Earth Rights International

Over the summer I visited some inspiring NGOs active in South East Asia. One that inspired me and really made me think was Earth Rights International.

The organisation was started in Thailand by Ka Hsaw Wa, at that time a Burmese refugee, and US lawyer Katharine Redford who, while teaching English, heard about human rights abuses connected to a Unocal oil pipe line.

Check out this video to get a better sense of what they’re doing.

I think they made such an impression for two reasons:

1) The work was immediately relevant to all the major challenges others were telling me about across the region. Those issues are about the loss of livelihood, threats to food security and destruction of environments. These issues are at once specific to each country and the region and when it comes to the loss of fresh water in the world’s biggest rice growing area then it also becomes about all of us.

Here’s a picture of me Kayaking the Mekong in Laos. Laos is planning on becoming the battery of South East Asia by creating several dams and hydro power stations on the Mekong – this will result in a loss of land, culture and food production for an unknown number of people.

2) They are so effectively linking earth rights and human rights. All too often, in my world, human well-being gets separated from environmental well-being and that has many detrimental consequences. I suspect this is in part because development patterns have traditionally relied on that false separation, and now in New Zealand we’ve reached a certain level of ‘development’ that means it has become harder to go back to fundamentals.

Yet when we listen to Te Whānau a Apanui or the communities around the mines in Coromandel we hear the links being made. I would like to see and hear those links being made more strongly and more often. I’m keen to listen more and make those links myself more.

I’d be really interested in any stories you have locally or globally.

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