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Wild law press notice: Fish today, gone tomorrow - how the law needs to change

Nov 13, 2006

The question of how can we protect fish stocks today so we have fish to eat in 40 years time was central to discussions at an international convention on wild law at the weekend.

If fish had rights, in the same way humans have rights, their long time survival would be weighed equally against the interests of the fishing industry - and this would ensure the long term viability of both. This would involve a fundamental shift in legal frameworks, so that natural communities are given rights which could be defended in courts of law.

Delegates from South Africa and the USA, where the world's first centre for earth's jurisprudence has just been set up, met those interested in environmental law for a weekend of discussions starting in Brighton and then in the South Downs.

John Elkington, of SustainAbility, opening the conference at Brighton University, said that the key question was how to embark on a restructuring of the national and international legal system to protect the environment.

Cormac Cullinan, author of the book Wild Law and a South African lawyer, told delegates: "At some point humans decided we are better than nature and started exploiting nature. This mechanistic view of the universe is now hard-wired into our systems. All other species are not subjects, they're objects. They're not legal persons. We need an evolutionary leap in thinking to address environmental problems such as climate change. What we need is to find a way back to our rightful place in the rest of the universe. I don't want my children to turn to me one day and say - you knew about this and did nothing".

Norman Baker, MP for Lewes and former Liberal Democrat Environment Spokesman, called for a World Environment Organisation, which would protect ecosystems, to run in parallel with the World Trade Organisation. He called for overall ceilings on carbon emissions to be agreed and the use of tax measures to release money for a World Environment Fund. "We need drastic changes in the way the international legal framework is set", he said.

Satish Kumar, editor of the publication Resurgence, said global warming was a symptom, not the problem. "How did we come to be here? What made us try to saw off the branch of the tree on which we sit? Years ago men thought they owned their wives. Now we think we own the animals and the forests. They are our slaves. It's an illusion that global warming will go away as long as we think we own nature".

Notes to the editors:

1. The conference and weekend workshop at Arundel Youth Hostel was organised by the UK Environmental Law and the Environmental Law Foundation. Supporting organisations included the Gaia Foundation, Brighton University and Argyll Environmental.
2. UKELA is the UK charity which aims to make the law work for a better environment and to improve understanding and awareness of environmental law. UKELA's members are involved in the practice, study or formulation of Environmental Law in the UK and the European Union.

3. For press enquiries or more details on any of the topics discussed please contact Vicki Elcoate, UKELA's Executive Director 01306 501320; 0787675953; Vicki.elcoate@ntlworld.com

UK Environmental Law Association - Better law for the environment
Registered charity 299498; company registered in England number 2133283
Registered office: One Glass Wharf, Bristol, BS2 0ZX


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