Archive for April, 2014

So there’s a book called Wild Law: A Manifesto for Earth Justice.  It was written by Cormac Cullinan, a leader of the ‘Wild Law’ movement, an offshoot (forgive the eco pun) of Earth Law, an even more well-known movement advocating for the rights of Nature.

Cormac’s conception of wild law is about observing and honoring the processes of Nature (yes, with a capital ‘n’) in our legal codes, but moreover, using these processes that naturally occur at every level of life on our planet, as models as far as how our own approaches to justice and governance in general might be able to work.

Cullinan is South African, but his work is applicable to any culture and society that wants to find ways of integrating “our” needs and those of “the environment.”  If you’re curious or inspired enough to hear more about wild and earth law, let me know – I’m psyched to write more about it!  But for now, I bring it up because it’s a way of contextualizing the experience I had this weekend.

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A handful of 1Ls and I have founded an Environment and Animal Law Society at our law school.  Part of our mission is to expand students’ awareness of not only environmental and animal rights issues on paper, but to provide an opportunity for people to connect with these issues in an embodied way.  We want to grow our knowledge and our capacity to act in a way that is grounded in the physical experience of these issues as they play out daily in our world.  This weekend we held our first event, which was a trip to the North Carolina Raptor Center.

The NC Raptor Center is renowned for the care it provides to so many trafficked and abused birds, but it’s also a fantastic spot for visiting to bolster your sense of connection to these creatures, and through that, become more enlightened as far as understanding the challenges they, and we as their stewards, face.  It’s a great place to enjoy Nature (again, with a capital ‘n’) and engage in volunteer work that’s gratifying.  It also literally gave us common ground on which we could stand to communicate about our views and ideas for change.

 

This is a memo I wrote for my Business Associations class this semester.  We don’t cover b or benefit corps in our curriculum…

I. ISSUE: Profit In Dollars For a Few Over Everything and Everyone Else  

 In corporation law, the conduct of corporations is governed by fiduciary duties that officers of a company owe to their shareholders. Traditionally, these duties revolve around maximizing monetary profit for shareholders and monetary profit for shareholders alone. Considerations of societal impact and/or environmental impact are not deemed reasonable factors in the decision-making of a company if monetary profit for shareholders will lessen, even a little bit. The problem with this is that legally, corporations must put profits for a few over the interests of the rest of society, and the planet.

Concepts such as a “triple bottom line” under this paradigm must remain a dream because officers of corporations may be found guilty of violating their fiduciary duties should they try to engage in business practices that value the interests of society or the environment at even minimal cost to their profit margins.

II. ANALYSIS: Alternatives to Traditional Corporation Filing Status as a Solution to Profit for a Few Over the Rest

  1. B Corps & FPCs – What Are They and How Can They Help?

B Corps are business entities that are certified by third parties specializing in evaluating whether or not companies meet various standards. These standards hinge on social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency.[1] Currently, more than 950 b corps exist in 32 countries and 60 industries.[2]

One issue that’s come up in the realm of b corps is that of ‘greenwashing,’ something that has happened in the whole foods industry. Greenwashing occurs when third parties, such as those responsible for certifying fair trade or organic business practices, create markets within markets whereby the integrity of their certifications become compromised due to overuse of their certifications for a profit. The irony of greenwashing in a b corp certification industry seems clear; this practice directly contradicts the purpose of corporations gaining a b status in the first place.[3]

There are, however, alternatives to the b corp alternative that exist. These include flexible purpose corporations, which is a filing status available to corporations based in California. The difference between an FPC and a traditional corporation is that the business can elect to give weight to factors such as societal and environmental impact when officers of an FPC are fulfilling their fiduciary duties.[4] The difference between an FPC and a b corp, however, is that with a b corp these considerations must shape the decisions of an organization.

The benefits to society and the planet are obvious in regard to these types of business entities. The benefits to the organizations themselves, however, are less obvious.

Tax breaks, which one might presume are available to these corporations, are not (at least currently). Instead, there is an element of community to this movement, and resources in terms of information and business support are provided to organizations that take these designations and certifications. The idea is that these businesses will be contributing in a sustainable way to the marketplace at large, and in so doing, will build and preserve sustainability for their enterprises as well. [5]

There is also an ideological underpinning to businesses deciding to join this movement. They are committing resources to a model of progress that runs counter to many of the principles that have traditionally undergirded the American financial market, and at this juncture in time, the global market as well.

Another option that serves many businesses even better than either the b corp or FPC models is the benefit corporation.

  1. Benefit Corporations – What Are They and How Do They Help?

Benefit Corporations accomplish what b corps do in terms of re-defining fiduciary duty and allowing for more social responsibility in corporate culture. However, these organizations are different because in the states where they are permitted, these businesses are required by law to uphold a duty of care beyond their bottom line. They are in essence compelled to respect a triple bottom line, and their officers are thus protected from liability should their profits fall below the maximum level they might otherwise reach.[6] (In contrast, b corps receive certification provided they function this way, but they are not legally bound to this new form of fiduciary duty.)

Currently, statutes in seven states permit benefit corporations, with legislation pending or in the process of being introduced in 11 states (North Carolina being one).[7] Companies such as Patagonia and Fast Co are examples of businesses that have taken advantage of this option.[8] To qualify, these firms must:

… have an explicit social or environmental mission, and a legally binding fiduciary responsibility to take into account the interests of workers, the community and the environment as well as [their] shareholders. [They] must also publish independently verified reports on its social and environmental impact alongside its financial results. Other than that, [they] can go about business as usual.[9]

III. CONCLUSION:

Benefit Corporations are gaining popularity in the marketplace because they both promote social responsibility and offer legal protection for companies that seek to act as stewards of our economy. B corps offer similar opportunities and protection, albeit not the same level. And flexible business corporations offer something along these lines as well.   Ultimately, these models offer alternatives to a concept of fiduciary duty that promotes recklessness and exploitation, and much to the surprise of the mainstream business community, they are rapidly picking up steam.

[1] http://www.bcorporation.net/what-are-b-corps

[2] Id.

[3] See http://www.benefitcorp.net/storage/documents/Benecit_Corporation_White_Paper_1_18_2013.pdf.

[4] http://www.hunton-law.com/journal/2012/11/30/contrasting-the-flexible-purpose-corporation.html

[5] Ben & Jerry’s, particularly to off-set the potential harm that may arise due to being bought out by Unilever, has acquired b-corp status in order to maintain some degree of control over its social and environmental impact . See http://www.forbes.com/sites/annefield/2012/10/22/ben-jerrys-poster-child-for-the-b-corp-movement-becomes-a-b-corp/.

[6] See http://benefitcorp.net/what-makes-benefit-corp-different/benefit-corp-vs-certified-b-corp.

[7] See http://www.bcorporation.net/become-a-b-corp/how-to-become-a-b-corp/legal-roadmap/corporation-legal-roadmap.

[8] See http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-01-04/patagonia-road-tests-new-sustainability-legal-status.html and http://www.fastcoexist.com/3024770/world-changing-ideas/a-public-company-will-become-a-benefit-corporation.

[9] http://www.economist.com/node/21542432

Cooling Breaths

Posted: April 20, 2014 in Videos, Wellness, Yoga
Tags: ,

Ahhh, the (his)tory of my feet..

[Inhale]

[Exhale]

[Deep breaths punctuate throughout]

This topic came up for a blog post when I heard something AMAZING the other day.  I was streaming a class from YogaGlo with Tara Judelle, and she said: establish relationships with each of your toes…Flexing+the+Lower+Legs...+-+2010

Something clicked.  Like, locked in from the tips of my toes up all the way to my shoulders.

Was in Down Dog at the time, & I could just feel my heels settle in and down, my knee muscles feeling bound super securely to the flesh of my legs and the tendons and even the few prickly hairs on the surface of my skin.  They all conjoined, with energy running up both legs into my hips & sacrum; shooting up my back, spiraling out in webs of fascia working to ease and relax my bones into proper alignment.

This is for me the experience of safe space.  And creating it starts by establishing a relationship with each of my toes…

IMG_0172 So today was an interesting day.

I attend Elon University School of Law, a recently established law school located in Greensboro, North Carolina.  Our parent organization is Elon University, a 150+ year old institution that is rare in the south.  This is due to its relatively progressive political orientation and the fact that it’s a small, private liberal arts school located south of the Mason-Dixon. As a Connecticut-bred Yankee with roots in Amherst, Massachusetts (I graduated from Hampshire College in 2006), I can attest that the culture ‘down here’ is different…

A New England snob I may be, but being such in North Carolina has brought a pride in this snobbery out — I now wear the badge proudly.  And this snobbery as I call it, or the knee-jerk liberalism that I carry around sometimes as a weapon of strength, sometimes as baggage, is something Elon University the undergrad institution seems to embrace.  In other words, I thought I felt comfortable there.  I thought I had found a bastion of progressivism that my law school has simply yet to embrace. And then the events of today transpired.

I was meeting with a talented young student who is advising me on some tech issues related to my blog.  The meeting did admittedly run a bit longer than I’d anticipated, and just as I was saying to him I felt it was time to return to my rescue Pit/love of my life, Madame (her full name is Madame Blavatsky), I received a call on my cell from a blocked number.  Turns out it was the police.  Not even rent-a-cops, but the police.  They’d received a report that a dog had been left in a car parked in the Visitor’s Lot for over an hour.  They were calling to inform that they had broken into my car and needed me to get out there so the car alarm could be turned off.

Why did they break into my car, you ask?  I was informed it is because of Susie’s Law, a piece of legislation passed by the NC legislature in 2009, which has the effect of making the abuse of animals a Class H Felony as opposed to the misdemeanor it was before.  [Language from the bill is below.  See http://animallawcoalition.com/nc-gov-perdue-signs-susies-law/ for more information.] Microsoft Word – S254v4.doc

SECTION 1. G.S. 14-360(a1) reads as rewritten: “(a1) If any person shall maliciously kill, or cause or procure to be killed, any animal by intentional deprivation of necessary sustenance, that person shall be guilty of a Class A1 misdemeanor. Class H felony.”

SECTION 2. G.S. 14-360(b) reads as rewritten: “(b) If any person shall maliciously torture, mutilate, maim, cuelly beat, disfigure, poison, or kill, or cause or procure to be tortured, mutilated, maimed, cruelly beaten, disfigured, poisoned, or killed, any animal, every such offender shall for every such offense be guilty of a Class I Class H felony…”

The police broke into my car because they used the Elon Law sticker on my bumper to look up my contact info and apparently entered the registration number incorrectly.  Frustrated when they couldn’t reach me at an erroneous number, they broke into my car and retrieved my actual cell number from Madame’s tags.  Thankfully, I received that call. Visibly shaken when I got to my car and after I asked what in God’s name was going on, the officers explained that they’d received a report that a dog had been in my car for over an hour.  They were apparently prepared to liberate my animal (really, Officer, you were planning to walk her without me?) and charge me with animal cruelty, now a felony offense.  So here we go…

A cursory glance into the car would have revealed that not only did Madame look happy waiting there for me, but half the water I’d left for her in her dish was still there!  She was not frothing, not panting, she was FINE.  And it wasn’t until the officers observed my dynamic with her and I pointed out the leftover water that they realized arresting me and confiscating my animal (or whatever they had planned) would be a mistake.  Oh yeah, my telling them I’m a law student at Elon who just co-founded an animal rights group may have also helped. These officers also informed me that pending legislation allows for ordinary citizens to actually break the windows of other citizens’ vehicles IF it is clear that an animal is in danger or distress and there is no way to reach the owner.  Again, really? I am ALL FOR animal protection — I am the owner of a pit bull who was used to fight for her first year and a half.

Madame isn’t safe around other animals, although she is incredibly sweet and safe with people.  I am very aware of the dangers facing animals as well as humans, in particular pit bulls, which Susie of Susie’s Law, is too.  But I was not torturing, maiming, or disfiguring my dog.  I was also not depriving it of necessary sustenance.  And the presumption that I was, to the extent that police broke into my car and would not have simply arrested me but may have taken away my animal, is very troubling. Whose rights are being protected here?

I’m okay with needing to give a little on the human side in exchange for better treatment of animals, but whom would today’s proposed actions by police have protected?  My dog and I would have both been traumatized if we’d been forcibly separated, and my work as an advocate FOR animals’ rights would have been compromised by a charge such as the one they’d have made under Susie’s Law.  Whose wellbeing was being protected today?  

When we hear about cases of children needing to be removed from their homes, it is very easy to judge, to say that this would only happen if parents were abusing or altogether neglecting their duties.  And yet, we know that difficult situations exist, and that sometimes ideal solutions don’t present themselves.  The hard part, I think, both in policy and in ‘real life’ is acknowledging that and getting off of our high horses enough to rationally analyze the whole situation.  Whose wellbeing is being advanced or preserved when a child, or an animal, is wrenched from the love of his or her family?  Whose lives are improved by forcing criminal records on pet owners who are actually law-abiding, very compassionate and responsible caregivers?

This is NOT what I understand Susie’s Law to have been about.  Moreover, what happened to me and to Madame today could happen to many in the state of North Carolina, potentially depriving pets and owners of their rights, as well as their wellbeing. To me the import here is not so much on blaming, although yes, I am still feeling angry(!).  It is instead that we need holistic training systems for police, so that when they go to enforce a very well-conceived piece of legislation, they are aware of the nuances and the impact of their ability to enforce those laws.  Autonomic undertaking of enforcement = violation of people’s and animal’s civil liberties.  And once that happens, it seems to me we are back in the land of violating human rights, which is the very point of legislation such as Susie’s Law.

More video how-to’s & mini-meditations to come soon, but for now, here’s a visual taste of what we’ll explore…  PS Intuitive anatomy drawing to come as well 🙂

Reflex Points of the HandsReflex Points of the Feet

Feeling & Drawing...What Happens When I RunAnatomy Self Portrait 1Study of Hands & Wrists

lungsSo earlier in the week I was told by a doctor that my current sinus issues are essentially caused by grief — that my lungs are having trouble clearing stuff because, well, of stuff…  I love the red and pink hues of this drawing, and the picture that it gives me of my own love/pain as it dwells in the organs of my own chest…  The one below I love because it speaks to a sense of dryness that takes over my chest sometimes too.  Together they remind me of what it means to be balanced…

Trachea