Lawyers’ Declaration of Rebellion

We acknowledge the ongoing catastrophe of climate breakdown and ecological crisis. We understand that this breakdown is in the context of an abject failure by our laws and legal system to uphold what should be their ultimate purpose: to protect and enrich life. We can no longer remain silent in the face of this reality.

Therefore, as lawyers, we declare a climate and ecological emergency and we name the failing of our profession and the legal system as a key contributor to this crisis.

Many of us entered this profession with ideals of assisting others and making the world a better place, but these ideals are often lost in an avalanche of work, billing targets, and a desire for ‘success’. The realities of life as a lawyer makes many of us feel that we cannot truly influence the direction of the legal system and that we are merely applying a rigid and unyielding version of the law. This represents a great failure of imagination and courage. Neither our participation in, nor passive acceptance of, the greatest tragedy in human history will be forgiven by future generations.

We are deceiving ourselves that we must wait for others to make the law which we will merely interpret. From the invention of the tort of negligence to the circumstances in which judicial review can challenge executive power, lawyers and judges have historically been innovative in interpreting, developing and even creating whole new areas of law. We too must be audacious, progressive and creative in using the law to tackle the biggest challenges facing our planet and all those who live on it. We must remember that everybody has a role to play and, as lawyers, our role is especially vital.

We seek Justice for All:

  • Climate justice for all people on earth, especially those in the Global South who are being and will be harmed by our actions and omissions.

  • Intergenerational justice for young people and future generations to come, for whom we hold this beautiful planet on sacred trust.

  • Ecological justice for the natural world and legal rights for nature.

We look to the courageous, far-sighted and rebellious lawyers of the past:

Our peaceful, non-violent civil disobedience is inspired by Mahatma Gandhi who was disbarred from Inner Temple in 1922 for peaceful civil disobedience that demanded freedom, justice and rights for his people.

We recall the slavery abolitionist lawyers and their ability to look beyond the social norms of their time that regarded enslaved people as mere property, and their understanding of a deeper truth. We seek to emulate their devotion to seeking justice using imagination and clever legal mechanisms.

We remember the unfailing efforts of Polly Higgins to protect the natural world by establishing a prohibition on Ecocide at the International Criminal Court. We urge all lawyers to support and further the Stop Ecocide campaign that she founded.

We respect all lawyers, past and present, who have used their skills, intelligence and energy in service of the world and in alignment with their conscience. We urge all those in our profession to think of ways that they can contribute. Whether it is giving time pro bono in service of the earth and those seeking to protect it, to raising awareness of the climate crisis within the profession or joining us on the streets, there are so many ways we can meaningfully assist.

We stand in alignment with members of Extinction Rebellion and other conscientious protectors around the world. In the context of the climate and ecological emergency we support their right to peaceful protest and participation in acts of non-violent civil disobedience to bring about the system change that we so desperately need.

In humanity’s darkest hour, we have forgotten our power. We wish to re-establish lawyers as powerful storytellers with the intelligence, imagination, influence and courage to shape the world around us according to our principles and conscience. We hope that you will pause with us and consider what you want the lasting impact of your life and work to be.

We invite and urge you to join us in this rebellion.


©2019 by Lawyers for Extinction Rebellion

Privacy Notice