Salmon — in a Suit
Salmon — in a Suit
Last week, a St. John’s lawyer named Owen Myers took the government of Newfoundland and Labrador to court. Myers’ lawsuit alleges that the government broke its own laws and regulations by exempting a salmon farm project in Placentia Bay from a full-scale environmental review. The $250 million project would be one of the largest aquaculture sties in the country.
A lawsuit is a whole new approach to the problems with salmon feedlots. The issues with feedlots are numerous and well-documented. Indeed, the Green Interview team produced a 75-minute documentary film on the subject back in 2012. (You can view the film at www.SalmonWars.com). Governments of all political stripes and in several different provinces have had to face down tons of protests, presentations, letters, studies, reports, videos and submissions. By and large, the officials simply ignore all the noise.
But they can’t ignore Myers’ lawsuit. They are going to have to go before a judge and defend themselves. They’ll have to bring evidence to justify their actions. And they’ll have to do it all in the harsh glare of publicity.
And high time, too. In the long history of protest and social progress, there are precious few instances where governments simply saw the light and did the right thing. Usually they have to be forced. One powerful way to exert force is civil disobedience: people in Elsipogtog, NB, lying down on the road in front of the fracking trucks. But another is to use the law. And you don’t have to win the lawsuit to win the day.
Go listen to trailblazing Filipino lawyer Antonio Oposa Jr. There’s a six-minute clip of my Green Interview with him here. Tony Oposa is known throughout the Philippines as “Attorney Oposa,” and he’s won several lawsuits of world importance – for instance, a decision by his country’s Supreme Court that unborn generations actually have legal rights, and that today’s generation has an obligation to preserve the natural world reasonably intact for its successors. That principle of “intergenerational equity” is now known as “The Oposa Doctrine” – and it’s been applied all around the world.
But Tony doesn’t consider himself a lawyer. As he’ll tell you in that clip, he’s a storyteller who uses the courts as his theatre. In court, people, governments and corporations have to listen to your story. They have to think about the issues and weigh the evidence dispassionately. The judges will have to make a decision and maybe order some action. If you lose, you appeal. Then you get to tell the story again. And stories are what move the world.
But look at the difference between Tony’s situation and Owen’s. Owen can only sue to get the government to respect regulations that the government itself created. Because the Philippine law recognizes environmental rights, however, Tony can take up really big issues — offences against Nature, against future generations, against the human right to a healthy world.
UPDATE: THE BOOK, THE FILM, THE TOUR:
Tony Oposa plays a big role in our GreenRights film – and he’s one of the Warrior Lawyers I interview in my book. Warrior Lawyers includes interviews with 17 powerful, bold lawyers from nine different countries. Proof copies of the book just arrived – here’s a photo — so I expect to have finished books by early September. Both the physical book and the e-book will be available on Amazon, and also at www.TheGreenInterview.com and www.SilverDonaldCameron.ca. At our websites, the pre-publication price for the paper book is $19.99. After publication it goes up to $24.99. That tapping sound you hear? That’s opportunity knocking. Buy now and save!
We’re also in the very last stages of completing the feature documentary Green Rights: The Human Right to a Healthy World. And this week our beloved little truck goes to the RV centre to be fitted with the gear that allows us to tow it behind the motorhome. Meanwhile, we’re organizing lectures, screenings and readings in universities from Halifax to the Rockies. (We’ll do the west coast later.)
We have great screenings and discussions scheduled for the east coast, at Mount St. Vincent, Acadia and St. Francis Xavier. In Ontario, we’re delighted at the way things are coming together in Ottawa, Kingston and Thunder Bay. If you’d like to have an event in your community, please write me at firstname.lastname@example.org
There’s lots more to come. Stay tuned!