An activist, attorney and author is coming to the Coeur d’Alene Public Library to discuss environmental preservation through constitutional change tonight.
Maya K. Van Rossum is the author of “The Green Amendment: Securing Our Right To A Healthy Environment,” which promotes a constitutional process rather than legislative efforts to implement legal environmental protections. The book has helped promote a state-by-state push called the Green Amendment Movement, which advocates for the inclusion of environmental rights at the state level.
“People often say, ‘We have the right to clean air or clean water,’” Van Rossum said. “Often times, people are struck by the realization they don’t actually have those rights. The vast majority of states actually have no language in their constitutions affording their citizens those basic rights. Here in Idaho, and across the nation, right now, you do not have a right to a healthy environment.”
Van Rossum has been on a state-by-state push to encourage Green Amendment Movements, which she contends can carry more force than legislative attempts to protect the environment.
“Laws are written to accept pollution as a necessary evil,” she said. “So we permit it. But we’re never really focusing on preventing it through legislative means. Having a constitutional right to a healthy environment should be just as important as Idahoans as our right to free speech, our right to worship, our gun rights, our basic liberties ... Keeping it in this context changes the mindset of the people to a more proactive approach.”
Suzanne Marshall, a member of the Kootenai Environmental Alliance and organizer of Van Rossum’s symposium at the library, said Van Rossum’s voice was one worth listening to.
“Her goal is to show how a Green Amendment in our constitution can help all Idahoans,” Marshall said. “It’s important to get someone new and different out here, so we can hear some new insights. I think people really want to hear her ideas.”
During the symposium, Van Rossum will speak about the experience two states have seen while embracing the Green Movement — before leading a roundtable discussion.
“We need to do this on a state level first,” she said, “because state governments apply on a transformational level, so much more than on a federal level ... I expect each state will do it a little differently, because each state has its own personality, and Idaho, I’m sure, is no exception. My goal is to help people visualize on their own what a Green Amendment in Idaho would look like.”
The symposium begins at 6 p.m. The library is at 702 E. Front Ave.