Grrrowd: Justice powered by the Crowd

Grrrowd is a powerful new model for crowdfunding legal cases involving human and environmental rights. It's the Kickstarter of class action suits, the Indiegogo of good cases for good causes.

It's the place where a poor Mexican community can get help fighting off the 86 appeals and other legal actions filed by big Agribiz companies who are trying to overturn a law protecting 8000 years of traditional corn cultivation.

Or where the indigenous people of Canada's Beaver Lake Cree Nation can get help standing up to protect the land and water of their traditional home – and the very future of a planet threatened by climate change – from the environmental nightmare of tar sands oil extraction.

Or where you can protect African Rhinos by challenging plans for a coal mine in a South African wildlife reserve.

Would you please take a minute to check out the links and see how you can add your weight to civil society's struggle?

Turning collective will into legal action

All of these cases involve rich industries locked in conflict with poor communities, the natural world, or future generations. Grrrowd can help them tip the scales of justice back into balance.

As our world becomes more connected and less encumbered by borders, the power of people banding together for a common cause grows stronger. As our ability to communicate, reach out and network with one another grows stronger, you might say our planet is developing a nervous system made of billions of human beings – synapses and nerve endings in a vast neural network that can sense and respond to threat. But to create transformative change, we need more than the sensing and communications that a nervous system provides: we need muscle.

Grrrowd is muscle. It's a great example of how we can turn our collective will into legal action for the good of the many, the future of our planet, and our rights as human beings.

Greenpeace and the rule of law

Is it confusing to read that Greenpeace believes profoundly in the rule of law? After all, we're not afraid of being arrested and put on trial for taking a stand, or to expose the special interests behind bad laws, or to challenge the authority under which bad laws are made.

But that's not disdain for the law.

It's disdain for the law's failure to protect the global commons, human rights, and the needs of future generations. In fact, over its 40-year history, Greenpeace is responsible for or has contributed to the MAKING of far many more laws than we've ever broken: and that's part of our mission. We raise difficult questions about what society deems acceptable, and seek to change that.

We stood up with our supporters to oppose nuclear waste dumping at sea in the 80s – it's now illegal. We stood up with our supporters to oppose international trade in toxic waste – it's now illegal. The dumping of oil rigs like the Brent Spar in the North Sea? Illegal. Commercial whaling? Illegal. Ozone-killing chemicals? Illegal. Logging in the ecologically sensitive areas of the Great Bear Rainforest? Illegal.

All of the laws that protect against those abuses were made on the back of public protest, civil disobedience, and the re-examination of the laws which once permitted what today are environmental crimes.

Human law is not written on stone tablets, it's made of clay. It's constantly reshaped.

Crowdfunding for justice and defending the global commons

Justice is supposed to serve the many, not the moneyed few. But when it comes to the rights of the natural world, or of future generations, who pays their legal fees to challenge laws that harm their interests? How does the ocean hire a lawyer? Where is the public defender who will prepare a case for my great-great-granddaughter's right to clean air, clean water, and healthy food?

All too often in the world today, in which corporations are granted the rights of personhood and our legal and legislative systems can be perverted to serve private gold rather than the common good, legal protection or redress can be a commodity – one whose cost is out of reach.

Too many people whose human rights have been violated or whose land or oceans have been ravaged could only turn out their pockets when asked, "How much justice can you afford?"

Now, by crowdfunding legal cases, everyone with a conscience can support 'David' in hauling 'Goliath' before the courts.

Kumi Naidoo is the Executive Director of Greenpeace International. He recently accepted an invitation to join Grrrowd's Advisory Board.