Mari Margil

The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund

Date:October 2014
Location:United States

Thomas Linzey and Mari Margil, the co-founder and associate director of the Community Environmental Legal Defence Fund, a pioneering US organization that helps communities (and nations like Ecuador and Nepal) assert their rights as communities, and the rights of the environment itself.

Thomas Linzey and Mari Margil watched state environmental laws fail communities so many times they knew they had to master a new line of defence. In this exclusive Green Interviewthey discuss the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF), how it protects citizens, and gives communities and nature rights. They also talk about their traveling Democracy Schools and how they are educating communities around the world.

Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF)

First formed in 1995, the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) is a non-profit, public interest law firm providing free and affordable legal services for communities facing threats to their local environment. CELDF has assisted more than 110 local governments, as well as the governments of Nepal, India, and Ecuador. It was a founding member of the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature, and a co-author of the Universal Declaration for the Rights of Mother Earth.

Community Rights

After experiencing how the regulatory system operated over several years and seeing communities lose time and again, Linzey and Margil decided they needed a new approach to give communities rights. Starting in 1998 they developed a new technique and assisted communities in drafting legally binding laws in which they assert their right to local self-government. CELDF argues that in order to achieve sustainability, communities must be able to make decisions about their future, whether it’s in terms of energy production, land development or water use. Alternately they should also be able to say “no” to projects that threaten the environment.

Democracy Schools

In 2003 CELDF launched the Daniel Pennock Democracy Schools, a tool for grassroots organizing with the aim to educate communities that are engaged in the struggle to transition from regulating corporate harms to stopping them. CELDF has taught nearly 200 Democracy Schools across the U.S and more than 100 communities have adopted Legal Defense Fund-drafted ordinances.

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