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The Spring Creek Project is honored to announce that we will be co-organizing the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal on Human Rights, Fracking and Climate Change. This historic, international tribunal will take place virtually via conferencing software from May 14 to 18, 2018.
The pockmarks of fracking pads are spreading around the world — from redrock canyons to rainforests, from farmsteads to suburbs. The effects are becoming clearer and more fully documented: poisoned water, bulldozed landscapes, sickened children, displaced families, lost livelihoods, greenhouse gas pollution, earthquakes. But as the scientific understanding of fracking’s effects increases, the essential question that remains is a moral and legal one: To what extent does the harm caused by hydraulic fracturing constitute a breach of human rights?
To clarify the human-rights impacts of fracking and to affirm international standards of human rights obligations, the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal has scheduled a week-long Session to address this question.
The Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal (PPT) is an influential, international human-rights forum that evolved from the Russell-Sartre Tribunal created to determine whether breaches of human rights norms occurred during the Vietnam War. Since 1979, it has conducted 42 high-profile hearings, including on Bhopal, Chernobyl, and other sites around the world, to determine whether human-rights standards were abridged. The tribunals have demonstrated that the dictates of public conscience can become a recognized source of law to clarify the human-rights obligations of States and non-state actors.
During the Tribunal on Human Rights, Fracking and Climate Change, attorneys with expertise in human rights law will present the PPT’s panel of judges with evidence and testimony from both expert witnesses and those who have felt the effects of fracking first-hand. The judges will then be asked to provide an advisory opinion.
Because the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal functions independently of any State authority, its rulings alone do not automatically carry the weight of law and cannot compel behavior of corporations who practice fracking or the States that allow it. What, then, is the point of the Tribunal? Kathleen Dean Moore, author and Spring Creek Project Senior Fellow, writes, “The point is that it matters to tell the truth in a public space.” The Tribunal will organize evidence and testimony that amplifies the voices of otherwise silenced victims. In addition, the ruling may also be used as a precedent in legal proceedings later taken against corporations or State actors that undermine human rights norms through fracking or other climate-change-inducing actions.
Because the Tribunal is global in scope, many people around the world will have the opportunity to become involved, whether as a witness or a viewer. Here are ways you can participate:
1. Provide Witness Testimony. In preparation for the Tribunal, testimony is being gathered from those who have experienced the impacts of fracking. Anyone in the world can contribute their stories as testimony by the end of February 2018. Testimony could take many different shapes. It could be written or recorded; it could be a document, video, or photo; and it could be as brief or as elaborate as you wish. If you have testimony to share, we invite you to do so online through the Tribunal’s Witness Testimony page.
2. Hold a Pre-Tribunal. If you feel like your community has more to offer, you could organize a pre-PPT tribunal. Hosting one of these tribunals is an opportunity to empower your community to share their stories and make their own judgment. They have already been held in Athens, Ohio; Youngstown, Ohio; and Charlottesville, Virginia. To gather ideas about how you might structure a pre-tribunal, you can view footage from the Charlottesville mini-tribunal. For more details on organizing such an event, visit the Tribunal’s guidelines.
3. Watch the Tribunal Live. The judges and attorneys will be participating from around the world, convening through Zoom conferencing software. This is the first Tribunal to be held virtually, meaning a larger audience than ever before can follow along with the proceedings in real time. To access the live feed, check the Spring Creek Project website as we get closer to the start of the Tribunal on May 14, 2018.
4. Host a Community Viewing of the Live-Streamed Tribunal. You or your organization could arrange a live-streamed screening of the proceedings in your community. You could include a discussion period after the live screening to share reactions and ideas.
5. Attend the Kick-Off Keynote. The opening day of the Tribunal, May 14, ecologist and author Sandra Steingraber will give a keynote lecture at the Whiteside Theatre in Corvallis, Oregon, at 7:00 p.m. on the topic of human rights and fracking. If you live in the Corvallis area, please join us. The lecture is free and open to the public.
6. Spread the Word. We hope the Tribunal will help spark conversations and action about human rights, fracking and climate change around the world. Please help us spread the word by sharing this article with friends and on social media.
To learn more and stay up to date, join the Spring Creek Project listserv, follow Spring Creek Project’s Facebook page, visit the Tribunal on Human Rights and Fracking website, and follow the Tribunal’s Facebook page.
Photo courtesy of The Filmmaker Fund. This event is being organized in partnership with the Environmental and Human Rights Advisory and with Oregon State University's Environmental Arts and Humanities Initiative.