Earth Law Center Speaking at EARTHx, the World’s Largest Environmental Conference

Reader Contribution by Darlene May Lee and Earth Law Center
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Photo by Michelle Bender

I’m so pleased to share with you that Michelle Bender, Ocean Rights Manager at Earth Law Center will be speaking at EARTHx in Dallas on Sunday, April 22 (Earth Day). Founded in 2011 by Dallas-based environmentalist, philanthropist, and businessman Trammell S. Crow, EARTHx promotes environmental awareness by curating the world’s largest annual forum for sharing the latest environmental initiatives, discoveries, research, innovations, policies, corporate and NGO practices that are reshaping the future.

Michelle will also unveil the first Ocean Rights Framework in the world; The Framework aims to help local communities and environmental organizations to create management plans for Marine Protected Areas that include Earth Law and rights of nature. Mission Blue endorses the Earth Law Ocean Rights Framework.

After eight months of research, writing, gathering global expert input; Earth Law Center has now completed the Earth Law Framework for Marine Protected Areas. Marine protected areas (MPA) are protected areas of seas and oceans that can take many forms ranging from wildlife refuges to research facilities. MPAs restrict human activity for conservation purposes, typically to protect natural or cultural resources and often endangered marine species.

Did you know that the ocean produces half of the world’s oxygen, absorbs and sequesters one-third of the carbon dioxide human activities emit, provides protection from extreme weather events, and provides a source of food and livelihoods? In fact, 20 percent of the human population depends on the ocean for their primary source of protein, and over seven percent rely on the ocean for jobs and income.[1] The ocean also provides key medicinal components and treatments, such as the anticancer drug, Ara-C[2] and an enzyme to treat asthma.[3]

Being near and on the ocean is proven to boost human mental and physical health.[4] For those of us who don’t live within sight of the ocean, we may forget that human life and well-being depend on the ocean (UNEP, 2011).[5] An estimated 50-80 percent of all life on Earth is found in the ocean.

The Ocean Earth Law initiative joins a growing list of wins in the global rights of nature movement. The Columbian Amazon is the latest area of nature to win rights recognition in January 2018. In addition to Ecuador and Bolivia recognizing rights of nature in their national constitutions, three rivers, national park and sacred mountain also hold rights (the Whanganui in New Zealand, the Atrato in Colombia, the Villacabamba in Ecuador, and Te Urewera National Park and Mt. Taranaki in New Zealand).

This initiative supports several other ocean initiatives launched by Earth Law Center which seek rights for: The Whale and Dolphin Sanctuary in Uruguay, the Patagonian Shelf in Argentina and the Puget Sound in Washington State (US).  Earth Law Center serves to connect and catalyze local partnerships, consisting of communities, indigenous groups, and guardians, to create new laws which uphold and defend nature’s rights against harm.

Learn more about ocean rights here

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Darlene May Lee is Executive Director of Earth Law Center, which works to transform the law to recognize and protect nature’s inherent rights to exist, thrive and evolve. She works to build a force of advocates for nature’s rights at the local, state, national, and international levels. Connect with Earth Law Center on TwitterFacebookand LinkedIn. Read all of Darlene’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


[1] OECD, Marine Protected Economics, Management and Effective Policy Mixes: Policy Highlights, 2 (2016), available at: (“OECD”); United Nations, Overfishing: A Threat to Marine Biodiversity (Aug. 31, 2017),

[2] National Research Council (US) Committee on the Ocean’s Role in Human Health, From Monsoons to Microbes: Understanding the Ocean’s Role in Human Health, 4 (1999), available at:

[3] Nicole Levins, Oceans and Coasts, The Nature Conservancy, (Aug. 31, 2017),

[4] Carolyn Gregoire, Why Being Near the Ocean Can Make You Calmer and More Creative, Huffington Post, Feb. 25, 2016,; Wallace J. Nichols, Blue Mind, Little, Brown and Company (2014).

[5]  OECD, supra at 2.

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