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Organizing for Community Rights

Greetings Community Rights supporters!

We hope this update finds you doing well! It has been a busy past couple of months for the Community Rights campaign here at Global Exchange and we are looking forward to some exciting new developments in 2011! 

  • Citizens in Mt. Shasta continue the fight to assert their community’s rights! Getting the water rights ordinance back on the ballot in 2011!
  • Global Exchange sets out to engage youth in the Rights of Nature campaign!
  • What’s new in Rights of Nature news!
  1. New Report Warns: We Fail to Respect Nature’s Rights at Our Own Peril
  2. Global Exchange co-authors a new book around the Rights of Nature set to be released this April! 
  • One year after the Citizens United ruling: How Global Exchange’s Community Rights program is taking a different approach to subordinating corporate personhood 'rights' to people's rights.
Mt. Shasta, CA

When it comes to Democracy and the protection of one of their most precious natural resources, water, the citizens up Mt. Shasta, CA, will not take ‘No’ for an answer! After the dramatic events of last year during which the County illegally took the local water rights ordinance off the ballot, the core group of citizens heading up the campaign are moving forward and reconvening their organizing efforts.  Their goal is to have the ordinance placed back on the ballot and brought to a vote this year. Mt. Shasta is poised to be the first California community to pass a rights-based ordinance but they are following the footsteps of over 125 communities that have adopted a rights-based approach in order to subordinate corporations to local, democratic, community decision-making. 

  • For more information on the Mt. Shasta campaign up to date, visit our webpage 
  • Click here to read an article from Tikkun on the movement for community rights in Mt. Shasta
  • Last month Canadian blogger Stephen Elliott-Buckley came to San Francisco and wrote a series about his five-day tour of Global Exchange’s work! Click here to read what he says about the Rights of Nature campaign! 

Engaging Youth in the movement for Community and Nature’s rights!

Shannon Biggs, director of the Community Rights campaign, will travel to Nevada City, CA, next month to meet with two groups of students from the Woolman semester and lead a Democracy School workshop with them. The meeting will be a precursor to a youth-based Rights of Nature workshop that is being planned for the upcoming San Francisco Green Festival this April 9th – 10th as well as a Youth Summit around Community and Nature’s rights organized by Global Exchange that is set to be held this coming summer. More information on this will be available in future updates. In the meantime, please direct any questions to the Community Rights campaign’s new assistant, Kylie Nealis 

New cutting-edge report sheds light on the emerging Rights of Nature movement

Following the COP16 international climate talks in Cancun, Mexico in December, Global Exchange announced the release of a new report, Does Nature Have Rights: Transforming Grassroots Organizing to Protect People and the Planet, with the Council of Canadians and Fundacion Pachamama. The report features insightful essays by Uruguayan author Eduardo Galeano, social and environmental activists Maude Barlow, Shannon Biggs, and others, which demonstrate the need to broaden legal frameworks to recognize ecological limits, natural laws, and the interdependency of all life.

  •   Download and read the full report here 
  • Click here to read a blog posted by Global Exchange’s Carleen Pickard and written by Community Rights Director, Shannon Biggs, which highlights some key background information around the report

New book on the Rights of Nature set to be released in April 

                Global Exchange has co-authored a new book along with the Council of Canadians and Fundacion Pachamama that discusses how a new paradigm is being pursued to incorporate Rights for Nature into law.  The book, titled The Case for the Universal Declaration on the Rights of Mother Earth, is set to be released in time for this year's Earth Day on April 22nd! The book features writing contributions by well-known environmental activists and organizers such as Desmond Tutu, Maude Barlow, and Global Exchange's Shannon Biggs. Please stay posted for future updates with information on how you can get a copy of the book when it is published! 

One year after Citizens United: the top-down versus bottom-up approach to subordinating corporation's 'rights' to people's rights! 

          One year ago, the US Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in the case of Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission that corporations, as "legal persons," have First Amendment free speech rights, and therefore can freely fund political broadcasts in candidate elections. In the year that has followed, U.S. Citizens have begun to rally against the notion that the Bill of Rights was written to protect corporations, rather than the People. Global Exchange's policy allies like Public Citizen and Move to Amend have begun national campaigns to amend the U.S. Constitution to eliminate corporate personhood from the top-down, and recently the Vermont legislature passed a resolution calling for the same. All of this has kept the public talking about the need for structural change.

       But at the grassroots, citizens are taking change into their own hands, and they are not stopping with corporate personhood (which is only part of the problem.) Last November, Pittsburgh, PA became the first major US city to assert the right to subordinate corporations to local democratic authority, and Buffalo,New York and Santa Monica, CA and many other communities are also taking a stand; being bold, creating the change they want to see in the places where they live. On the anniversary of the Citizens United ruling, we wanted to revisit an article about the case, and what change looks like on the ground. Click here to read a Global Exchange blog post that features the article!


“The fact is, that each time there is a movement to confer rights onto some new ‘entity’ the proposal is bound to sound odd or frightening or laughable. This is partly because until the right-less thing receives its rights, we cannot see it as anything but a thing for the use of ‘us’ – us being, of course those of us who hold rights.”

- Professor Christopher Stone (1973)

"I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues."

- The Lorax by Dr. Suess 

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