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Discover your connection to the natural world at Middlebury talk

MIDDLEBURY — On Friday Feb. 16, community residents have an opportunity to explore two potentially transformative concepts: the personhood of the natural world, and the development of legal rights for nature. An evening community forum at the Congregational Church of Middlebury will explore how millennia-old beliefs of Native Americans could transform the consciousness of 21st century people, and together we will examine how we can apply this worldview to environmental law and policy.
After the U.S. Supreme Court Decision on Citizens United (2010) gave legal personhood to corporations, many people felt the scales of justice tipping toward exploitation rather than restoration of the natural world.  However, as has successfully been done in several countries, innovative legal activists and policy makers have launched initiatives to grant “personhood” status to rivers and other elements of the natural realm, so that they have legal standing.
Robin Wall Kimmerer, Professor of Environmental Biology at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse, N.Y., will begin the evening with a talk that will then lead into community discussion. Professor Kimmerer’s Native American storytelling, publications and online videos provide highly accessible pathways for discovering and recovering our human capacity to listen to, learn from, and extend justice to the world of nature. Her books, “Gathering Moss: A Natural and Cultural history of Mosses” and “Braiding Sweetgrass:  Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teaching of Plants,” eloquently combine her knowledge of indigenous wisdom and her scientific background.
The evening event is designed to begin the process of exploration and to offer guidance on how to more deeply connect to the natural world, both as an act of spiritual renewal and as a stepping stone to more effective environmental problem solving. “Restoring the Balance: Environmental Personhood and the Rights of Nature” will be held on Friday, Feb. 16, in Unity Hall at the Congregational Church of Middlebury, 30 North Pleasant St., beginning at 6:30 p.m., and is free and open to all. Light refreshments will be provided.

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