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Kenya, for Pete’s Sake!

Article II, section 3 of the Montana Constitution reads, in part;

All persons are born free and have certain inalienable rights. They include the right to a clean and healthful environment and the rights of pursuing life’s basic necessities…

That right to a clean and healthful environment just irritates the heck out of some Republican lawmakers. Representative Champ Edwards R-Missoula has requested the drafting of a bill for the legislature to repeal the Montana Environmental Policy Act, enacted in 1971, because, “It’s an additional source of red tape that makes companies not want to come here and use our natural resources,” After all, why should out-of-state corporations have to deal with a lot of “red tape” if they want to come to Montana and “use” our natural resources?

What is the stated purpose of this evil and oppressive MEPA?

…to declare a state policy that will encourage productive and enjoyable harmony between humans and their environment, to protect the right to use and enjoy private property free of undue government regulation, to promote efforts that will prevent or eliminate damage to the environment and biosphere and stimulate the health and welfare of humans, to enrich the understanding of the ecological systems and natural resources important to the state, and to establish an environmental quality council.

Last month, Kenya adopted a new constitution which declares;

Every person has the right to a clean and healthy environment, which includes the right—

(a) to have the environment protected for the benefit of present and future generations through legislative and other measures, particularly those contemplated in Article 69; and

(b) to have obligations relating to the environment fulfilled under Article 70.

Kenya, for Pete’s sake! In Kenya the state now has a legal obligation to:

  • ensure sustainable exploitation, utilisation, management and conservation of the environment and natural resources, and ensure the equitable sharing of the accruing benefits;
  • protect and enhance intellectual property in, and indigenous knowledge of, biodiversity and the genetic resources of the communities;
  • encourage public participation in the management, protection and conservation of the environment;
  • establish systems of environmental impact assessment, environmental audit and monitoring of the environment;
  • eliminate processes and activities that are likely to endanger the environment;

In Montana conservative lawmakers are fighting to remove long-standing environmental protections so corporate hacks won’t have to worry about doing the right thing or about pesky “red tape”. These guys can’t even spell biodiversity. In the rest of the world, countries have recognized how vital a clean and healthful environment is to a healthy economy.

In 2008, Ecuador became the first nation in the world to enshrine the rights of nature in its constitution. The document now asserts that nature “has the right to exist, persist, maintain and regenerate its vital cycles, structure, functions and its processes in evolution”

Ecuador! If we follow the lead of our tea-drunk legislators, Montana will soon have fewer progressive environmental protections than Kenya and other countries they consider backward. Republicans in our legislature are fighting hard to return Montana to the third-world status that we held under the corporate thumb of the Copper Kings while the third world is fighting even harder to become Montana.

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One Response

  1. As someone who has lived and worked in Kenya, let me tell you that the country’s constitution and laws are typically not worth the paper they are written on. It’s sort of like reading the Soviet constitution — a very bold document which guarantees many more human rights than its U.S. counterpart.

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