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2020 Newsletter

December 2020 Newsletter

Reflections From Our Founder:
Green Amendments, Rights of Nature, Youth Climate Litigation & the Green New Deal

Different Concepts With Different Impacts But Is One More Powerful?

Green Amendments For The Generations is unique, but some wonder if it is another form of the Rights of Nature movement, ask how it compares to Youth-led Climate Litigation, or confuse it with the Congressionally discussed Green New Deal. While each of these initiatives are important, they are distinctly different.

Of the 3 pathways, only Green Amendments provide generational protection, can help end environmental racism and sacrifice zones, provide a tool for indigenous communities to protect their sacred lands and natural beliefs; and address the broad range of environmental issues in need of protection including water, air, flora, fauna, climate and ecosystems.

You can read my full assessment of the differences here, but by way of brief overview:

The Rights of Nature movement seeks to ensure that nature itself has a right to go to court to secure enforcement of existing environmental protection laws, while Green Amendments strengthen the ability of people to address violations of environmental laws on the books. But in addition, Green Amendments fill the gaps where environmental laws are absent or miss the mark; they require equitable treatment of all people regardless of race, ethnicity or income; they make clear the obligation of government to proactively protect natural resources for the benefit of all people and generations, and mandate informed government decisionmaking including consideration of applicable science.

Youth Climate Litigation seeks court decisions that read climate justice and rights into existing federal and state constitutional or legal language. Because available constitutional and legal doctrines are not clearly on point, judges are asked to stretch and mold legal concepts, language and laws to fit a scenario that they do not obviously cover. While these legal actions have inspired a wave of youth environmental activism that is incredibly important, the cases themselves are not yielding the legal victories essential for climate and youth justice. Green Amendments address generational climate justice and a broad array of environmental issues in need of increased protection in addition to providing powerful legal grounding for ending environmental racism. The beauty of a Green Amendment is that we don’t have to hope the judges will read into existing law the increased environmental protections and rights we need and seek; instead, Green Amendments tell the judges how they must read the law if they want to comply with their judicial and constitutional obligations.

After our Green Amendment movement gained its name and increased traction in multiple states, the Green New Deal was launched. While it was disappointing that the creators of this program used such a similar sounding name, the two initiatives couldn’t be any more different. In short, the Green New Deal contains aspirational good government programs designed to encourage environmental protection and social justice; the Green Amendment is enforceable constitutional law that recognizes and legally protects the inalienable rights of all people to pure water, clean air, a stable climate and healthy environments and all of the health, social, safety, economic, justice, and quality of life benefits healthy environments provide.

As an advocate and attorney with nearly 30 years of experience fighting for the environment and communities, I believe the most powerful, transformational and ultimately successful pathway for prioritizing environmental protection across our nation and for ultimately ending environmental racism, is our Green Amendments For The Generations movement.

-Maya van Rossum, Founder of Green Amendments For The Generations

Spotlight Story

GAFTG, with the help of partners across the country, successfully launched a brand new Green Amendment leadership training program called, Getting Up to Speed to Lead. Over 50 volunteers from 7 states participated in this training, eager to become Green Amendment Leaders and take the knowledge and skills they learned onward into their communities to advance a Green Amendment Movement. We had an exceptional interest in both New Jersey (18 participants) and in New Mexico (20 participants), together making up 75% of our Green Amendment trainees. If you’re interested in our next installment of this training program, email

News from Across the Green Amendment Movement

  • Reflections on Stories from New Mexico: Part 3 – Maya took time to reflect on the people she met and the stories she heard during the last leg of her October trip to New Mexico, in which she completed important interviews for Part 3 of the PBS Series: Here’s The Story: The Green Amendment.
  • On November 18th GAFTG helped organize a legislator briefing hosted by NM legislators Senator Antoinette Sedillo Lopez, Senator Bill Soules, Senator Mimi Stewart, and Representative Joanne Ferrary who spoke to NM environmental, indigenous and community leaders about the NM Green Amendment, why they are advancing it and how it can provide a pathway to environmental protection for New Mexico. We had 54 participants who were all actively engaged.
  • Maya and Emma Rose Cohen, the Founder of Final, the company that makes Final Straw, went LIVE on Instagram to discuss environmental issues, innovative solutions and the power of a Green Amendment!
  • Retake Our Democracy has prioritized the Green Amendment bill (to be proposed in the upcoming legislature in New Mexico) as a Transformational Bill. Retake Our Democracy is a volunteer-based organization committed to building power in their community to ultimately create social, racial, environmental and economic justice at local, state and national levels, and is part of our NM Green Amendment steering committee.
  • Check out these two recent press articles covering the Green Amendment: “Should the Right To A Clean Environment Be In Constitution?” discusses a lively Zoom meeting with Maya and Manchester NJ’s Environmental Commission on the topic of a NJ Green Amendment. Land Witness Project Encourages Activism to Slow Climate Change features Beata Tsosie-Peña who believes that simple respect for the land, the water, and the people, is central to solving the environmental challenges of our time and offers support for the NM Green Amendment.
  • GAFTG partnered with to host a virtual art show and year end fundraiser on December 6th that dove into the intersection of art and environmental advocacy and how the two can help advance each other. You can still explore and download digital art for a donation that will directly support GAFTG until the end of day today, December 9th at midnight. If you’d like to support our year end fundraiser without a digital art download, you can do so here.

Upcoming Events

Getting up to Speed to Lead: Green Amendment Leadership Training
Session 4: December 16, 6:00pm ET / 4:00pm MT

Agriculture, Engagement & Solutions Virtual Summit: Green Amendment Session
December 11, 2:00-4:00pm ET

Long Beach Island’s Foundation of Arts and Sciences’ Fall 2020 Science Saturday
December 12, 11:00am – 12:30pm ET