In New Zealand, Lands and Rivers Can Be People (Legally Speaking)

New Zealand is taking bold steps to evolve its legal system by recognizing “legal personhood” status and rights for natural systems, including rivers and forests. Arising from agreements to settle treaty violations with indigenous Maori, the recognition of the Te Urewera Forest and the Whanganui River as legal entities is a growing approach (following related efforts in Ecuador and elsewhere) for shifting law towards a more ethical, eco-centric standard. 

“In New Zealand, Lands and Rivers Can Be People (Legally Speaking),” The New York Times, July 13, 2016

Earth Law

NELC Fellow Linda Sheehan, Executive Director of Earth Law Center, teaches this Summer Term course at VLS

Course Description:

Climate change and other global threats are increasingly illustrating the limits of our existing environmental laws to stem degradation. This course posits that environmental declines will continue until we address a fundamental assumption underlying our legal system: that humans are separate from the natural world and may treat it as property to be exploited, rather than as a connected ecological partner. The course will critically examine the sources of this assumption and its impacts on preventing us from achieving a healthy, thriving planet. It will then describe legal, economic, and other governance systems that recognize the inherent rights of the natural world to exist, thrive, and evolve, and it will discuss how such systems can be implemented to advance lasting sustainability. Specific applications will be highlighted, debated, and practiced.​

Syllabus – Summer 2016



A Radical Alliance of Black and Green Could Save the World

VLS Energy Clinic White River Community Solar News

Vermont Public Radio recently featured the VLS Energy Clinic’s White River Community Solar project that we have been developing with our community partners Building a Local Economy (BALE) and Putting Down Roots Farm.  Putting Down Roots Farm is a local CSA business that has agreed to host the 150 kW community solar array which will be directly owned by the local participants and developed by our local solar partner Catamount Solar.  This story features a discussion of the challenges facing community solar, including the challenge of utility net metering caps and the competition for interconnection capacity with projects that are neither locally owned or solar for the local community.  Our Energy Clinic continues to work to advance true community solar and we welcome collaboration with new partners in this effort.  We can be contacted at energy

Call for Papers, ClassCrits IX The New Corporatocracy and Election 2016

The ClassCrits Network invites paper and panel proposals for our upcoming conference, The New Corporatocracy and Election 2016, Oct. 21-22, 2016 at Loyola University Chicago School of Law and Business Law Center.  We are a group of scholars, students and activists interested in critical analysis of economic inequality and the law, founded in a commitment to integrating economic justice with racial, gender, sexual, environmental justice and beyond.  We welcome papers on a range of topics related to those goals as well as specifically on this year’s theme of corporate political power.  Abstracts for proposed papers can be submitted by May 16, 2016 to, and for more information see


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Life to the Limits: Designing New Economies in Times of Scarcity

Marta Ceroni, executive director of the Donella Meadows Institute and associate fellow of the NELC, gave a lecture at Vermont Law School on February 25, 2016 as part of the Spring Faculty Speaker Series.

View the video here.

Poorer Countries and the Environment: Friends or Foes?

Corporate Bias in the World Bank’s Group International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes: A Case Study of a Global Mining Corporation Suing El Salvador

Reframing Development in the Age of Vulnerability: from case studies of the Philippines and Trinidad to new measures of rootedness

Third World Quarterly, v.32, n.6, coauthor John Cavanagh.

ABSTRACT: This article argues that the contemporary triple crises of finance, food and environment, which have shaken the global economy since 2008, have exposed what should be seen as the Achilles heel of the dominant development theory and practice of the past 30 years: vulnerability. We argue that the crises not only add momentum to the delegitimisation of the old model, but also offer legitimacy for paths that lessen vulnerability and increase what we call ‘rootedness’ (a term we prefer to ‘resilience’ or ‘sustainability’). After offering a brief history of ‘vulnerable’ development and reviewing the literature on vulnerability from the development, economic and environmental fields, we use this vulnerability versus rootedness frame to present analysis from our field work in two ‘vulnerable’ countries: the Philippines and Trinidad and Tobago. Integrating the article’s sections, we then propose a new interdisciplinary framework for development that builds on and supplements the human rights, ecological, equity and democracy frames: the notion of ‘rootedness’ at the household, local and country levels.