth and are inalienable from the rights holder).
I am aware of local infrastructure that has the capacity to rear 1 million chinook smolt and even more of coho, but there are rules preventing that solution. The pinniped population decimates the salmon, but no one wants to tackle that problem. I haven’t kept up on what Seattle is doing with their wastewater, but I recall seeing articles about its distasteful sewage protocol. The same for Canada. I am told that human effluent is devastating to marine life.
The resolution cites that other countries and local jurisdictions have recognized that nature has inherent rights and it does not elaborate on how that is defined, nor what policies followed or could follow those actions. I will share some of my research.
Emails have been sent to the Council identifying a declaration/petition called Legal Rights for the Salish Sea and ask for its support. That site has a toolkit designed by Earth Law Center. In that tool kit, you can click on Rights of Nature in Action and read, among other actions, where the Galapagos Marine Reserve includes the rights of nature as a guiding principle for management. Commercial fishing is prohibited and fishing is limited to sustainable artisanal fishing. Earth Law Center elaborates more on the agenda. Here is their link to the toolkit. The Earth Law Center is promoting the United Nations 2023 Water Conference, a goal of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (#6 and #14). The United Nations has your physical, mental, and financial future all planned out.
The Green Sanctuary Environmental Action Team, another supportive group, is the Unitarian Universalist Association. I had never heard of them, but I see they adhere to the UN International Panel on Climate Change. The other supporting group is the North Olympic Orca Pod. It is a Facebook page. I see they want the dams breached, which is what this resolution could lead to. Supported by all three groups is the “Rights of Nature” movement, which argues that “an ecosystem is entitled to legal personhood status” and should have the right to defend itself in court or have a guardian act on its behalf against development projects that will cause its environmental degradation, according to Columbia University’s climate school. I can only imagine the backlogs in the courts from these kinds of lawsuits.
In addition to those groups directly involved with the campaign for the resolution, I came across a very interesting site: BSR (Business for Social Responsibility) Emerging Issues: Nature’s Rights go to Court. BSR’s story is about a vision by the Who’s Who in the socially responsible corporate world. They have been very successful with their vision. BSR states that because of successful lawsuits and constitutional changes in several counties, alongside a widely supported draft legal definition for “ecocide” by prominent International Criminal Court jurists, indications are that the “rights of nature” is being extended into criminal law.
In the BSR report, discussed are implications for sustainable businesses such as the need for more compliance and monitoring processes as rights of nature expand; expect expanding regulations on environmental impacts just as for human rights impacts; projects might require proof that they will not violate the rights of nature; and more permits, licenses and other approvals with stricter rights-based conditions. This could create the need for “ecological impact tracing,” using smart sensors for detecting everything from particles and chemicals to water flow and biodiversity loss. I call that surveillance of you and me.
If the rights of the orcas and their ecosystem became legally binding law, it would allow them to have their rights defended in court, represented most likely by an organization acting as the whale’s guardian. “Mother Earth” is not my golden calf. In the Rights of Nature movement, the idea in one article I found is: nature and ecosystems should no longer be regarded as property that can be owned, but as entities with the legal right to exist.
I asked that the resolution be postponed to further research for full disclosure of the intent and legal implications of supporting this proclamation, but that request was denied. I swore in my oath of office that I would support our federal and state constitutions. I believe the ideology, philosophy, and foreign influence behind this resolution contradict that oath. I won’t have the time to share this much information at today’s (March 28) 3 p.m. meeting, but it is critical to me that you have the opportunity to have additional knowledge about the other side of the issue and why I will not be signing on to the resolution.
Grateful for you!