Calvin receives Svitlana Kravchenko award

Many congratulations to ELC Legal Director Calvin Sandborn who was awarded Svitlana Kravchenko Environmental Rights Award at this year’s Public Interest Environmental Law Conference in Eugene, Oregon in early March.

The award is given to a person who has “exquisite qualities of both head and heart, mixing academic rigor with spirited activism; and speaking truth to power, while exhibiting kindness toward all. The award winner insists that environmental rights and human rights are indivisible, as did Svitlana Kravchenko, a daughter of Ukraine who became a citizen of America and the entire world.”

Below are a few photos and a link to Calvin’s acceptance speech. 

Transcription of Calvin Sandborn’s 2017 Svitlana Kravchenko Award acceptance speech:

We are passing through a dark time.

Powerful voices are telling us that money is all there is.

They are telling us that we are not a human family.  That there is no real community — there is only the Art of the Deal.

Dark voices are telling us to forget the ancient wisdom of “Love one Another.”

They whisper that instead we should fear and hate each other. 

They boast that nature does not matter.

But we in this room are pledged to a higher truth, a truth that was summarized by a 100 year old woman in Vermont.  She was a Vermont environmentalist.  On her 100th birthday she was asked, “What advice can you give to the young – what is the secret of a meaningful life?”  And she said it quite simply.  There are three things:

Love yourself.

Love others.

Love Nature.

Let us hold on to this wisdom in this dark time.

For the people in this room have fallen in love with the earth – and hopefully with each other.

We have looked at the pictures of earth from space – that fragile blue-green emerald with a very thin layer of air, water and land that supports the only known life in the universe.

And we have come to love this earth.

We have stood open-mouthed as the orcas leapt out of the ocean.

We have seen the heron silently stalk fish in a shallow lagoon at dawn.

We have seen the salmon runs — tragic as Shakespeare, joyful as Easter.

 We have watched the eagles clenched together, as they ride the updraft.

We have hiked together through the High Sierras, we have sung songs around campfires.

We have lay under a vast canopy of stars, talking half the night with our friends, our brothers, sisters, our community.

Yes, we have fallen in love with the earth, and with each other.

And now if we are going to deal with the environmental crisis that we face, if we are going to save the earth and save the community of humanity, we must speak Truth to Power.

Someone needs to speak for Nature.

Someone needs to speak for all of our brothers and sisters — no matter what nation they come from, what religion they have, the color of their skin, we are all one. 

The Raging Grannies are here. You’re an inspiration. Really. You’re my generation. You know, we are getting older.  And that’s where the law students in this room are so important.

Because — now more than ever — Nature needs advocates.  Nature needs lawyers to give voice to the river and to the forest.  We need voices to speak for the grizzly and the marmot.  We need voices to speak for the caribou and the falcon.

Yes, students you have a grand opportunity to work together now, to work in community to save the natural world.  And no life can be more meaningful, more full of purpose, more satisfying, than to work to save our earth.

So here’s my short advice: 

Make friends and allies everywhere and enemies nowhere.  Love one another.

Build bridges with people you don’t agree with.  Don’t write people off.  Win them over!

You can do it – you stand on the side of truth, and of love, and of community and the earth.

You’re not the enemies of the people.  You’re the friends of the people, you’re the friends of the future.

So join hands with lawyers around the globe.  Many of them are here in this room. 

You have comrades not just in New York, and Oregon and California and British Columbia.   You have comrades in this room from Mexico City, Berlin, Nairobi, Mumbai, Katmundu.  And you have here today — at this conference — heroes of the people.  People who have put their lives on the line to defend the earth and to defend the community.

Alfred Brownell from Liberia is at this conference.  He put his life on the line for these principles.

Eduardo Sanchez from Mexico put his life on the line. He spent 10 months in jail in the last year because he loved the earth, he loved you, he loved the community.

And there are other people who are putting their lives on the line, their safety on the line because of these principles. Alejandra Serrano Pavon from Mexico, Grizelda “Gerthie” Mayo-Anda of the Philippines. These are people who are here today because they are willing to fight for what is right, and to love for what is right.

And, finally, I’m just going to close here, my final advice to you is take an example from these Raging Grannies. 

Have fun!


Play music!

Share your joy with others!

Love each other.

It is in community that we break the epidemic of alienation that is driving environmental destruction.

Indeed, the environmental crisis and the crisis of democracy are daunting.  This work is not going to be easy.  But take heart, love will win in the end.

As Martin Luther King taught us, the arc of history is long, but it bends towards justice.  We shall overcome!