Our environmental organizations win many battles, but we are losing the planet. Forty-six years after the first Earth Day, we find ourselves on the path to a ruined planet, not one sustained and whole. The hard data on climate, biodiversity, water and more are truly frightening. Clearly, more of the same environmentalism is not going to do the job. We have had huge growth in the size, sophistication and resources of our leading environmental groups. So, clearly, something new is needed – a new environmentalism that offers hope of finally turning the corner before it is too late. To discover this new approach, we have got to ask again: what is an environmental issue? The answer puts us on the search for a new more joyful economy.
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James Gustave Speth
Sustainable, Just, and Democratic
Edited by Melissa K. Scanlan
This chapter argues that as taught and practiced law has been made socially irrelevant, undermining its potential to generate and sustain paradigm-shifting change. Although the legal academy has adopted a more practice-ready pedagogy, the fact remains that legal education and its substance is stubbornly unchanged, divorced from other disciplines and communicated in a traditional parlance intended only for other legal professionals. The result is that most people do not understand the value of the law in their daily lives because the barrier to legal information is too high. The rise of legal design and transdisciplinary collaboration, however, provides a radical reimaging of the law as centrally relevant. Legal design requires that legal solutions are designed with the end user in mind. Moreover, legal design integrates the law into social products. This is “Legal Democracy” because the law and the empowerment it represents is made broadly available. The food movement provides a real-time example of legal democracy in action, including the work of Janelle Orsi and her Sustainable Economies Law Center, the food projects of Stanford’s D School, and the legal products created by the Food and Agriculture Clinic of the Vermont Law School. This chapter explores legal democracy and its roots in legal design, communications and technology and then provides examples of legal democracy at work through the legal solutions generated by the Food and Agriculture Clinic. Finally, it explains how this approach to the law has the capacity to scale healthy food systems and support vibrant local and regional economies through cataloging and disseminating innovative legal and policy solutions.
Mary Christina Wood
The current environmental regulatory system promotes a destructive and unsustainable economy. While environmental statutes supposedly aim to control harm inflicted by the industrial economy, in fact they perpetuate destructive economic activity by regularly authorizing permits to pollute and destroy. Corporations and profiteers controlling the bureaucratic apparatus use the law to drain the natural wealth of communities for their own profit. On those rare occasions when environmental regulation successfully halts destruction, the resulting narrative presents an impossible “jobs v. environment” conflict that undermines environmental law in the broader political milieu. This chapter sets forth a legal paradigm called Nature’s Trust that draws upon the public trust principle to support both economic prosperity and ecological integrity. The public trust is an ancient doctrine, manifest in every state in the United States and in many countries throughout the world, including India, Kenya and the Philippines, to name a few. It requires government to act as a trustee with respect to the natural world and its elements. A fundamental component of democracy, the trust empowers citizens to hold government accountable for ecological protection. It also forms an inherent constraint on a private property regime that empowers colossal destruction. Finally, the Nature’s Trust paradigm reformulates the role of the corporation in modern society, recognizing imbued fiduciary limitations arising from state charters.
New economy advocates, including Gus Speth, look to transform the corporation from an enterprise designed primarily to provide profits for shareholders to one concerned about a broader set of values and stakeholders. Such a shift ideally would help us prioritize people, place and planet. Perhaps those who bring leadership to businesses that focus on social and environmental concerns – social entrepreneurs – can answer the call by reorienting the corporations they create. Such efforts to transform individual firms could inspire widespread change. The timing is good for such a transition, as social entrepreneurs have promising new options available for broadly soliciting like-minded investors and organizing their business enterprises to include social goals. Yet, due to distrust of the existing system, some may not explore these opportunities. Not attuned to mainstream matters, they may be unaware of the recent legal changes that make it easier for them to engage within the existing financial and corporate governance systems to fund their enterprises and to organize them with a social or environmental mission in mind. These recent legal developments are significant. Now in the US, those seeking to fund an enterprise can forgo a complex, time-consuming full federal registration process with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) while still reaching out to solicit a wide group of potential investors. This general solicitation can take place in a variety of media including advertising online through crowdfunding portals. The ability to bypass the full SEC registration process is the result of recent legal reforms that streamline how businesses can raise money through the offering and sale of securities. These legal reforms impact social entrepreneurs because the law covers the methods they might use to attract funding. Unlike donations made via crowdfunding, which are not subject to the securities laws, investments with an expectation of profit could be. This chapter provides background on securities laws in the US to contextualize the legal changes and proposals. Then it details how three recent legal developments at the federal and state levels can aid the startup or expansion of social, community and environmental business enterprises. These are (i) advertising unregistered securities offerings to the public with sales just to accredited investors; (ii) investment crowdfunding of unregistered securities to an unlimited number of non-accredited investors; and (iii) state law changes permitting benefit corporations as well as one state’s law to smooth the path for investing in local solar energy businesses.
Edited by Melissa K. Scanlan
Catherine Iorns Magallanes and Linda Sheehan
If we want to encourage the emergence of the new economy that is envisaged in his book, then the legal framework that supports it will need to change. This chapter outlines the essentials of a legal framework that arises from a paradigm that recognizes the importance of nature and re-prioritizes humans’ place within it. It focuses on three essential elements: the recognition of the intrinsic value of nature, the recognition of inherent rights of nature, and the establishment of a framework of human responsibility for nature. Such a legal framework would entail a paradigm shift; however, adoption of such elements in law can also help achieve such a shift in mindset as well as in practice. To this end, this chapter includes examples of existing and proposed laws adopting these three essential and intertwined elements, with global focus areas that include California and Aotearoa New Zealand.
There is a long history, stretching back to the Magna Carta in 1215, of commoners seeking to use law to decriminalize their sharing and secure legal recognition for their self-organized management of shared wealth – “commoning”. However, because state law is philosophically committed to a social order based on individual property rights, private capital accumulation and extractive relationships with nature, it often does not have the motivation, vocabulary, or legal instruments to adequately protect collective, long-term and ecological interests. This chapter describes a variety of creative initiatives attempting to reinvent law for the commons in disparate settings – indigenous, subsistence, digital, urban, local and organizational, among others – which are part of an emerging effort to legitimate the commons as a generative social form.