In this episode I speak with lawyer and radical environmental activist Will Falk. In this discussion, Will examines the United States legal system, in particular environmental law, and the difficult realities communities around the US continuously face when it comes to protecting natural entities (lakes, rivers, forests, etc.) from ecologically destructive government and corporate projects.
As Will elaborates in this interview, the United States legal system is not designed to effectively protect human and non-human communities from ecologically destructive projects. Instead, as Will explains, it exists primarily “to make it near impossible for the citizenry to oppose those projects” through legal means.* This assertion can be demonstrated to be true by examining numerous legal cases that have come up in the last several decades in communities around US -- perhaps most dramatically by the community of Toledo, Ohio in their efforts to end the proliferation of toxic algae blooms in Lake Erie — the region’s main source of potable water. In response to this environmental crisis, the community organized to have a “Lake Erie Bill of Rights” on the ballot in their local elections. If enacted, the legislation would effectively grant legal rights to a natural entity (Lake Erie), and would work to protect the lake and the residents of Toledo from the destructive impacts of industrial agricultural runoff (which produces toxic algae blooms as a byproduct). As Will explains in detail, this campaign, in spite of being extremely well organized, well funded, legally and ethically sound, and having gained enough votes in the election, was shut down by the very legal processes that the community of Toledo relied upon for the success their campaign. This case, unfortunately, is not unique.
After expounding on the details of this case, Will explains what must actually be done to halt the pervasive and ongoing destruction of the living systems of the planet. Our government and legal system as a whole will not, and cannot, do it for us. As the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund has stated: “Each municipality is a match, and each instance of a law being overturned as violative of these legal doctrines is an opportunity for people to see how the structure actually functions. This does the necessary work of penetrating the denial, piercing the illusion of democracy, and removing the blinders that prevent a large majority of people from seeing the reality on the ground.” (http://bit.ly/2JViXAL)
Will Falk is a writer, lawyer, and environmental activist. Will graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison Law School and practiced as a public defender in Kenosha, WI. He left the public defender office to pursue frontline environmental activism. Will is the author of the upcoming book ‘How Dams Fall: On Representing the Colorado River in the First-ever American Lawsuit Seeking Rights for a Major Ecosystem.'
- Learn more about Will and his work: http://willfalk.org
- Purchase Will’s upcoming book ‘How Dams Fall: On Representing the Colorado River in the First-ever American Lawsuit Seeking Rights for a Major Ecosystem’: http://bit.ly/2xYJ2cG
- Support the Toledoans for Safe Water: https://lakeerieaction.wixsite.com/safewatertoledo
- Support the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund: https://celdf.org
- Read more about the "Lake Erie Bill of Rights" case: http://bit.ly/2JViXAL
- The song featured is “Computer Face (String Arrangement by Miguel Atwood-Ferguson)” by Flying Lotus from the album Cosmogramma Alt Takes.