In a recent order by the High Court of the North-Indian state of Uttarakhand, rivers Ganga and Yamuna  and all their tributaries were recognised as legal entities. They are now entitled to the same human rights as guaranteed under Articles 48-A and 51 A(g) of the Constitution of India.  The order came under an ongoing case on the inaction of the responsible government agencies regarding the cleaning of river Ganga, one of the largest rivers in the country and also one of the most polluted in the world. 
The Court emphasised the religious and ecological significance of these rivers to reach its conclusion. It was observed that just as a company, or Hindu idols have been recognised as legal entities and are capable of having property and paying tax returns.  Similarly, these rivers can and must be recognised as legal entities capable of holding rights.  The Court stated that both rivers are worshipped by Hindus and carry deep spiritual and religious significance for Hindus, they support many communities and hold vast natural resources.  Their protection, the Court said, is of utmost importance. As a result, it accorded two government officials and the Advocate General of the State as persons in loco parentis or the human face to protect, conserve and preserve the rivers. The Advocate General shall represent the rivers at all legal proceedings to protect their interests. 
Not only these two rivers, but ‘glaciers, rivers, streams, rivulets, lakes, air, meadows, dales, jungles, forests, wetlands, grasslands, springs and waterfalls’ were also declared as legal entities with fundamental rights.  The Court decided thus in a case which followed the first order in the case above. The Court reiterated the religious and mythological relevance of some of these natural entities, and quoted principles of international environmental law, like those identified in the Rio Declaration.  As in the first order, government officials and the Advocate General of the State were declared persons in loco parentis, in addition to noted advocates and academics.
With these orders India is now in company with New Zealand and Ecuador to have declared a natural entity a legal person with equivalent rights to a human being.  While noting his reservations with the order of the Court, Professor Visvanathan has observed that the decision marks an important “shift in Indian legal philosophy.”  “It’s the inauguration of a new way of seeing.” 
However, the larger legal implications of the orders are still not clear. The legal reasoning of the Court is limited, accompanied with religious and Hindu mythological narratives that give little direction as to the general legal implications and the impact on participation by the public in the protection of these natural entities.
Additionally, there are jurisdictional concerns. Ganga and Yamuna are not contained within the state of Uttarakhand and cover vast territory in more than one state, where the High Court of Uttarakhand does not have jurisdiction, causing complications to this ruling.  In the second order, which recognised the wide list of natural entities as legal entities, the same jurisdictional concerns remain.
Furthermore, the Court in either case does not explain the rights that have been extended to these entities. The first order observes that the rivers concerned have rights under Articles 41-A and 51 A(g).  Article 48-A is under ‘Directive Principles of State of Policy’(DPSPs) under the Constitution of India which identify principles to be adhered to in the policies of the state with respect to conservation of the environment.  DPSPs are not enforceable by a court of law and are merely guiding principles.  It is unclear therefore, what the Court means by rights. Article 51 A(g) falls under the Fundamental Duties of citizens of India, which are not meant to be enforceable. 51A(g) in particular concerns the general duty of citizens to protect the environment.  It may be inferred that, since the state and citizens have a duty to protect the environment, the environment has a corresponding right to be protected. However, this does not assist in understanding the content or scope of these rights.
The second order, by a marginal contrast, observes that the concerned entities are entitled to all Fundamental Rights. Fundamental Rights under the Indian Constitution include human rights like the right to equality, freedom, religion, freedom from exploitation, and freedom for cultural and educational rights,  a violation of these is subject to judicial redress under Articles 32 and Article 226 of the Indian Constitution.  But, which articles out of these are applicable to natural entities is not identified by the Court, nor the implications thereof. For instance, River Ganga, whose religious importance the orders remind us of, remains exploited by inconsiderate human use. It is continuously polluted as a cremation site, or for other religious rituals.  Protection of the river would necessitate the restriction on the use of the river for religious practices. However, protection of the rights of the river in this way will conflict with fundamental rights of freedom of culture and religion to practice these rituals. Which rights take precedence? How does one know when the rights of a river are violated? Where is the line drawn between acceptable human use of the river and a violation of its right of equality, freedom and its exploitation? Will the construction of dams be affected by the judgement or are such development projects excluded from the scope of this right? 
Many such questions remain unanswered.
Continue reading about this issue in a post to be released next week!
Sugandha is a resident of the Indian capital of New Delhi and a student of law at Durham University. Her love for the environment began when she came to this small northern English city, and was exposed to air she could finally breathe.
References found below.
This Saturday, the 3rd of June 2017, a group of students from the Durham University geography department and Let's Do Something BIG. are hosting an event entitled 'Changes in the Arctic' communicating the effects of climate change on Arctic environments. The event is to be held at the Durham University Geography Department, Durham, United Kingdom. Educational posters and videos will be available for viewing by the public from 1.30pm-3.30pm in room W007.
These issues created as a result of a changing Arctic climate will later be approached from multiple perspectives in a discussion panel to take place from 4pm-5.30pm in room W309; FREE tickets for the discussion panel can be obtained here. Make sure to book your place, as seating for the discussion is limited. Nibbles and refreshments (including tea, coffee and wine) will be provided to discussion panel attendees, so if that isn't incentive I don't know what is. If you are unable to make it to Durham to attend the panel discussion, have no fear! The event will be live-streamed. Keep an eye out for live-streaming details on the event webpage and Facebook page so that you don't miss out!
The discussion panel speakers have now all been announced, and short bios for each can be found on the 'Changes in the Arctic' event webpage. To keep up-to-date on Arctic happenings and announcements about the event, follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
At a time when the governments of the world have a heightened interest in the future of the Arctic, both through climate change and political wrangling, we believe that this event will help inform and prompt discourse on the topic throughout surrounding the region.
Hope to see you on Saturday!
Although we have taken a brief break from blogging updates, we have been active as ever in our No-Plastic-April campaign! As mentioned last month, we challenged a group of over 30 ambassadors from different places around the world to cut out/minimize their plastic consumption for the month of April, and share what they are learning along the way. This post includes some of those very useful tips and tricks shared by our ambassadors!
To see the different ways in which you can reduce the use of plastic, repurpose and reuse plastic already in your life and unexpected challenges that will be faced through saying no to plastic--check out our Instagram.
Here is a round-up of some handy tips/tricks shared over the course of April:
Thanks so much to everyone who participated with the campaign throughout April, and remember that all of these tips and tricks can be applied to daily, everyday life in order to keep our oceans clean and our planet healthy!
Additional resources for reducing plastic consumption are bountiful! Check out this list from By the Ocean We Unite for a list of individual actions that make a huge difference to marine life and the overall health of the oceans. Watch this space for a more comprehensive list of resources to read, tricks to implement and videos to watch regarding WHY it matters to cut out plastic and WHAT we can do about it.
Stay aware, live by your values and remember that together we can do something big.
Mariama lives in the UK whilst studying ice and other earthy things. She enjoys running through wild places, going on adventures and learning stuff.
ANNOUNCEMENT: We here at LDSB are excited to announce the 'No-Plastic-April Challenge'! In honor of Earth Day, we are challenging our readers to say no to plastic this April. During the month we will share tips, updates and photos related to how to cut down plastic from the people who pledge to do so, as well as blog posts from these people too!
If you want to get involved with this exciting project, please comment below or contact us through our online contact form for more information. Additionally, get involved with sharing your tips through tagging any photos on social media with #NoPlasticApril. This project will be an eye-opening experience for everyone involved, and will help us to see just how much plastic is unnecessarily integrated into our everyday lives.
We hope you are as excited about this project as we are. Please join us in taking up the No-Plastic-April Challenge, and always remember that together we can do something BIG!
Watch these if you need a little bit more incentive:
When I was 16, I left Alaska for the first time. I traveled completely across the United States to attend a college-prep program with one of my classmates. We were the only two students from Alaska. This experience is the one that really jump-started the development of my ability to share my experiences and advocate for my land and culture. In the years since then, I’ve continued to share my story as it’s become more relevant to others.
The truth is, and anyone from Alaska will tell you this, the land around us is changing rapidly and changing our everyday lives. Within the past 6 years, our seasons have also changed pretty dramatically, as our winters are getting somewhat shorter and less consistent. Our permafrost is also melting, shifting the land, and messing with some valuable infrastructure. As glacier melt continues to accelerate, the sea levels continue to rise and more coasts are being threatened. Ocean acidification and the impact of rising ocean temperatures is also posing a huge threat to our ecosystems and food sources.
All these things have a massive impact on life here in Alaska. Many rural Alaskans live off of the land for food. It’s vital, considering the lack of job availability in many communities and high grocery costs. It also has a big impact on our culture, as subsistence hunting is such a big part of it and many values are taught to young people through hunting and gathering resources from the land.
Currently, the United States holds the chairmanship of the Arctic Council, a body made up of international governments to address issues regarding the Arctic. I think that most people in the US often forget that we are an Arctic country and don’t know much, if anything, about Alaska or the Arctic. Throughout the past two years, the government has made a lot of effort in creating awareness about Arctic issues, a topic that’s becoming more popular among politicians. The Arctic Youth Ambassadors program was created to give young Alaskans a voice in all these discussions and to educate non-Arctic citizens about our experiences and challenges.
Despite all the attention and politics, there is still not enough effort going into finding solutions for the situation we are facing. Rural Arctic communities still receive little to no funding for infrastructure and little support when it comes to climate issues. Currently, there are a few small villages, like Shishmaref, that are being drastically threatened by coastal erosion and rising sea levels. Within the next few decades, Shishmaref will be washed away and the Inupiaq residents will be forced to relocate, leaving their homes and many traditional aspects of our culture behind.
I think the thing that most people don’t realize is that what is happening with Shishmaref will soon be happening everywhere else as well. With the Arctic warming at twice the rate of any other region in the world, what happens here sets a major precedent to what happens elsewhere. And what is happening is the rate of change in these areas is accelerating. These changes will happen more rapidly, and within the next century, other coastal cities in the rest of the United States will start facing similar threats.
Even though it’s still appears to be a big controversy, a majority of scientists have agreed that humans have contributed to the warming planet. How much man-made carbon emissions have contributed to that change is another debate. Either way, with the state of the planet currently, we cannot afford to continue to add fuel to this fire. We need to continue moving towards renewable energy sources by investing in them and divesting from the oil and gas industries. It’s also imperative that we reduce our waste in order to save our safe, natural food resources that will continue to be threatened as ocean acidification becomes a larger problem.
I will always talk about my home and I will always do what I can to protect it. Unfortunately, I cannot do this all by myself, nor solely with the twenty-one other Arctic Youth Ambassadors. It’s going to take a major global effort amongst individuals everywhere to create a change that will make a difference. So as an individual, I will continue to advocate for such sustainable changes with my knowledge and experiences to educate a broader audience and hope that they will be inspired enough to do their part. Let’s do something big, together.
Macy is a US Arctic Youth Ambassador and university student. She is from Kotzebue, Alaska, and has spent a large portion of her 20 years at her family camp in Sisualik, AK where she has grown in her culture, as well as in her love of the outdoors and the ocean.
“Eat local” is a phrase commonly thrown around in our generation, but what does it actually mean and why should you do it? There are many benefits to eating locally, and here are just a few:
1. Supporting local farmers
The consumer has so much power. By deciding how you spend your money, you are indirectly voting for what you think is right and what is wrong. By buying locally, you are supporting local farmers and food producers, as well as their families. You can rest assured that the money will not be kept by a ‘middle man’ with the actual producer receiving very little. Additionally, local and small farms are already struggling to compete with big farms who mass produce their goods and can afford to keep their costs low. Therefore, local farms need as much support as they can get to stay in business.
2. Reduced carbon emissions
In a world faced with climate change, primarily caused by increased carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere as a result of man's activities, the transport of goods is a significant contributor to rising CO2 levels. Globalization has meant that we can buy any vegetable/fruit in stores, regardless of season. However, this is only possible by having food produced in other countries where climate is suitable for growing a given crop. The produce then needs to be transported via plane, ship, rail or trucks, all of which emit CO2 either directly or indirectly. Perishable produce needs to be shipped quickly. By buying locally, carbon emissions are reduced, as the produce is no longer shipped over long distances, and therefore you are reducing your impact on climate change!
3. Less plastic
In big supermarkets, fresh produce is often sold in pre-packed plastic bags to facilitate transport and selling in stores. However, plastic is a major issue in our world. Plastics are produced by fossil fuels and they take thousands of years to decompose, with most plastic living indefinitely. This means more waste in landfills or more carbon emissions from burning of waste (incineration). When buying locally, produce is not wrapped or packaged in plastic – a win-win!
4. Greater variety
Large supermarkets often offer a limited variety of local fruits and vegetables, depending on consumer demand and availability in large quantities. In contrast, local farmers produce a greater variety of seasonal vegetables and fruits, providing you with a larger range of nutrients and vitamins.
5. Better tasting
Fruit and vegetables that are grown elsewhere and transported over large distances have to be harvested before they are fully ripe to prevent them from going bad. Locally produced fresh food can be harvested when ripe, as it is sold in close proximity to where it was grown. Fruits and vegetables that have had the time to ripen naturally taste better and will also have more nutrients and vitamins!
So how do you go about eating locally? Let me share with you my story pertaining to doing so while living in the UK. I used to buy fruits and vegetables at Tesco, but soon realised they only sold British onions, potatoes, carrots and parsnips, with the majority of their vegetables sourced from elsewhere. I got bored very quickly of the limited choice of relatively ‘local’ produce. Also, it was all wrapped in plastic. It was then that I decided I needed to find a better alternative. I started looking at the local market halls but even the greengrocers there sold vegetables and fruit bought from large suppliers, with foods coming from all parts of the world. I was getting frustrated with the situation and was beginning to feel hopeless, so I decided to search for local farms on Google. Many results came up, and after having a look at the websites, I emailed one of the farms. Soon after, I ordered my first fruit+veg box from 'The Paddock' and since then have been receiving them weekly at my doorstep! I always look forward to receiving the fruit+veg box every week, as it makes me happy knowing that I am contributing to the five benefits listed above.
If you would like to make a positive change in the world, why not try eating locally? Based on my experience, here are some tips for facilitating your journey to doing so:
Good luck with eating locally, and hopefully you will quickly see the benefits! If you have any other tips or advice on how/where to get started, please feel free to comment below. I look forward to hearing about your experiences!
Leona grew up in eight countries on three continents, making the world her home. This has given her the chance to see so many amazing places, which she is passionate to protect. Apart from being a student at Durham University, she loves playing basketball and hiking.
Being conscious of your waste is completely possible whilst you’re in school y’all, and I am living proof! Here are a few of the things that I try very hard to do whenever the opportunity presents itself, and are things you can implement into your lifestyle as well.
Get some at a thrift store for $1-2 or reuse some old sauce/peanut butter/salsa jars and let them change your life. Take them with you when you bulk grocery shop, pack food to go in them, use them for water and smoothies and coffee (the handled ones with a cuppow lid do wonderfully for this!). Seriously, go find/buy some jars. Wash them. Use them. Again and again and again.
I bring my mason jar (outfitted for coffee), water bottle, cloth bags, and utensil kit with me everywhere. During the week I carry them in my backpack and if I go out exploring off campus I make sure to transfer it to whatever bag I am using. I accumulated my set by the way of gifts and thrifty finds, but if you want a brand new everything this is a good place to start.
Find your nearest thrift store and always check it first before buying something brand new. For me, this is a Goodwill that is about a mile up the road. It is where I bought pots and pans, some room furnishings, mason jars, and where I went when I splurged on a new dress for the holidays. Speaking of clothes (also outdoor gear, if you’re outdoorsy by nature like me), buy second hand! If you can’t get yourself to do that, then do some research into the clothes/gear you buy and make sure they are ethical and sustainable brands.
College Dining Halls
One good thing (look at me, finding a silver lining and all) about dining halls is that the food is sold to you without packaging (I try not to think about all of the plastic waste that results from the kitchens) for the main courses. I try really hard to not buy any of the ‘grab-n-go’ items that are packaged in plastic. Sometimes I will grab a drink in a glass bottle or a Clif bar (see below) and I’ve yet to rid my usage of paper napkins.
So as much as I hate to admit this, books do have quite an eco impact and they can add to the general clutter of your living space (although, do they really count as clutter if you love them like children?). This semester, I have been using the local library to borrow books--for leisure and school. It has saved me tons of money on school books and for my leisure books it allows me to know if I like a book enough to purchase it to have and to hold. Plus, the fleeting time you have with a book makes you appreciate all the more with the time you have. Ignore that sentence, I am just rambling and don’t even really know what is going on.
One of the reasons that I call my lifestyle low waste and not zero waste is because Clif bars are my weakness. They are DELICIOUS and VEGAN and CONVENIENT and just overall add to Things That Are Good In LifeTM. It is actually a bit ridiculous how many clif bars I consume now that I am reflecting upon this... ANYHOW, the point IS is that you can actually recycle the wrappers over at Terracycle, as well as a myriad of other packaging that no one really knows what to do with, besides contributing it to the massive piles of garbage from this consumerism-driven-society-that-ruins-every-green-place-in-this-world.
I am lucky to live in a place that has city-wide composting (go you, Portland!), but if you don’t have this privilege, then make your own compost bins and smile because you are making a difference for this wonderful planet!
Bulk Grocery Shopping
Bring your containers/bags/jars and get to your nearest store with a bulk section. Even more and more ‘regular’ grocery stores are starting to have bulk sections. Bonus: going into a grocery store and refusing to buy anything with packaging forces you to be healthy. Although, I’ve still managed to find bulk chocolate chips…and we all know how that goes.
As I am a first-year student, I live in a dorm. Among many other things (kitchen cleanliness anyone?) the paper towel waste in the bathroom is something that really bothers me. My environmental club, Greenboard, is trying to get campus-wide paper towel composting and/or switch to real towels, but in the meantime I either use my clothes as a towel or make sure I take the paper towels I use to the compost bin nearby in the kitchen. Portland allows for paper towels to be composted, but definitely check with whatever system you are using to be sure that this is okay. Or just use a regular towel--bonus points: this might help with making your dorm seem less like a prison and more like a home as well.
That’s all I have for now folks. Sometimes it’s hard to live a low waste life and you have to make some compromises, but let’s just remember that by implementing earth-friendly habits we do make a difference, no matter how small it may outwardly seem! We are keeping plastic out of the oceans and coffee cups out of the landfills and helping the animals and the wild places and I suppose the human race by default. If we stick together, together we can do something big!
Mahalia is a college student living in Portland, OR and enjoys eating vegan food, wandering the wild and petting ALL the animals. She is going to save the oceans.
My first experience of the tragic amount of food that supermarkets waste was a couple of years ago on an adventure to the Co-op with my Mum (exciting I know) to buy food for my Grannie. But it’s not every day that you go to the shops and come back wanting to change the world just a little bit. It was all because I attempted to buy some Love Hearts from the reduced price section. I was actually pretty excited by the prospect of getting a bag of Love Hearts for 29p as I always love a good bargain. However when I got to the till the cashier told me she couldn’t sell them to me because they were 2 days out of date. She said they’d have to be binned. My mum asked whether they could go “in her bin” but the cashier refused. It probably wouldn’t have bothered most people but I came out of the shop annoyed. I would have understood if they had been 5 or 6 years out of date, but 2 days past an over-cautious best before date was just ridiculous. I know that one packet of love hearts wouldn’t solve the world’s hunger crisis if it was given away instead of binned, but it made me stop and think about how much food is being wasted and about how many people go without food every single day.
So here are a couple of positive things we can to do to combat the problem of food waste:
FoodCycle – I signed up to help out with Food Cycle in Durham, a charity that cooks meals for people at risk of food poverty, and am so glad I did. Here are a couple reasons pertaining to why it's a great thing with which to get involved:
The reduced section – If you are a student reading this, I doubt you need any help at understanding the concept of the reduced section! Look for the yellow labels and buy them up (otherwise they’ll be binned by the end of the day!).
Be creative with your meals – If you see something in the reduced section that you wouldn’t normally cook with, buy it and make something different. 'BBC GoodFood' is a life saver for figuring out what you can make with what you have. Just type in the rogue ingredient, sift through a couple recipe options and try to make something different! If you don’t have something from the recipe, Google alternatives for it and you may find that you already have what you need! For example, you can use 1 teaspoon of baking soda mixed with 1 tablespoon of white vinegar or a banana to replace 1 egg. Multiple other substitutes exist for things you might not have in your refrigerator/pantry; don't be afraid to pop the ingredient in a search, you may be amazed with what you find!
The freezer – The freezer is a fantastic way to reduce our own personal food waste. You can freeze almost anything! Cook or roast vegetables that are beginning to turn and then save for another day.
These are only a couple of ideas of how we can promote a culture of food use not food waste, although there are many more out there (feel free to share your tips in the comments below)! So why not take up the challenge of implementing some of these habits into your lifestyle? Have fun whilst cooking, eating with friends and feasting on great conversations!
Roseanna has lived near the sea in the UK for most of her life, which has grown her love for walking along the coast and swimming in the sea. Exploring and finding beautiful places in both the countryside and in towns makes her super happy too!
I awoke today to the calm after the storm. Snow drifts lay piled three to four feet high, shining in all their glory--the effects of the worst storm of this winter in Wisconsin, so far. What last afternoon and evening was the tremendous howling of wind and whiteout conditions of snowfall, now lay in silence; with only the occasional chirping of the chickadees, junkos and cardinals at the snow-ladened bird feeders breaking the peaceful dawn.
After casting a look outside at this snowy abyss, my stalwart husband proceeded with the morning watering of the pigs and lighting of the outdoor wood stove. He was led by our cocker spaniel, Mocha, who trail-blazed through the mounds of deep snow, and was further accompanied by one of our german shepherds watching out for him in the new landscape. He plunged into the whiteness, and came back 20 minutes later, covered with snow from head to foot due to misjudging a drift, and tumbling into it.
Later in the morning, I repeated the hog watering with the faithful dogs by my side. The pigs were more interested in playing in and eating snow, than worrying about the warm water I poured for them. They hopped and squealed and rooted in the snow drifts within their pen.
My next morning chore was to remove the six inches of snow and ice from the solar panels on our farm. Plodding slowly and carefully through the mounds of cresting white waves sculpted by lasts nights wind, I made my way to the panel framework across the yard. It took genuine effort to remove the caked snow and underlying ice from the slick black surface. As the snow chunks fell toward the ground, my companion, our older shepherd, jumped around, biting at them in the air whilst barking joyously.
Pigs watered and panels cleared, I headed back to the warmth of our home. There, I relished the warmed floor in our kitchen while drinking steaming hot tea. This is living!
Organic farmer, artist, and mother of four--this fabulous woman has seen it all.
Do you want the world's oceans to become cleaner? You can start by creating your first one clean meter right now! 'One Clean Meter' is a project that encourages people all around the globe to make a difference together by cleaning one square meter of contaminated coastline. It's a great way to share all our love to the sea, the ocean, lakes and rivers all over planet Earth!
What is One Clean Meter?
One Clean Meter is a global non-profit volunteering project that was created to motivate people to look after the world’s beaches. The project works as a link between tourism and ocean-cleanup. Anyone, anytime and anywhere can join our community and support the idea. The project started in March in 2015, and now it is truly developing a wonderful community of people all around the world. The project is primarily based in social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram. One Clean Meter is absolutely certain that just a small step forward will help the oceans!
One Clean Meter is an active community that is raising awareness around the global problem of ocean pollution. The organization posts facts, motivational pictures, videos and other people’s 'clean meters' to encourage people take action. The community is very responsive and it has more than 960 people involved with the project already.
The ‘One Clean Meter’ page has been translated to three languages: English, Russian and Chinese. This supports people from different parts of the word and makes the information more accessible so that everyone can join in and understand the concept of the idea. From the very beginning, One Clean Meter has received massive support from all around the world that was absolutely amazing. Now there are more than ten new clean meters from different places in the world and we are looking forward to get many more in the future!
How to make a One Clean Meter?
1. Go to the nearest beach.
2. Measure 1 meter of any contaminated area. Outline the area using your foot or a wooden stick.
3. Take a picture of the place “before” and “after” cleanup.
4. Send a photo to us, to inspire others!
5. Specify the location where you did your cleanup. Done! You've joined the game.
Get Involved with the project:
Official hashtag: #onecleanmeter
This is a really exciting project in which you can get involved wherever you are in the world! Join the community now, and let's start cleaning this planet up together. And always remember that, together, we can do something big.
Kate is from Minsk, Belarus and is currently studying at Durham University in the UK. She enjoys travelling around the world and exploring new cultures. She is the founder of the One Clean Meter project.