WWF's Conservation Innovation Awards

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Nothing is more powerful than effective legislation to save the environment

My solution to protecting the environment is design new laws called Fiduciary Legislation. These laws will bound all political and judicial leadership to a clear set of duty of care obligations.

Government is a trust structure owned by the citizens and its management are politicians and judges whose power has been conferred to them with an expectation that our elected leadership will do the right thing. 

Political leadership is in a vortex of conflicting interests. Destructive executive action too often operates under dubious circumstances. And facing those hidden mandates are environmentalists who so often face the doors of power being closed in their face from local councils right through to Cabinet ministers.  Only laws with clear intent offer protection to the weak and vulnerable. Well-resourced corporations with limitless budgets employ the best legal firepower to get what they want. Fiduciary legislation will counter that.

What conservation problem are you trying to solve?

Under the current system good ideas are too often ignored in favour of powerful corporations. Political leaders have the power to heal the damage done to our environment, but they don't have the will because of the lack of laws to hold them to account and perhaps hidden competing and conflicting loyalty. Fiduciary Legislation will offer anyone from someone trying to stop council spraying toxins that kill frogs through to persuading ministers to declare protective reserves.

How are you going to solve this conservation problem?

Fiduciary law as it currently stands in only available in an area of law known as equity and is both poorly crafted and underutilised. Yet it is a law where a person (politician or judge) has undertaken to act in the interest of another or conversely where one has communicated an expectation that another will act to protect or promote his or her interests. Fiduciary obligations typically apply when one party reposes a special trust and power leaving the public vulnerable to the actions of those with the power. Without it being legislated it leaves those in power authority to ignore harm to our environment. This proposal is to modernise democracy to the degree where political leadership are forced to actively protect what has been conferred to them to protect instead of ignoring the responsibilities of leadership. In simple terms this new law will allow power to be more horizontal than vertical where those at the top are untouchable.

What makes your idea new and unique?

I’m reminded of the old saying; “The buck stops with those at the top” and it is at the desks of governments and our courts where either we get protection or we are denied protection of our environment. This single law will set a new standard of duty of care from those in power and no one globally has ever attempted such an undertaking. They say leadership is about making others better as a result of your presence, and making it last in your absence. That is what good fiduciary law offers.

Who will use your idea, and how will they benefit?

Anyone could use this new law by lodging a complaint. Imagine if every criminal act required a victim to fund their own litigation to prosecute those who have harmed them. Well you don't do you, because with the Crime Act, the onus is for the Crown to act to undertake that task. Fiduciary law legislated, expanded to detail duty of care obligations will be a game changer.

What tasks or activities do you need investment for? How would you spend a $25,000 grant?

I would use the money to employ a small team of legal experts to draft fiduciary law into a workable, adoptable set of laws ready to be introduced as a private members bill for Parliament. People, media sit up when you have a document like that in your hand. I have put 16 years into thinking about how this law can be applied. Over the years I have employed some of the best legal minds from all over the globe but none to create a bill ready to present to parliament. The time is ready to modernise democracy by making those at the top accountable to a clear set of rules. Naturally the more we budget on this, the better the detail, the better the impact.

Are you a New Zealand citizen or resident?

YES

I have read and agree to the Crowdicity Terms of Use, the Conservation Innovation Awards 2016 Supplemental Terms and Conditions, and the Crowdicity Community Guidelines

YES

List five other ideas posted in the challenge that excite you. Why?

Monitoring of water quality within our water circulation network is critical. The protection of birds, eradication of wasps, trapping of destructive animals. Or addressing urban and rural runoff and leaching, and monitoring for carcinogenic herbicides and endocrine disrupting chemicals, nitrogen (both non source and natural), heavy metals, micro plastics, hydrocarbons, E. coli, precipitation, atmospheric deposition, drainage, seepage or hydrologic modification. Every person here making an entry has done so from passion so they all excite me.

How could you improve your idea?

By reminding us the words of Martin Luther King who once said that “Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable.” Protecting our environment reminds me of the sinking Titanic. While you seal one compartment, others are ripped open so despite efforts to save the ship, the ship will go down because the damage is over such a wide area. That's kind of what it's like working to save our environment yet as carers of the people our political leadership should be leading the rescues. This is why WWF needs to convey its critical we make our politicians and judges accountable to a new set of rules to do the right thing. Between fossil fuels and deforestation carnage we urgently need fiduciary legislation. We can make this a reality and force it onto our reluctant politicians by backdooring them via political parties by existing card carrying members voting it be adopted as new party policy.

edited on Oct 11, 2016 by Christopher Wingate

Christopher Wingate 6 months ago

For people to vote you need to register. That tab is somewhere here I am sorry for its design. Maybe push the vote tab first- Then wait for a confirmation email- then vote by pushing the thumb's up tab next to the total number of people who have already voted. Sorry for the long process. Breath in breath out.

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Wild about NZ Wildlife 6 months ago

We like the idea to protect our vulnerable environment with tools that are accessible to all who are interested from our communities.
Currently, the cost to community members to be involved in decision making processes like the EPA, is often to high (time and money). Effective legislation that takes a long term view should be prefered.
Great initiative!

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Christopher Wingate 6 months ago

Exactly. The legal process is only for the benefit of lawyers and so the longer it takes the better off law society members are. Lawyers have several serious conflicts of interest. - Their own income, their obligation to the bar association, their long term relationship with the judges, friendships with other lawyers, - all of which conflict with their duty of care ( fiduciary obligation) owed to their clients who are crying for justice.
The only party to solve these issues are the judges and the executive- namely Minister of Justice and Attorney General but they are also part of that law society circle. The very few politicians who want to discuss law process improvements are shut down and requests go no where. Politicians are also prohibited from discussing judicial outcomes under claims the separation of power doctrine prevents any discussions / interference.
Yet the entire purpose of separation of powers is so that the 3 hands on the power have the independence to carry out checks and balances of any of the other hands of power. So again we have the legal structure monopolising it's control. EPA, RMA redress, injunction applications, rules on evidence, legal process all caveat individuals fight for natural justice.
I've been looking at this problem for some 30 years and I've looked at a multitude of avenues for redress and no matter how far I look it always comes back to the need to control those trusted in power.

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Paul Webster 6 months ago

Chris has put years of work and research into this issue and has what I believe is a really well thought out plan to a problem that is very prevalent but for the most part not recognised as even a problem.

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Christopher Wingate 6 months ago

Even though I am strong in favour of business I believe in reality rather than blind optimism- hence some are surprised to see my collection of authors like Chomsky and Pilger. But are smart guys who have been at the front lines of power and know the problems all of which surround a complete lack of accountability by those in power.
Below are some striking comments Chomsky has said which should make every thinking person sit up and take note- including the point you make that people aren't aware.

"The general public are not even aware of major decisions that will determine their fate, hence are in no position to influence them".

"The general population doesn't know what's happening, and it doesn't even know that it doesn't know."

“If the media were honest, they would say, Look, here are the interests we represent and this is the framework within which we look at things. This is our set of beliefs and commitments. That’s what they would say, very much as their critics say. For example, I don’t try to hide my commitments, and the Washington Post and New York Times shouldn’t do it either. However, they must do it, because this mask of balance and objectivity is a crucial part of the propaganda function. In fact, they actually go beyond that. They try to present themselves as adversarial to power, as subversive, digging away at powerful institutions and undermining them. The academic profession plays along with this game.”
What is the future likely to bring? A reasonable stance might be to try to look at the human species from the outside. So imagine that you're an extraterrestrial observer who is trying to figure out what's happening here or, for that matter, imagine you're an historian 100 years from now – assuming there are any historians 100 years from now, which is not obvious – and you're looking back at what's happening today. You'd see something quite remarkable.
For the first time in the history of the human species, we have clearly developed the capacity to destroy ourselves. That's been true since 1945. It's now being finally recognized that there are more long-term processes like environmental destruction leading in the same direction, maybe not to total destruction, but at least to the destruction of the capacity for a decent existence.
And there are other dangers like pandemics, which have to do with globalization and interaction. So there are processes underway and institutions right in place, like nuclear weapons systems, which could lead to a serious blow to, or maybe the termination of, an organized existence.
The question is: What are people doing about it? None of this is a secret. It's all perfectly open. In fact, you have to make an effort not to see it.
There have been a range of reactions. There are those who are trying hard to do something about these threats, and others who are acting to escalate them. If you look at who they are, this future historian or extraterrestrial observer would see something strange indeed. Trying to mitigate or overcome these threats are the least developed societies, the indigenous populations, or the remnants of them, tribal societies and first nations in Canada. They're not talking about nuclear war but environmental disaster, and they're really trying to do something about it.
In fact, all over the world – Australia, India, South America – there are battles going on, sometimes wars. In India, it's a major war over direct environmental destruction, with tribal societies trying to resist resource extraction operations that are extremely harmful locally, but also in their general consequences. In societies where indigenous populations have an influence, many are taking a strong stand. The strongest of any country with regard to global warming is in Bolivia, which has an indigenous majority and constitutional requirements that protect the "rights of nature."
Ecuador, which also has a large indigenous population, is the only oil exporter I know of where the government is seeking aid to help keep that oil in the ground, instead of producing and exporting it – and the ground is where it ought to be.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who died recently and was the object of mockery, insult, and hatred throughout the Western world, attended a session of the U.N. General Assembly a few years ago where he elicited all sorts of ridicule for calling George W. Bush a devil. He also gave a speech there that was quite interesting. Of course, Venezuela is a major oil producer. Oil is practically their whole gross domestic product. In that speech, he warned of the dangers of the overuse of fossil fuels and urged producer and consumer countries to get together and try to work out ways to reduce fossil fuel use. That was pretty amazing on the part of an oil producer. You know, he was part Indian, of indigenous background. Unlike the funny things he did, this aspect of his actions at the U.N. was never even reported.
So, at one extreme you have indigenous, tribal societies trying to stem the race to disaster. At the other extreme, the richest, most powerful societies in world history, like the United States and Canada, are racing full-speed ahead to destroy the environment as quickly as possible. Unlike Ecuador, and indigenous societies throughout the world, they want to extract every drop of hydrocarbons from the ground with all possible speed.
Both political parties, President Obama, the media, and the international press seem to be looking forward with great enthusiasm to what they call "a century of energy independence" for the United States. Energy independence is an almost meaningless concept, but put that aside. What they mean is: we'll have a century in which to maximize the use of fossil fuels and contribute to destroying the world.
And that's pretty much the case everywhere. Admittedly, when it comes to alternative energy development, Europe is doing something. Meanwhile, the United States, the richest and most powerful country in world history, is the only nation among perhaps 100 relevant ones that doesn't have a national policy for restricting the use of fossil fuels, that doesn't even have renewable energy targets. It's not because the population doesn't want it. Americans are pretty close to the international norm in their concern about global warming. It's institutional structures that block change. Business interests don't want it and they're overwhelmingly powerful in determining policy, so you get a big gap between opinion and policy on lots of issues, including this one.
So that's what the future historian – if there is one – would see. He might also read today's scientific journals. Just about every one you open has a more dire prediction than the last.
Noam Chomsky.

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Tatsuhiko Koyama 6 months ago

I voted on this proposal. I care for the environment, and it is a good idea that those who are in power be held accountable for their actions in regard to caring the earth. I have studied law in the United States, Japan, and New Zealand. His idea makes sense to me.

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Christopher Wingate 6 months ago

Thank you Mr Koyama, I am honoured to have your support sir.

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Dorothy Waenga Reardon 6 months ago

Christopher cares about the environment and his idea is a good one via using the law the right way

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Christopher Wingate 6 months ago

Kia ora Dorothy He taonga rongonui te aroha ki te tangata

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ARD 6 months ago

Fabulous work I just voted xo

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Christopher Wingate 6 months ago

Thank you :-)

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Lupo Wang 6 months ago

It's a good idea to save our environment, to force the politician protect not make the planet dying via a 'blind' way(ignore) .The way to push them to do responsibility on this is our responsibility and I believe that legislation is totally the best way to do it

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Christopher Wingate 6 months ago

Hi Lupo, wonderful to see your support here. I recall when we met camping in North West Tasmania, Rocky Cape National Park, such wonderful memories.

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Renton Braden Mathew Innes 6 months ago

put your money where your mouth is. .. is what judges should employ to proove their national interest.

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Christopher Wingate 6 months ago

In New Zealand Maori Council v Attorney-General, Lord Cooke held the Crown to account namely:
1. On-going partnership with obligations to act reasonably and in good faith,
2. Duty to remedy past breaches,
3. Active protection.
It’s one of the few judgments that demanded politicians (crown) act in accordance with their fiduciary obligations.

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CatherineWingate 6 months ago

Dad has always loved nature and taught us kids the same from a young age. We use to study the dirt in the garden as kids looking at the worms and crawly creatures. Dad inspired my love of science from a young age, teaching me and getting me to log the life cycle of the tadpoles at a local pond which the council later sprayed with poison :(. Today I am doing my PhD in science, trying to make a difference, as he has taught us, we are here for a reason, make your time on this planet a memorable one. He is here to make a change on this planet, hopefully this will be one of them. Love you dad and your warm heart full of love and passion xoxo

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Christopher Wingate 6 months ago

OMG that is so beautiful Catherine....tears in my eyes lol xox

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Christopher Wingate 6 months ago

Remember this:
The Nature of Past and Present
I am a child
I am all the things of the past
I am the new seedling of laughter in my Dad’s heart
I am the cute cookie monster of my Mum’s baking
I am all I see
The shiniest rain drop on a spider web
The last falling orange leaf in autumn
And a colorful rainbow at the first sign of spring
I am all I hear
The crazy laugh of the Australian kookaburra
The purr of Pingu
And the beautiful songs sung by the wind and trees
I am all I feel and taste
The soft tender love of my family
The magic meals made in my Dad’s playpen
And the feel of Pingu’s delicate soft silky feathers
I am all I remember
Pingu running up onto my arm
The group hugs of my family
The buzz of bees
The wonder of happiness that a letter can bring
From the other side of the world
I am all I have been taught
My Mum’s table manners
My love towards animals
And the trust and power of a friendship
I am all I believe
The smallest seed will make the biggest tree
The dullest pearl will be loved the shiniest one will only blind
The power of friendship and love is more powerful than anything
I am all those things
I am like a tree
And these things are my leaves and branches
And one day I will find a way out because I am the soul of the future.
Sarah Wingate Age 10

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Kiwi Wonderboy 1 month ago

Well you know how the system fails and needs something to make it work

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