A People's History of the European Court of Human Rights

By Michael D. Goldhaber | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 5
The Greening of Europe?

In their early years, the Strasbourg institutions were uniformly cautious in their approach to the environment. They voiced no objection to the flooding of the Sami people's reindeer habitat for a dam project in G. and E. v. Norway (1984). They rejected repeated complaints of noise pollution See, for example, Powell and Rayner v. United Kingdom (1990). And they gave no succor to the nuclear protest movement. See, for example, X. and Y. v. Germany (1976). Then along came a housewife from a small town in Spain, who refused to take no for an answer. Introducing Europe's answer to Erin Brockovich.


López Ostra and the Greening of Europe

Gregoria López Ostra has never seen Erin Brockovich, the 2000 Julia Roberts movie about a paralegal who became an antipollution crusader in Southern California. But Gregoria resembles the real Ms. Brockovich in being a simple woman roused by circumstance to political activism. She and her daughter Cristina identify as environmentalists only in modest ways. Both love the nature documentaries of Felix Rodriguez de la Fuente. And Cristina is known as the green family cop. Woe betide the visitor who puts a beer can in the wrong recycling bin or leaves the tap running in the López Ostra household.

Like many Spaniards, Gregoria's family saved money working in France during the 1960s, in the fields and hotels of the Montpellier area. In 1970, at the age of forty-five, the family patriarch, Jines, fulfilled his lifelong dream and built his own home, in the shadow of Lorca's eleventhcentury Moorish fortress. The name Lorca is derived from the Latin for “City of the Sun,” and the town is famous for its vistas of the sun setting over the fort's two crenellated turrets, the towers of Espolon and Alfonsina. Legend has it that in 1244, during the Christian reconquista of Spain,

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