Iceland Turns to the People for Constitutional Reform

Iceland is a fantastic place that the rest of the world can learn from. They get 99% of their energy from geothermal power and have perhaps the most open government the world has ever seen. Recently they turned to the power of social media to rewrite their constitution!

In many ways then, the new Iceland constitution was the first to ever be born completely in the public eye. Sure, constitutional assemblies are often open to some sort of public scrutiny, but Iceland’s was broadcast on the internet. Council members regularly interacted with commenters, and every week the latest drafts of the various chapters (or the work related to their writing) were shared via a public website. Live broadcasts of the open council meetings were shown every Thursday via their site as well as Facebook. There was even a regular e-newsletter. Iceland used the web like never before to open up their process to the world and attract the attention of their public.

Yet the enthusiasm from the public hasn’t exactly been stellar (maybe they didn’t like the singing?). Despite the historic nature of the constitutional elections, little more than a third of Iceland actually voted (83,531 or 35.95% of the ~230,000 eligible voters). That election, by the way, was deemed invalid by the Supreme Court of the nation due to problems with voter privacy, and the parliament had to eventually appoint the same elected candidates to the Constitutional Council in order to get things rolling. It’s unclear how that debacle tainted the opinion of the council in the eyes of the Icelandic public. While the social media presence has been active during the writing of the constitution, the main website only garnered about 1600 comments. That’s certainly a lot for the Council to wade through, but I’m not sure you can call it a mandate from Iceland’s people – especially when you consider many comments were made from interested parties from all over the world.

Read the full article at Singularity Hub

Ecuador Gives Nature Rights in Constitution

This is just freaking awesome: Ecuadorians believe that nature ought to be protected by their constitution.

While the the new constitution has many ramifications for how the country will now be governed, the pro-nature aspects of the constitution have their roots in Ecuador’s resentment toward international companies that have exploited the country’s natural resources and left pollution and poverty in their wake. Currently Ecuadorians are in one particularly nasty lawsuit with Chevron (formerly Texaco). The oil company polluted a huge area with oil waste and did not clean it up, causing extreme pollution to ecosystems and deadly health problems for numerous communities. It has been described as the “Amazon Chernobyl.”

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