Visionary Science, Ethics, Law and Action in the Public Interest

Law for the Ecological Age

Science In The Courts

It is revolting to have no better reason for a rule of law than that so it was laid down in the time of Henry IV.
Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability and beauty of the biotic community.
Aldo Leopold

Our current American legal system was designed for a different world. In the Industrial Age of the 19th and early 20th centuries, the Earth’s resources seemed endless. The law was intentionally structured to promote economic activity even if it caused environmental damage, since the benefits of economic growth were believed to outweigh the costs.

As human activity has grown so tremendously, however, we have discovered the limits of the Earth. We now find that natural resources are finite. Pollution and other environmental damage are harming people and eliminating species, degrading ecological systems, and changing the global climate. In this 21st century, we are beginning to pay dearly with our health and environment for our destructive industrial practices. We see now that we are capable of destroying our only home.

At the Science & Environmental Health Network, we believe we must alter our course. Under our democratic system, the law is required to promote the public welfare, now and for future generations. To do this in our current Ecological Age, the law must be transformed to recognize that we must live within the ecological constraints of the Earth.

Our legal code should reward healthy, sustainable economic activity and treat all people and species as neighbors: integral parts of the Earth’s ecological systems. It must also honor and uphold our nation’s historic commitment to equal rights and justice for all.

We have created these web pages on Law for the Ecological Age as a resource for allies. Here you will find ideas about transforming the law to promote the long-term welfare and health of the Earth and her inhabitants–implementing the precautionary principle and environmental justice, incorporating the interests of future generations, accounting for cumulative impacts to overburdened communities, abiding by the Public Trust Doctrine, shifting the burden of proof, and more. We have also included tools that may be freely used for making change happen.

We welcome your feedback to moreinfo (at)

Civic Innovation: Realigning the Law with Justice (May 2015 Networker)

SEHN Networker Volume 20 (5) May, 2015
Civic Innovation: Realigning the Law with Justice


Walking the property line: eminent domain and the U.S. oil and gas rush   


Editor’s note:
Some of the first stories my parents read to me were Beatrix Potter’s fables. Did you know that several of Potter’s tales originated from letters or oral stories she shared with children she was close with? She was also an avid naturalist and conservationist. On her death, she left 4,000 acres to the National Trust.

Copyright: Oleg Golovnev /

Copyright: Oleg Golovnev /

Potter’s love for nature was told through her Arcadian fables for children she loved. Stories now told to children who love her natural world but know very little nature [1]. Many children will only know the vast majority of wilderness, wild animals, flora and fauna through stories.

How will we tell children the story of allowing 7.5 million acres (three Yellowstone’s worth) of land stripped bare by U.S. drilling? Of the next million acres? What number is too many? How far down the path of global warming have we gone, and how much further can we safely go?

Continue Reading Here . . .

In response to the U.S. oil and gas rush, an offering of legal principles 

In this May, 2015 Issue of The Networker, the Science & Environmental Health Network and the Women’s Congress for Future Generations offers a set of Some Legal Principles for Mining, Fracking, and Pipelines to serve as one basis for organizing.

Why have legal principles? The intent of these principles is to provide common talking points, a common legal agenda, and an entry point for organizing.

Pipeline in DesertWe invite you to:

Read and Sign On to these Legal Principles.

Take the Legal Principles into your community, and use them in your organizing

We do this work with the assumption that if we can stop a multi-state pipeline in one jurisdiction, we can possibly stop the whole pipeline; and if we can stop one pipeline, we are more likely to shut down tar sands and fracking for gas and oil. To do this, each grassroots group should not have to start from zero.

We invite you to help us continue this work in 2015

Upcoming Events

Visioning to the Seventh Generation
May 21, 2015 

Keynotes by:
Tom Goldtooth
(Dine’ and Dakota) Executive Director of the Indigenous Environmental Network.

Carolyn Raffensperger
Founder, Women’s Congress for Future Generations; Executive Director, Science and Environmental Health Network (SEHN)

Where: Carondelet Center, 1890 Randolph Ave, St. Paul, MN.

When: Thursday, May 21, 6:00pm – 8:30pm

This event is free and open to the public. For information visit here

 Tom Goldtooth and Carolyn Raffensperger



Governance of Emerging Technologies: Law, Policy and Ethics Conference
May 26-28, 2015  

Carolyn Raffensperger, Executive Director (SEHN)
Plenary Session II: Inter-Generational Equity and Emerging Technologies

Where: Sandra Day I’Connor College of Law, Arizona State University,Scottsdale, Arizona.

When: Conference held May 26-28
Plenary Session II held Tuesday, May 26th 4:00-5:30pm.

Registration is open: Register Here

 Gov of Emerg Tech Conf Logo



A Story of Developmental Disability, A Story of Health
June 11, 2015 

Ted Schettler, Science Director (SEHN and CHE)
The Influence of Environmental Exposures and Opportunities for Prevention

Where: Public conference call line

When: Thursday June 11, 2015, 10am PT / 1pm ET

Registration is free and open to the public. Register Here

 A Story of Health cover

Big ideas. Feet on the Ground

Learn more about our community work in 2015!











Dear friend,

Our work at SEHN is diverse and complex. We’re a grassroots think-tank, moving new ideas about ecology and future generations into mainstream conversations about law, science, and medicine.

But the work that we value the most is our work with and alongside you – concerned citizens, grassroots activists, parents, and earth guardians of all stripes.

We do our best work in partnership with community groups, where we can put our ideas into practice together.

Today we invite you to learn more about this work, and help us continue to provide this crucial, collaborative support in 2015.

20 years ago, SEHN took a little known ethical principle called the precautionary principle, and made it into a powerful and enduring tool that communities and governments use to take action and prevent harm, even without absolute proof of causation.

Since those auspicious beginnings, SEHN has supported countless local grassroots groups by sharing its expertise in law, science and innovative policy – through intensive local workshops, factsheets and workbooks, and guidance and technical assistance.

We call this improvisational law and policy. Our goal is to change the rules of the game, so that future generations have a shot at inheriting a livable planet.  

Each community is faced with unique opportunities and challenges. We tailor big head-lining ideas – like the precautionary principle, law for the ecological age, the public trust doctrine, guardianship of future generations, cumulative impacts, and so many more – to the community and their needs.

This coming year we will:

  • Build and strengthen partnerships with organizations that are fighting pipelines and mining or fracking.
  • Circulate a Kitchen Table Study Guide, that local activists can use with their neighbors to work through game changing ideas and apply them to the threats to their land, water and health. We’ll also run pilot projects with our Study Guide, among community leaders from the 2014 Women’s Congress.
  • Continue to ride the circuits, spending a significant amount of time meeting with activists across the US to help them change the terms of the debate, and mount successful campaigns.

With your help, SEHN can step into 2015 ready to stand with more grassroots groups. With your support, we can continue to champion game-changing ideas within broad social movements. And with your participation, we can work smarter to rebuild the structures that order our society, in service of future generations.

Thank you for supporting SEHN this year!

With gratitude,
Carolyn Raffensperger
Executive Director, SEHN

Nature’s Trust Call with Mary Wood, Carolyn Raffensperger & Joe Guth

On February 4th, Mary Wood, professor at the University of Oregon School of Law discussed her new book, Nature’s Trust: Environmental Law for a New Ecological Age. Joseph Guth, PhD, JD, former legal director of the Science & Environmental Health Network, and Carolyn Raffensperger, executive director of the Science & Environmental Health Network, participated in a discussion with Professor Wood about environmental law, future generations work and the intersection with the commons. For more information and to hear the MP3 recording, please click here.

Body Burden

Every one of us carries residue in our bodies from exposures to man-made chemicals – exposures we never consented to. Even babies are born with traces of chemicals in their umbilical cord blood. In order to understand what chemicals we are exposed to and what effects they are having in our bodies, the science of bio-monitoring, or body burden studies, is emerging.

Senate Bill No. 1379

An act to add Chapter 8 (commencing with Section 105440) to Part 5 of Division 103 of the Health and Safety Code, relating to public health.

The chaptered bill in PDF format.

On December 11, participants in the Boston Consensus Conference on Biomonitoring presented their consensus statement. This event was the culmination of 2 1/2 months of hard work by a group of 14 Boston-area residents who met over three weekends in Fall 2006 to learn about and consider issues related to biomonitoring, and to have their questions answered by national experts. The results of their deliberations present an important opportunity to provide public input on the topic to policymakers, researchers, advocacy groups, and others. 

The Consensus statement in PDF format.