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Organizing for Community Rights

In this issue

  • Should Nature have Rights? -Read the new edition of Christopher Stone's book 'Do Trees have Standing?' and check out the UN resolution on the right to water and the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Nature. 

  • Mt. Shasta's Measure A - the controversy over the community's right to ban water withdrawal and cloud seeding heats up as tea partiers, democracy defenders, students, and the city council prepare for the coming election. Find out how you can support this groundbreaking ordinance to become law in California.

Rights of Nature and Oil Spills...

With the BP oil spill "contained," the public lens has been refocused from furor over the largest corporate environmental disaster, and away from cleanup efforts toward the all to familiar blame game between EPA and incompetence and corporate negligence and 'who pays - taxpayers or corporations?'  

In his recently published articles "Why Louisiana's ecosystems should sue BP" and "River communities should sue Enbridge over oil spill" Thomas Linzey, esq. gets beyond the finger pointing and to the real issue - why do our laws consistently fail to truly protect nature and what can we do about it?  As Linzey points out, the answer is already emerging from US communities to the nation of Ecuador, where laws adopted recognize nature's rights, giving ecosystems legal standing in a court of law. If these laws were in place in the Gulf, the Kalamazoo and beyond, the corporation at fault would be liable for the full cost of restoring it.

Should Nature have Rights?

Do we have the right to a climate that has been unaltered? Check out Christopher Stone's 30th anniversary update on his groundbreaking report, "Do Trees Have Standing?" where he includes a provocative new chapter on law and climate rights.   

The UN establishes rights

This summer the United Nations General Assembly affirmed the human right to water, and coming out of the People's Summit on Climate Change and Mother Earth's Rights in Bolivia where GX Community Rights Director Shannon Biggs spoke on the issue, a UN declaration has been put forward establishing that nature itself has rights.  

These statements demonstrate the turning of the tide and the fundamental recognition that we cannot protect nature or our communities if we don't recognize our natural, inalienable rights.  To make these ideals into reality, the work is still before us to ASSERT these rights, and to ensure that corporate activities are subordinate to those rights.   

Help make Climate and Water rights a reality!

Mt. Shasta is poised to pass the first law in California recognizing nature (and climate) rights! When passed on election day, this law would establish the highest level of environmental protection by denying corporations the right to change natural weather patterns in order to "own" the rain before it hits the ground or to take massive amounts of local groundwater for water bottling. Support California's first ever law that recognizes the rights of nature (and the rights of the climate) and allows citizens to ban corporate assaults on their ground and atmospheric water.  For more information on the campaign read the next section below.

  • Volunteer to assist the Mt. Shasta community or make a donation to support the campaign and ensure nature and communities win this November: contact Shannon Biggs at 415.575.5540 or shannon@globalexchange.org

  • Read an article on cloud seeding and PG&E's plan to cloud seed to increase energy yield of their McCloud-Pit hydropower dam, and how the Shasta ordinance will address and prevent cloud seeding, on Alternet.

Mount Shasta Update
The campaign is heating up. We are in the 90-day stretch. The ordinance almost got derailed from the ballot with a technical glitch of slight wording differentiation from what was on the petition versus the ballot. The opposition has come forward, we have tea partiers and many others rallying against the city council. The city council continues to misrepresent the ordinance. Some members have unwarranted fears about the ordinance 'bankrupting' the city. While we know the opposite is true--with the ordinance asserting local rights to decide, we need to get more residents in the city to recognize this. We've got a long road ahead to make history and put the strongest environmental law in place in Shasta and the state of California.

Tom Gerhard, conservative, Republican from Packer township, currently Chairman of Packer Township supervisors and candidate for county commissioner is coming mid-September to speak with Shasta citizens, showing this is not a matter of liberalism, this is a matter of rights that extends beyond any political divides.

"It is our job to preserve the environment that we live in and pass it down to our children and grandchildren...Government has to change from the top down. We cannot have people governing us who represent special interest groups and big corporations...we the people of Packard Township have the right to self-government no matter what the state or Attorney General has to say."

Over 300,000 people currently live under rights-based laws. As we know, voters are inclined to reject propositions they don't understand, and you can't just put a measure on the ballot and expect it to prevail on the merits. The misinformation going on needs to be actively addressed, and the educational component to make people understand what the ordinance really entails is what we are actively working on. Winning requires a serious grassroots investment, which will be full on until the measure gets voted on in November. We will be getting lawn signs, and begin door knocking this fall.

  • We need your help--if you would like to volunteer or give a donation you are warmly invited to do so! Spread the word about what is happening--again, if this ordinance is passed, it will be the first rights-based ordinance in the state of California with amazing significance for the state, which could lead to some much needed change in approaches to environmental problems, and other threats communities are faced with. Contact Shannon Biggs: shannon@globalexchange.org or 415.575.554

    Youth Delegation to Mt. Shasta

The passion amongst youth for rights based work has been incredible. Aside from the increased number of college students who have been writing theses on rights based work, much interest has been generated from younger, high school students. Last year in a mini-democracy school that Shannon taught to high school students from Synergia learning ventures in Nevada City, her plan we to spend half a day, assuming little interest in legal issues relating to the constitution and declaration of independence. Instead, she spent the entire day, with the students full of questions and wondering how to move ahead. There was such enthusiastic engagement that half the students ended up attending an actual democracy school two days later. This unexpected degree of interest and want to be engaged has led to the planning of a youth delegation from Woolman Semester, Nevada City to go up to Mt. Shasta sometime in October for a day of a mini-democracy school, an educational hike around the headwaters, and taking action in the Shasta campaign helping with letter writing, sign painting and whatever else will come up. The idea is to get a better understanding of what is happening on the ground, get involved, and hopefully bring this back to their own community.

Nevada City

Over the past year our Community Rights Campaign has been educating and engaging more and more youth in our work. Specifically in Nevada City, we have identified potential young leaders looking to embrace the community rights and rights of nature organizing model.

To build and expand this interest, aside from connecting a group of Nevada City youth with the happenings in Mt. Shasta, Global Exchange will organize a weekend-long Youth Summit in Nevada City in 2011. Youth will have a chance to learn organizing techniques in a one-day Democracy School, and then develop actions, goals, and targets for putting those skills into practice during a weekend of workshops around the rights based framework with youth from around the state. Youth are an integral and imperative part of our citizenry, and our campaign will continue to foster leadership among youth, bringing them further into the movement to help spearhead rights based work within their own communities.

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