New Report Highlights Threats to Human Rights and Nature’s Rights in the San Francisco Bay Area and Worldwide

San Francisco, CA, December 29, 2016 --( In December 2016, Earth Law Center (ELC) released its second annual report detailing co-violations of human rights and nature’s rights around the globe (available at: As put forth by the report, humans and nature possess fundamental and inalienable rights. Rights “co-violations” occur when governments or industry, or both, violate both human rights and nature’s rights with the same action. These co-violations are driven by destructive activities – fossil fuel extraction, mining, logging, and others – that prioritize short-term profit over fundamental rights.

ELC’s report, "Fighting for Our Shared Future: Protecting Both Human Rights and Nature’s Rights (2016 Update)," examines 200 such instances of rights co-violations worldwide. These case studies demonstrate many chilling trends, including the following:

· Twenty-eight percent of cases examined involved at least one murder.
· Thirty percent of cases examined involved harm to indigenous peoples’ rights, despite their comprising only five percent of the population.
· With regard to violations of nature’s rights, pollution and biodiversity loss appear most often.
· Perpetrators include both government and economic factors – with 43 percent of cases examined involving both government and economic actors as perpetrators.
· Co-violations of nature’s rights and human rights are expanding across the globe, with the Global South proportionately more affected – particularly South America and Asia.

The report includes several co-violation cases from the San Francisco Bay Area. In Richmond, the Chevron refinery releases hazardous substances into the air and water, causing the historic pollution of the San Pablo Bay while exposing residents – particularly people of color – to a cocktail of toxic air contaminants, including those linked to cancer. A 2009 survey found that 46 percent of long-term Richmond adults suffered from asthma.

The destruction of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta negatively impacts humans and nature, as well. The rich Delta ecosystem once supported 300,000 indigenous residents and abundant fish populations, but water overuse and mismanagement has eliminated 95 percent of historic Delta habitat and threatens the livelihoods and way of life of Delta-reliant fishermen and Native Americans. The proposed “twin tunnels” project would further drain this crucial ecosystem, driving species like winter run-Chinook and Delta smelt even closer towards extinction.

“We must reject the false notion that we can destroy nature for profit as a means of benefitting humans,” said Grant Wilson, Interim Director of Earth Law Center. “The report’s findings demonstrate that human rights and nature’s rights are intertwined and co-dependent, as highlighted by numerous co-violations occurring in the San Francisco Bay Area.”

The rights of nature are fundamental and inalienable, just as human rights are. Ecuador and Bolivia both recognize rights of nature in their constitutions and laws, New Zealand has recognized them in treaty agreements, and dozens of U.S. cities have adopted ordinances that protect nature’s rights.

The report highlights specific solutions, including calls to:

· Recognize in law and implement the fundamental rights of nature, including through U.N. General Assembly adoption of the Universal ­Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth;
· Prioritize cases by the International Criminal Court that involve co-violations of rights;
· Formulate one or more international treaties to prevent and address human rights and nature’s rights violations by transnational and national business enterprises; and
· Provide emergency protection to at-risk environmental defenders.

The report is paired with an online map on ELC’s website, where the public can submit details on additional co-violations. ELC plans to use this tool to focus attention upon more co-violation cases. Since releasing the report in December, ELC has already received urgent communications regarding the illegal and violent displacement of indigenous Shuar people for an enormous mine, which would destroy thousands of hectares of biodiverse rainforest in the southern Ecuadorian Amazon.

The public can submit information on new or existing co-violations at ELC’s website:

ELC is a nonprofit organization that works to transform the law to recognize and protect nature’s inherent rights to exist, thrive and evolve.
Earth Law Center
Grant Wilson