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Updated: Sep 10

According to a 2012 United Nations report, humans destroyed 50% of the world’s wetlands since the 1990’s (Phys.org). The Oxford English Dictionary defines constitute as “giving legal or official form or shape to” and this blog entry empirically examines national constitutions. While 154 out of the world’s 202 constitutions give explicit protection to the environment, only six states give explicit protections for wetlands (Constitute Project). As of September, 2020, Bangladesh, Ecuador, Nepal, Switzerland, Uganda, and Yemen were the only six states with constitutional protections for wetlands. The Environmental Conventions Index (ECI), an empirical tool for assessing the implementation of multilateral environmental agreements (environmental treaties between two or more states) (Escobar-Pemberthy and Ivanova, 2020). The ECI reveals that the six states with constitutional protections for wetlands scored 12.07% better than their regional peers on implementing the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, which protects wetlands of international importance. Similarly, the six states with constitutional protections scored 12.03% better than the global implementation average according to the ECI. If Yemen is removed from the constitutional sample (due to conflict), states with constitutional protections for wetlands scored 22.62% better than regional averages and 22.46% better than the global ECI average for the Ramsar Convention.

Constitutional protections for wetlands matter because they emperically aid Ramsar wetland management amid increased development, resource depletion, and wetland destruction (due to many factors such as agriculture, movement of peoples, shrimp farming, land management policies, etc.). Several scholars, such as Farrier et. al (2000), suggest that increased empirical science on Ramsar sites could lead to better policy outcomes. In conclusion, constitutional protections for wetlands is an uncharted and fruitful new area of research that can enrich social, policy, economic, and ecological analyses of wetlands and water management internationally.


States with Constitutional Protections for Wetlands (Sept. 2020)

Sources:

Escobar-Pemberthy, Natalia, and Maria Ivanova. "Implementation of Multilateral Environmental Agreements: Rationale and Design of the Environmental Conventions Index." Sustainability 12.17 (2020): 7098. "Constitute, v." OED Online. Oxford University Press, June 2020. Web. 26 August 2020.


Constitute Project (2020). Retrieved from: https://www.constituteproject.org/search?lang=en&q=wetlands&status=in_force&status=is_draft

Fan, Jinxue. "Constitutional Environmental Rights: An Investigation and Analysis Based on Constitutional Texts of All Countries." J. Hum. Rts. 16 (2017): 476.

Farrier, David, and Linda Tucker. "Wise use of wetlands under the Ramsar Convention: a challenge for meaningful implementation of international law." Journal of Environmental Law 12.1 (2000): 21-42.

Maltchik, Leonardo, et al. "Legislation for wetland conservation in Brazil: Are existing terms and definitions sufficient?." Environmental Conservation 45.3 (2018): 301-305

Phys.org. Half of all wetlands destroyed since 1900, report says. Retrieved from: https://phys.org/news/2012-10-wetlands.html#:~:text=Fifty%20percent%20of%20the%20world's,said%20the%20report%20released%20Tuesday.

By Lorelei Goodall


Amid the Covid-19 pandemic, the United States has pushed for the shut down of hundreds of wet markets across Asia. But is the problem of selling and slaughtering live animals in unsanitary conditions that far from home? In New York City alone, there are over 80 operating wet markets that have over 10 species of animals, including chickens, cows, sheep, goats, ducks, and others. These animals are crammed into cages and pens, barely able to move while they await their death.

photo credit: https://twitter.com/peta/status/1258084009688457217

According to CBS News, New York state has stopped inspecting these wet markets during the Covid-19 pandemic in order to stop the spread of this disease. Meaning, that these markets have gone unregulated and now pose an even more serious threat to public health. Activists such as Jill Carnegie of Slaughter Free NYC have caught footage of what actually goes on in these markets. The videos show cramped cages bursting with chickens, some with deceased or diseased individuals. Some of these chickens resort to cannibalism, eating dead chickens residing into the same cage. Similar videos show blood, urine, and feces coating the floor, and automated machines killing goats and sheep.

Beyond these few domestic animals, wet markets across New York have also been found to sell illegally imported monkey, python, and civet meat. The United States is the number one importer of illegal and legal wildlife products across the world. Showing how Americans are a more centralized part of the problem when it comes to illegal importation and selling of products with a public health risk. According to the CDC, 6 of every 10 known infectious diseases can be spread by animals and 3 out of 4 current and emerging diseases in humans are originally from animals.


One family-run wet market has operated in the heart of Queens for over 63 years. The owner claims “we sanitize multiple times a day. It’s a part of our routine before COVID”. He argues that wet markets are an important part of the surrounding community and are necessary for Halal and Kosher clientele. In May of 2020, Linda Rosenthal of the New York Assembly has introduced a bill that will temporarily shut down all wet markets in New York while the public health risk is assessed.


Updated: Aug 26

By Lorelei Goodall


Throughout Africa and Asia, there is increasing awareness of the injustices and tragedies enacted by the highly-militarized policing forces that are tasked with protecting the world’s most endangered species. While some forces such as the International Anti-poaching Foundation and the Black Mambas of South Africa have elected for peaceful and community-oriented methods, others, such as the Kenya Wildlife Service, have adopted enforcement models that employ violence-driven methods of protection. In many cases, these models incorporate egregious policies that lead to the intimidation, fear, and unjust loss of human life in surrounding communities. This is troubling and may cast a shadow over the original intent of protecting vulnerable animals. Many of these enforcement models have surprising roots in a system that is also coming under scrutiny right now: western policing systems.


The United States policing system was originally founded in 1636, was based on the principle of loosely enforcing the law, a night watch. Later, in the early 1700s, southern policing forces focused more on shipping protection and “slave patrols” that were intended to catch and return slaves to owners. Slavery was abolished in the United States in 1865, but systematized racism persisted. In the early 1830s both England and The United States created the first formal policing systems surrounding a campaign to “improve public law” and to act as employees of the law. Starting in 1870, Jim Crow laws mandated segregation in the United States and reinforced, and effectively stayed in place until 1964 with the passage of the Civil Rights Act. While the dissolution of racist hierarchy marked a turning point in US history, and possibly the history of the world, the outdated nature of the US police system persisted with tactics like Stop and Frisk - a tactic allowing officers to unjustly target minority communities that were officially sanctioned in 2018. Sadly, the US headlines on any month of the year reflect that the biased and violent protocols of American policing are still a problem, so the fact that they are a model for others is likely to lead to extensive challenges.

A particularly stark example of how this violent method of enforcement has spread to anti-poaching forces in other countries is the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS). This was founded as a group of park rangers tasked with protecting wildlife, including most notable elephants. Dr. Richard Leaky, chairman of the KWS, established the mentality for the rangers in a similar fashion to American and English police, with the order to “shoot to kill” any potential poachers in protected areas. This excessive militarization of the ranger force in Kenya has led to unjust killings, disappearances, and suppression of information regarding presumed kidnapped or killed individuals. Communities surrounding the national parks in Kenya such as Maasai Mara National Reserve fear for their lives and for their safety because of the known danger presented by the KWS.


This scenario bears a shocking resemblance to the United States, where there have been over 500 incidents of police brutality towards African Americans and protestors - ranging from trampling to physically beating to shooting - in just the past four months. In the United States, there is a pervasive sense of unrest, sadness, mistrust, and tension. Current calls to “defund the police” are sadly over-simplified: the idea behind this movement is to revisit what tasks might require military-style force, such as dealing with violent crimes, and where funds might better be reallocated to preventative programs, such as community enrichment and education initiatives.


So, too, is it time for a change in how we protect the planet’s most vulnerable creatures. There is proven evidence that shows how nonviolent and community-oriented enforcement methods can be used to stop excessive violence of wildlife crime. Founded in 2009, the International Anti-poaching Foundation aims to use community-driven conservation programs to empower underprivileged women and rely on indigenous leadership to protect national parks and endangered species. This kind of collaborative societal and communal protection of endangered species has both benefited communities surrounding national parks and has given jobs to local people. It is just one example of a peaceful enforcement technique that has empowered and encouraged growth around the idea of community collaboration.


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