We are a group committed to protecting the Salish Sea by advancing a Rights of the Salish Sea Proclamation this fall to be followed by a legally binding initiative on the 2020 ballot.

We believe that recognition of the inherent rights of the Salish Sea to survive, thrive and regenerate its life cycles is critical to reshaping our relationship with this ecosystem.

Headlines this week have been stark. A BBC article led with “Humans threaten 1 million species with extinction.” It’s a headline that burrows into the brain and emerges from the heart in a tangle of grief and fear. It disturbs the world community’s sleep like an alarm that has no snooze button. A million species.

Looking for deliverance, the report goes on: “These trends can be halted, the study says, but it will take ‘transformative change’ in every aspect of how humans interact with nature.”

Paired with the UN report that generated these headlines, the efforts of our group, Community Rights San Juan Islands (CRSJI), can feel small and slow. An initiative that recognizes the Rights of the Salish Sea, if passed, would likely be challenged.

This spring, the city of Toledo passed the Lake Erie Bill of Rights with 61% of the vote. There, toxic algae blooms linked to industrial agriculture left the city without drinkable water several times over the years. The day after the vote, the Lake Erie Bill of Rights was challenged by a lawsuit. This week, it got hit again. It’s no secret that monied interests fight and often succeed against community efforts to protect water, land, air — in essence, a livable future for all, humans and non-humans.

So why bother?

The Rights of Nature movement challenges the long-held belief that humans sit at the top of a pyramid, all else beneath us, supporting us, a cornucopia of resources to be used at our disposal. This thinking has brought us waste, global warming and species collapse. It has driven CO2 levels above and beyond 415 parts per million. It has filled our oceans with plastics and poisoned our lakes and streams.

We’ve had it wrong and we must change. Now.

We are part of nature, woven inextricably into the web of life and utterly dependent on the strength of that web for our own survival. Imagine for a moment if our society had been built on the recognition of the inherent right of each one of those million species to survive and thrive. Would we have tipped so far into the crises before us now?

Does asserting the Rights of Nature offer us the “transformative change” mentioned in the BBC report?

We believe it does. Of course, it’s going to take all kinds of efforts to alter our course radically, but recognizing the right of all beings to survive can reset our thinking and begin to bring us back into balance. Don’t take our word for it. Try it out. Along the shoreline, in the forest, on the ferry, look around you and say, “I recognize your right to survive whole and healthy.”

Throughout the summer, look for CRSJI’s presence at farmers markets on Orcas, Lopez and in Friday Harbor.

We need folks from Orcas and San Juan Island to join us as we advance the Initiative. Please contact us if you’re interested, or if you have any questions: info@crsji.org. And check out our website and Facebook page. You can sign up for our mailing list on our contact page.