Laying Down the Law.

AuthorLueders, Bill
PositionThe Revolution Will Not Be Litigated: People Power and Legal Power in the 21st Century

The Revolution Will Not Be Litigated

Edited by Katie Redford and Mark Gevisser OR Books

384 pages

Publication date: April 25, 2023

A decade ago, while he was in jail for acts of civil disobedience involving an oil rig in the Greenlandic Arctic, climate activist Kumi Naidoo, then executive director of Greenpeace International, had a revelation: "If they can use the law against us, we can use the law against them," he told his colleagues.

At the time, the global environmental group with a hankering for nonviolent confrontation had a six-person legal department, focused mostly on its fleet of ships, defending against court actions, and getting people like Naidoo out of jail. He began wondering whether the law might also be deployed in "affirmative, offensive strategies to achieve our goals." Why couldn't climate activists "do to the fossil-fuel industry what the anti-tobacco lobby did to the tobacco industry?" Greenpeace branched out into filing actions, not just taking them.

Ka Hsaw Wa, an activist in Burma (Myanmar), had a similar revelation in 1994, during a conversation he witnessed between a student activist and a U.S. law student working as a summer intern for a human rights group. The student activist, dismayed by the ongoing brutal repression surrounding the laying of a gas pipeline, said: "We've done everything else, and they still ignore us, and our people keep suffering. Why would it be illegal if we just blew up the pipeline?"

The law student, Katie Redford, replied, "We can blow the pipeline up, by using the law itself as our weapon."

These are some of the many stories and conversations told in the new book The Revolution Will Not Be Litigated, co-edited by Redford, who went on to head EarthRights International and the Equation Campaign, and South African journalist and author Mark Gevisser. The collection brings together more than two dozen contributors from around the world to reflect on various aspects of the role of lawyers and the law in fighting for social justice. Most wrote short essays; a few were interviewed.

Actor and activist Jane Fonda, in the book's foreword, hails its contributors as "all doers, people who have acted bravely to change the world. But they have come to understand, as I have, how public advocacy is nine-tenths of any struggle--and that storytelling is what drives any public advocacy campaign." The book's recurring credo, cited by Fonda, is that

"it takes a lawyer, an activist, and a storyteller to...

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