Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Coming For Earth Day! New Book By Franklin Kury Makes The Case For A Constitutional Right To A Healthy Environment

More than 50 years ago, Franklin L. Kury, newly elected to Pennsylvania’s House of Representatives, drafted and championed an Environmental Rights Amendment to the Pennsylvania Constitution. 

The amendment was enacted on Earth Day 1970 and ratified by Pennsylvania’s voters one year later. Forward-looking states like Hawaii and Montana followed suit, enacting strong environmental protections in their own state constitutions. 

But climate change has since become the overriding threat to the environment of the planet. In The Constitutional Question to Save the Planet: The Peoples’ Right to a Healthy Environment, to be released around Earth Day, Franklin Kury expands his story to demonstrate how such measures can be the basis for addressing climate change in the rest of the world.

“Climate change is a grave and imminent threat to life in the United States and the world. There are numerous proposals to stop it—from President Biden, Bill Gates, and others. But these proposals have a glaring omission—they fail to provide constitutional protection to the right to a healthy environment as a fundamental human right,” said Kury. 

“My book fills this omission by providing the needed constitutional provision. After all, what good are fundamental rights like freedom of speech and religion if people are suffering from climate change? 

“My book calls for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that gives permanence to the right to a healthy environment and places on government the obligation to secure it,” Kury added. 

“Equally important, this amendment would give people the right to seek judicial enforcement of that right if and when the government fails to protect it.”

Kury’s story humbly begins when Basse Beck, the manager of a local newspaper and radio station and staunch advocate for the environment, walks into Kury’s law office. 

From there, Kury quickly finds himself in the world of politics where he is a driving force behind Pennsylvania’s environmental revolution. 

Recognizing that his story cannot be told in the isolation of Pennsylvania politics, Kury gives readers an appreciation for the various forces in American history that led up to his environmental victory. 

The story closes with a call for the federal government’s leadership to seek a national environmental rights amendment to the U.S. Constitution and a treaty to expand its reach to the international community.

In his preface to the book, Tom Udall, U.S. Senator of New Mexico (2009-2021), writes, “Even now, as we face the existential crisis of climate change, . . . Congress has yet to pass legislation that truly takes on this threat. But it is an existential threat we face. And it’s with this threat in mind that Franklin now presses for an environmental amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the same type of amendment he pushed through in Pennsylvania, to protect our nation’s natural resources—our lands, waters, air, fish, and wildlife.”

Tom Ridge, Governor of Pennsylvania (1995-2001) said-- “Franklin Kury has given us the intriguing inside story of an important Pennsylvania le­gal, policy, and social development—the “Environmental Amendment” to our Consti­tution. . . . It will give scholars, historians, policymakers, and citizens alike important in­sights and good guidance for the next 50 years. For this book, and for his decades of wise environmental leadership and respected political activism, Frank deserves our thanks.”

Christine Todd Whitman, Governor of New Jersey (1994-2001) and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator (2001-2003)-- “Pennsylvania’s environmentalists, lawyers, and policymakers will enjoy this first-hand account of how their state elevated a clean environment to a constitutional right. But many others will ponder what their own states might do, and perhaps even rally around the bold case Franklin Kury makes here for a federal constitutional amend­ment. That would be a hard slog, but now that our national government is rebuilding its environmental conscience, what better time to start the discussion?”

Robert Casey, Jr., U.S. Senator of Pennsylvania-- “Franklin Kury’s work is essential to support the continued and collective effort to en­sure the right to a safe and healthy environment. The Constitutional Question to Save the Planet provides not only a history lesson, but it also offers an essential road map for the future.”

Michael Blumm, Jeffrey Bain Faculty Scholar and Professor of Law at Lewis & Clark Law School--  “Franklin Kury’s book is the story of the evolution of a pioneering constitutional provision that, although nearly forgotten for most of a half century, now through judicial reinterpretation, offers the nation and the world a promise of an envi­ronmental commitment that could save the planet over the next half century. How this commitment came to be is the subject of Kury’s firsthand account, and both the language of the Environmental Rights Amendment and the interpreta­tive lessons learned are worthy of widespread emulation.”

Larry J. Schweiger, Retired President of National Wildlife Federation-- “America needs constitutional protections to safeguard our environment, includ­ing our climate system. Frank Kury sets forth a detailed and compelling case for a national environmental bill of rights amendment to our Constitution, and the need for every state to guarantee that all citizens have an environmental bill of rights . . . America cannot wall off from the impacts of the climate crisis because we are now suffering from inhumane heat, and losing entire cities to intense fires and extreme flooding. Kury presents a compelling case for overarch­ing constitutional protections in the face of the existential threats we face from climate change.”

Ann Carlson, Shirley Shapiro Professor of Environmental Law and Faculty Co-Director, Emmett Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, UCLA School of Law-- “The father of Pennsylvania’s potentially revolutionary constitutional right to a healthy environment tells the compelling story about the origin of the Environ­mental Amendment, its application in Pennsylvania, and how a similar consti­tutional right at the federal level could help us tackle the greatest environmental existential threat ever, climate change. A must-read for students of environmental politics and history.”

Shirley Anne Warshaw, Ph.D., Director, Fielding Center for Presidential Leadership Study, Gettysburg College--  “Protecting the environment, unquestionably the most important issue of our times as we deal with climate change, requires both a state and federal commitment. Pennsylvania, under the strategic leadership of Franklin Kury in his tenure in both the state house and senate, passed a constitutional amendment to do so. It is now time to add an amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Kury uses this well written and well documented book to explain the history of environmental activism at the state and national level, concluding that only the Twenty Eighth Amendment to the Constitution can ultimately protect our streams, our air, and our lands.”

For more information on the forthcoming book, visit the In The Constitutional Question to Save the Planet: The Peoples’ Right to a Healthy Environment webpage.  To arrange an interview with Franklin Kury, contact Rachel Jean-Baptiste, 202-558-3101 or send email to: jean-baptiste@eli.org.  

Related Articles - Environmental Rights Amendment:

-- Franklin Kury Previews Upcoming Book Celebrating 50th Anniversary Of PA’s Environmental Rights Amendment

-- WITF Documentary - Generations Yet To Come: Environmental Rights In PA

-- Bay Journal: PA’s Environmental Rights Amendment Grows Some Teeth

-- PA Environmental Council At 50: Securing Our Environmental Rights

-- The Environmental Amendment To The State Constitution By Franklin Kury

-- Review of Litigation Since 2017 PA Supreme Court Case Reinvigorating Environmental Rights Amendment

-- PA Supreme Court Declares Law Diverting Oil & Gas Lease Fund To General Fund Unconstitutional Under Environmental Rights Amendment  [2017]

Related Article This Week:

-- PA Parks & Forests Foundation Announces Haiku Poetry Contest On Natural Preservation To Honor PA Environmental Rights Amendment

[Posted: March 30, 2021]  PA Environment Digest

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