Content Exchange

Radnor >> Life-long Radnor resident Maya van Rossum has penned her first book, “The Green Amendment,” which will debut on Nov. 14 at Main Point Books in Wayne. There will be a book launch and signing at 7 p.m.

“I am very excited,” said van Rossum, who is the Delaware Riverkeeper.

“It seems like it’s getting a very good reception,” said van Rossum. “It already has a lot of interest.”

Only Pennsylvania and Montana currently have laws that say people have a right to a healthy environment, similar to a right to free speech or a right to practice their religion, she said. Van Rossum hopes the book will inspire people in the other 48 states to get behind a movement to push constitutional amendments in their states to assert the right to a healthy environment.

“By getting a lot of energy behind state constitutional provisions that will naturally advance that into a federal constitutional amendment, as well,” van Rossum said.

A green amendment would entail “that people have a right, when they get a glass of water or breath of air, they have the right for those to be free of chemicals,” van Rossum said. “In many ways our laws are written to allow dangerous levels of pollution to go into the environment and degradation of natural resources to happen.

“If you want to spew pollution into the air and water, cut a forest or fill in a wetland, the way you go about doing that is get a permit,” said van Rossum. Permits might limit the pollution, “but ultimately in the final analysis, the industrial operations and developers are still cutting down forests and polluting with government approval.”

Drought, floods and wild fires are among the results, she said.

In Pennsylvania, an environmental rights amendment passed in 1971. However, “very quickly the courts stripped it of all power,” finding that it didn’t really confer rights like other constitutional provisions, van Rossum said. But in 2012, after “devastating pro-fracking legislation passed,” van Rossum and the Delaware Riverkeeper Network and seven townships joined together to fight it with the argument the law was “so egregious” it violated the environmental provision in the state constitution, she said.

“And in 2013 we got this amazing ruling by Pennsylvania Supreme Court that the force of law does confer environmental rights on people and it’s not just a policy language,” said van Rossum. “It’s starting to have a really dramatic effect on how we protect our rights in Pennsylvania.”

So over the last year, van Rossum, a lawyer, has been writing “The Green Amendment,” with two professional writers, to spread the word about the effect of passing an environmental constitutional amendment.

“I do a lot of writing but I don’t write books,” she said. “The Green Amendment” is “largely stories about environmental degradation,” she said. It will also be available as an e-book and an audio book. She plans to have a teachers’ guide ready by next year so high school and college teachers can use it as a text. Van Rossum hopes it will “not be a book that people will read and walk away from, but that people will read and be inspired to act.”

One of the stories in the book is losing “my beautiful forest at Radnor Avenue,” where she played in the Ithan Creek as a child, to the construction of I-476, the Blue Route, which was completed in 1992.

“We used to have a lot of forests in Radnor Township,” van Rossum said. Construction of the highway led to “tremendous damage” to Ithan Creek, she said.

“I’ve really seen the transformation of a community like Radnor and the impact it has on people, the impact on their emotional lives, flooding, pollution, noise pollution and all things that harm people,” she said.

Van Rossum, who still lives in Radnor, is the mother of two children, Wim, 11, and Anneke, 16, and the stepmother of four children. She’s married to Radnor High School teacher David Wood.

The cover of the book depicts a northern section of the Delaware River in Sullivan County, N.Y., and Wayne County, Pa. Published by Disruption Books, all proceeds will go to the Delaware Riverkeeper Network.

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