Nature Puts Chevron Refinery and Legal System on Trial
People’s Tribunal in Oakland Seeks to Give Nature a Voice in Law this Sunday
Oakland CA — On Sunday October 5, a People’s Tribunal will examine the violations of community and nature’s rights caused by the fossil fuel industry, using Chevron’s refinery in Richmond as a case study. Recognizing legal standing for ecosystems is a concept that has been gaining strength over the past decade, in dozens of US communities and in the constitution of Ecuador.
“Chevron has been destroying nature and poisoning people for over 100 years. Humanity is part of the web of life known as Nature. If Nature doesn’t have rights, then a viable future for the next seven generations is doubtful,” says Richmond resident and Native American activist Pennie Opal Plant, who will also be one of several expert witnesses at the Tribunal.
Global Exchange’s Community & Nature’s Rights director, Shannon Biggs, one of the organizers of the event added, “the fact is, current law treats nature as property, so it’s easy for corporations to get a permit to blow the tops off of mountains for coal, or frack communities for profit. Recognizing nature’s rights provides new and critical protections for our communities and the ecosystems we all depend on.”
The tribunal, a project of the Bay Area Rights of Nature Alliance (BARONA) takes place Sunday 10 am – 2 pm at Laney College’s Forum, highlighting the impacts on people and nature from the Chevron refinery, and place on trial current legal and economic systems that advance the destruction of nature by the oil industry. Tribunal judges include:
Carl Anthony (Breakthrough Communities; Urban Habitat)
Brian Swimme (California Institute of Integral Studies; Journey of the Universe)
Anuradha Mittal (Oakland Institute)
Courtney Cummings (Arikara and Cheyenne; Native Wellness Center, Richmond)
Bill Twist (Pachamama Alliance)
The day will also include a “Web of Life Labyrinth,” created by local artists (opens 9:30 am), local music and food for purchase. Members of BARONA, a network of leading Bay Area rights of nature, ecological justice, human rights, local economy, Indigenous, women’s, and other groups will be on hand to answer questions. The event will be part of the global “Earth Rights Days of Action” sponsored by the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature and the related efforts of the International Rights of Nature Tribunals in Quito, Ecuador (January 2014) and Lima, Peru (December 2014).
Please join us for a rich discussion of just what rights of nature could mean for residents in Richmond, CA—and across the country. Learn what over 100 other communities across the US are doing differently to put the rights of residents and nature before corporate profits.
It’s time we all got on board with a people-powered climate plan.
The People’s Climate Train is pulling out on September 15 from the San Francisco Bay Area and will arrive in New York City on September 18, 2014 to join the People’s Climate March September 20 & 21. Over 200 people have already registered to take the cross country journey, with new riders joining at stops all along the way.
The final destination on this journey is to join the largest-everclimate march in New York City on September 21 & 22, coinciding with the United Nations Climate Summit taking place there, which will serve as a public platform for world leaders, big business and some participation from civil society. The stated goal of the summit is “to catalyze ambitious action on the ground to reduce emissions and strengthen climate resilience and mobilize political will for an ambitious global agreement by 2015 that limits the world to a less than 2-degree Celsius rise in global temperature.”
Kylie Nealis of the Sierra Club and Suzanne York of the Institute for Population Studies will be in New York.
For many, faith in the UN as a global forum for solving the climate crisis has all but been shattered. Critiques range from calling out the UN as a flaccid institution to the more cynical view that it has been co-opted, branded and sponsored by corporations. Yet there are other reasons to show up in New York while leaders gather.
As David Turnbull, Campaigns Director for Oil Change International says, “World leaders have come together too many times with nothing more than strong rhetoric and empty promises in tow. Science is simply screaming at us that we must not delay action any longer, so the time is now to show our strength as a movement. I can’t wait to join the hundreds of thousands of real leaders marching on the streets of New York demanding action and to show our elected representatives that their empty promises will no longer be accepted.”
Others are going to highlight particular issues. An entire contingent of affected residents, activists and concerned Americans are going to connect the dots between fracking, other fossil fuel exploitation, and climate disruption. 350.org’s Fracking Campaigner Linda Capato says, “I’m going to PCM because we need to make it clear to decision makers that if we are serious about climate it needs to be a future without fracking.” Global Exchange will be in New York not to beg officials to act, but to stand for communities are already on the leading edge of climate solutions, from banning fracking in their communities, to boldly placing the rights of residents and ecosystems above the array of harmful corporate projects that collectively emit the bulk of carbon stored in the atmosphere. The march is going to be big—really big, and there is value in connecting with people from all across the country in this way, sharing stories, networking and finding ways to come together to reinvent our future without dependence on fossil fuels.
Those of us working on the rights-of-nature framework are seeking to reconnect humanity with the rest of species. We seek to change human law that can only “see” nature as a thing — separate and apart from us, property to be owned and destroyed at will. We seek to change the law because our own salvation can only come from a cultural mindset enforced by an earth jurisprudence that we are a part of nature. In New York we will join allies including Osprey Orielle Lake, Executive Director of WECAN in presenting these ideas at a special panel: Rights of Nature and Systemic Change in Climate Solutions, on September 23. This event is free and open to the public however, due to its proximity to the global leaders, collected security in this part of the city is tight so registration is required. Once you register (which takes less than 30 seconds), you will receive an invitation that you will need to have in hand along with ID to attend the event. As Osprey says, “Nature will not wait while politicians debate. It is time for ambitious action that addresses the roots of the climate crisis and fosters justice for the Earth and future generations.”
For the variety of reasons people are coming to join the march, the reasons people are getting there via the climate trains (and buses) are the same — to connect with each other and build the nationwide movement for change in the only way that matters —by building people-to-people ties. I will be riding with people like Pennie Opal Plant from Idle No More Bay Area who says, ” I’m excited to meet activists working to ensure life as we know it continues on the belly of Mother Earth.” Sierra Club’s Kylie Nealis will be leading another train from DC to New York and says, “I’m joining the climate train because I believe its important to not just voice what we’re against but to also collectively advocate for solutions to climate change like clean energy and nature’s rights. The train will be a space for people to come together and connect around those solutions!”
I will be joining the train in the Bay Area, and meeting 170 fellow riders, sharing stories and strategies for change. I will be leading workshops on community rights, rights of nature and fracking, and learning from others as we come together from across the country to share knowledge and collaborate while enjoying a beautiful ride through breathtaking wilderness areas.
The first train is sold out—but don’t worry, they have already started another one to meet the demand—so there is still time to climb aboard. Visit People’s Climate Train to SIGN UP NOW!For anyone who still needs lodging in the Big Apple secure them now if you haven’t already and there is a free option! The PCM Faith Team has generously offered to match you up with available space in churches or homes. Contact Jennifer Kim at the Center for Biological Diversity.
Idle No More Bay Area’s Pennie Opal Plant speaking to crowds of over 5,000 at California’s largest ever environmental rally in 2014.
With the arrival of fracking on the political scene, California’s democracy is unquestionably drowning in Big Oil. As Common Cause has reported, over the last 15 years, $267 million has been spent on lobbying and political contributions in Sacramento, the lion’s share of which coincides with fracking’s ugly rise as the short-term future of the fossil fuel industry. Fracking is perhaps the worst energy idea to hit California’s communities and the climate in history, yet the echoes of “drill baby drill” seem to be resounding throughout the Capitol, overwhelming the voices of the people, common sense, the process of democracy, and the realities of the worst drought in history. As Americans Against Fracking’s David Braun says, “Only in a world where corporate influence rules public policy would slash and burn technologies like fracking—which utilizes enormous quantities of fresh water and toxic chemicals to smash bedrock and release dirty energy—be considered a good idea.”
Source: Damien Luzzo
Studies following the recently defeated fracking moratorium showthat State Senators who voted “NO” received 14 times more in industry contributions, coupled with massive industry lobbying expenditures, revealing money’s influence on politics. With huge campaign contributions to the Governor and state politicians; the intense pressure of lobbying; industry’s role in writing regulatory laws; the revolving door of government-to-industry-and-back jobs; and the inappropriate appointments of industry to myriad ‘watchdog’ posts—the crisis we face may be bigger than fracking. Increasingly, California communities are taking democracy into their own hands and banning fracking locally.
Following the fracking money: In the flash of a gas flare, Governor Brown has shaken the “moonbeam” moniker that dogged his early career as an idealist and an environmentalist who stood firmly outside of the establishment. Now, wading deep in the pool of political money, the third-term “climate leader” took Big Oil & Gas contributions totaling $2.5 million before signing the now-infamous bill-gone-bad SB4 into law, which instead of regulating fracking (the bill’s initial intent), actually exempts fracking from regulatory oversight, and even forces the state to issue fracking permits for at least the next two years.
Occidental Petroleum, Governor Brown’s biggest energy funder has the largest stake in Calfiornia’s fracking game. As Claire Sandberg reported in Truthout, in an October 2013 investor call, Occidental executives cited “more favorable permitting” as the impetus behind its plan to increase capital expenditures by $500 million next year in California. “Most of this increase will be directed towards unconventional drilling opportunities where we have more than 1 million prospective acres for unconventional resources,” said Occidental president and CEO, Steve Chazen.
Following the SB4 fail, concerned Californians rallied, continuing to plead and demand that state representatives protect California from fracking by passing a statewide moratorium, a bill known as SB 1132. In a powerful display of big money over justice, the bill was defeated, a well funded victory for the fracking industry. Following the money, nonprofit watchdog Maplight provided the following analysis: “Senators voting ‘NO’ on the moratorium bill have received 14 times as much money from the oil and gas industry, on average ($24,981), as Senators voting ‘YES’ ($1,772). Twenty-one votes were required for the bill to pass. The final vote was 16-16, with eight Senators abstaining. Three of the abstainers have been suspended from the Senate due to corruption allegations. If the five active Senators who abstained from voting—all Democrats—voted in favor, the moratorium would have passed.
Senator Jeanne Fuller (R) has received $52,300 from the oil and gas industry, more than any other senator voting on the bill. She voted ‘NO’.”
Reported by the Daily Kos: Over their lifetime, the 16 Senators who voted against SB 1132 have taken $590,185 from the oil industry, while the 16 who voted no have taken $159,250. And, according to Truthout, the Western States Petroleum Agency—the biggest corporate lobby in California—spent $4.7 million in 2013, and $1.5 million in the first quarter of 2014, contributing to the estimated $15 million the anti-fracking coalition Californians Against Fracking says the industry spent lobbying against SB 1132.
Regulating fracking isn’t the answer either. With the creation of the Halliburton Loophole, fracking was exempted from the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act. But even if it wasn’t—fracking cannot be done safely, and it is largely the industry to be regulated that writes the policies, anyway. As Colorado biologist Shane Davis details, “The Colorado oil and gas conservation commissions (COGCC) regulations are nothing but a public pacifier. There is an internal ‘waiver’ system that allows the fracking industry a free pass to not have to abide by any regulation if they can show the regulation will cause undo financial burden to the operator.” As a scientist who is also living with high levels of Benzene and other toxins in his blood from exposure to fracking sites near his home, he has become a national spokesperson for the cause. Says Davis, “It is very clear the state of Colorado cannot abide by its mission to prevent adverse impacts to the environment and protect public health, safety and welfare.“
Fracking protests in New York warn Governor Cuomo. Could California be far behind?
So what happens next? For a growing number, the crush of money at the state level is beginning to draw the curtain on the idea that maybe the system isn’t broken but working perfectly—just not for residents or healthy ecosystems. So where do we turn to save ourselves from bad ideas like fracking? Well for now, the growing consensus seems to be that we must rely on our neighbors. A growing number of communities, including Santa Cruz and Beverly Hills, have passed local bans on fracking, with several more working to make it on their local 2014 elections ballot. Peter Norris, resident of Willits, CA, believes watching the statewide fracking debate play out “only points to the larger issue of democracy and gets to the question ‘who decides about fracking—residents or corporations?” It’s one of the reasons he’s part of a countywide group, the Community Rights Network of Mendocino County (CRNMC), which is working to pass an ordinance this November to assert their local right to ban fracking: “Residents here feel strongly that decisions about water here should be made locally and should be focused on the rights of community and our ecosystems, and enforced by laws.”
The CRNMC is gathering some 6,000 signatures throughout the county in order to put the idea of community rights on the ballot this November. If passed, Mendocino County will join the ranks of over 160 communities—from big cities to conservative rural townships across the US that have protected the health safety and welfare of residents and local ecosystems by asserting their right to decide what happens where they live. They are working with Global Exchange and the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) to pass an ordinance that bans fracking by elevating the rights of communities and the local ecosystem above the claimed “rights” of corporations. “I like to think of it in terms of the adage ‘we’re the ones we’ve been waiting for,” says Idle No More Bay Area’s spokesperson Pennie Opal Plant, “We can’t expect our elected officials to act in our best interests. We have to do everything we can to ensure the safety of our communities. Enacting local democracy is an important tool.”
Shane Davis agrees, “It is time that communities enact local control through the ballot box. Community rights should be supreme over corporate pollution.”To learn more about Community Rights, download Global Exchange’s new toolkit.
By Kiara Collins, Community Rights program intern, Global Exchange
Mora County Road Signs
Mora County, New Mexico is not the first place that comes to mind for challenging the ‘rights’ of corporations. This is high desert, and life moves pretty slowly for the 5,000 residents—at least until fracking arrived.
This sparsely populated county is politically conservative, with a large Native American population. Over half of those living in Mora County are native Spanish speakers, and for just about everybody, homesteading, ranching and living close to the land is a way of life. As resident Roger Alcon told the Los Angeles Times, “We’ve lived off the land for five generations. I don’t want to destroy our water, [and] you can’t drink oil.”
Do we have the right to pollute her future?
In 2013, Mora County became the first county in the U.S to ban hydraulic fracturing by exercising their right to local self-governance. By enacting these rights, they passed a local law—the Community Water Rights and Local Self-Governance ordinance—that bans all fossil-fuel extraction in their county, because to do so would be a violation of residents’ civil rights. The ordinance also strips corporations of their “right” to frack, and recognizes that the ecosystem upon which all life depends has a right to be free of the contamination that fracking brings.
Despite what the Supreme Court has said, Mora County residents don’t see the justice in corporate decision makers wielding the law to turn their community into a sacrifice zone for profit. The Mora County ordinance clearly states “…corporate entities and their directors and managers shall not enjoy special privileges and powers under the law which make community majorities subordinate to them.”
MORA COUNTY FIGHTS CORPORATE POWER
Mora County is not giving in to Big Oil & Gas’ exploitation of welfare, property values, health and the ecosystem all residents depend on. They stand behind the Bill of Rights ordinance which says that, “corporations in violation of the prohibitions enacted by this ordinance, or seeking to engage in activities prohibited by this ordinance, shall not have the rights of ‘persons’ afforded by the United States and New Mexico constitutions…”
With support from the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF), Mora County Commissioners are working to defend this Community Bill of Rights, but even more so to defend themselves from laws that elevate corporate “rights” over community rights. CELDF and the New Mexico Environmental Law Center stand in solidarity with Mora County to exercise their inherent rights of environmental health and safety. Mora County Commissioners are calling on all communities across the U.S to stand in solidarity with the people of Mora county to challenge a structure of law that permits exploitation of the ecosystems and the poisoning of residents for the profit of corporate frackers.
As said by Ben Price, National Organizing Director of CELDF,
“Why is the outcome of this fight important beyond Mora County? Because at the heart of it is the question: ‘who has rights; people or corporations?’”
The Community Bill Of Rights aims to take back power that people have been stripped of due to corporate greed. People have a right and a duty to protect themselves from corporate elites who desire only to increase profit margins, and in the process, destroy local environments and families.
CRNMC spokesperson Ed Oberweiser believes this is a time for standing in solidarity with residents in Mora County, saying
“Congratulations to Mora County for standing up against an unjust system that says communities don’t have the authority to decide what happens in their community. We here in Mendocino County, California are working to get a community rights ordinance on our November ballot for a vote by we the people. We hope to join Mora County soon with a passed ordinance.”
HOW YOU CAN SUPPORT MORA COUNTY’s STAND FOR RIGHTS
If you’d like to support the people of Mora County in this battle with big oil and the corporate elite, please visit the Mora County Legal Defense Fund. The Mora County Legal Defense Fundrecognizes that Mora’s Community Bill of Rights Ordinance, and the lawsuits filed in an attempt to overturn it, are about much more than simply fracking—so they have filed to intervene in the case.
“This case is about who controls the water, the land, the natural environment in Mora County, the residents of the County who have passed the ordinance to protect their rights and the rights of nature, or an out of State Corporation.”
Kiara Collins is the Community Rights Program intern at Global Exchange. She aims to create positive change in her local and global community through acute social action and education. She currently attends Sonoma State University where she will be a sophomore this Fall.
350.org in Australia
It took a couple of years for the number to stick: 350. Its the number (parts per million of C02) that we need to maintain if we want to save our lovely planet. But this weekend we topped 400 and like the frog in the pot of water that is slowly coming to a boil we may have reached a point of no return. But we can’t live like that – fear and despair won’t change anything.
Crystal Lameman, of the Beaver Creek Cree who was honored at this year’s Global Exchange Human Right’s award says: “When disaster strikes it is not going to know race, color or creed. I’m here to tell you, when that happens, the greed is going see that it cannot eat money and you cannot drink oil. And that we all bleed the same color. . .…If the government and industry think that throwing money at us is going to make this better, I choose life and my children’s lives and I choose health over money.”
Crystal Lameman and Carleen Pickard at Global Exchange Human Rights Awards
350.org has been building the broadest possible movement to fight climate change — making links around the world from Uzbekistan to Argentina, keeping that 350 number in front of UN negotiators and student activists alike. So it was with some trepidation that I saw a long e-mail from Bill McKibben cross my computer screen this weekend. What could he say that would lift my spirits and encourage me to keep up the fight even as the water begins to boil.
He calls us to fight – to do hard, important and powerful things this summer. As we start experiencing the climate chaos of the summer months he says we have to turn up the heat on our politicians to get the number down again. “Summer Heat”— is a call to do something to stop our addiction to fossil fuels and the policies we’ve built around that addiction to maintain it — from fracking in California to the Keystone XL pipe line, to oil company’s dirty refineries to the struggles by front-line communities suffering from impossibly brutal extraction techniques, to mountain top removal and toxic sludge. To survive we have to struggle together.
Carleen Pickard, our Executive Director, said when she introduced Crystal Lameman, “I believe struggling for climate justice is our highest calling and greatest challenge as a movement. Some think of climate change as a distant or untouchable crisis, but we know every pollutant and every carbon emission is generated in a real place in real time. And as we confront this crisis together with the leaders from the front lines, we know an injury to any community on our beautiful planet will eventually injure us all.
Protecting the vitality of the atmosphere that sustains all life on Earth means we have to forge a new path past the international institutions have failed and abandoned us in the wake of corporate globalization. We must be brave. We must be fearless, and relentless. We must work together.”
Thank you Bill Mckibben! Thank Crystal Lameman, Thank you Carleen Pickard! It is one big fight we all want to be part of.
Join us at Global Exchange this summer to Beat the Heat! This will be a chance for thousands of us to show the courage and love we need to bring the number down!
The following post was written by Alina Evans and Anna Campanelli, interns with the Global Exchange Community Rights Program.
Hydraulic Fracturing (Fracking) is one of the most destructive energy processes on planet Earth – even the EPA reports show that fracking is the second-biggest contributor of U.S. Greenhouse gases. But as California activist RL Miller reports in the Daily Kos, “California’s oil is as dirty as the Canadian tar sands. State data shows that several California oil fields produce just as much carbon dioxide per barrel of oil as the tar sands do. A handful of fields yield even more.”
Contrary to gas and oil company propaganda, this drilling process is unsafe, unclean, and absolutely not renewable. The truth is fracking is yet another dirty energy scheme poisoning our air, soil and groundwater, and now it’s poisoning us. Gas and oil companies are quietly bringing fracking to the Golden State, placing not just Californians, but the planet at risk. In fact the process has already begun, promising to make California the #1 oil producing state, or as some call it—the Saudi Arabia of the USA—but at what cost? Global Exchange is working with communities to say “no” and along with our partners we’re leading a speaking tour April 15-22 through California’s fracklands to educate and mobilize for action.
How Fracking works:
Fracking is an enhanced drilling technique that through a process of vertical and horizontal drilling enables fracking rigs to extract natural gas and/or oil from shale formations. Millions of gallons of water, sand, and “proprietary” carcinogenic chemicals are injected at high pressures, fracturing the underground shale and releasing “trapped” natural gas and oil. Vertical fracking is employed to increase the lifespan of a pre-existing well, while horizontal fracking is used to tap previously inaccessible shale deposits through an injection process. For a good fracking primer, check out EARTHWORK’s Hydraulic Fracturing 101.
Doing the numbers:
Between 3-5 million gallons of water are used to frack a single well one time; one well can be fracked 18 times; this means that one fracked well requires between 54-90 million gallons of water in its lifetime-that’s enough to fill up to 9 Yankee Stadiums!
Water used for fracking just one well fills up to 9 Yankee Stadiums (Photo: Populus.com)
90% of wells in the United States are currently being fracked, that’s over 800,000 wells and counting.
596 chemicals (known carcinogens) are used in fracking. These chemicals are undisclosed under the trade secret provision protecting energy companies’ proprietary “recipes”
Each time a well is fracked, millions of gallons of these toxic chemicals are pumped into our earth along with our water.
On average, 330 tons of chemicals are used per fracking operation—2/3 of the toxic chemicals remain underground.
Earthquakes in frack zones have skyrocketed in places like Ohio, (not a state previously known for seismic activity) placing geologically sensitive California at extreme risk.
Extreme energy methods = climate chaos. California’s 15 billion barrels of fracked oil will release 6.45 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide, on par with the Keystone XL pipeline’s carrying capacity in its lifetime (7 million metric tons).
The millions of gallons of toxic waste water produced cannot be processed by wastewater treatment. If the steel/cement casing of a well cracks from the pressure the toxins seep into the water aquifers that we drink from. Exploding wells, dwindling ecosystems, toxic sink water, sickness and deaths of animals and even humans are not uncommon reports coming from US communities who have been subjected to fracking, depending on whether it is natural gas or oil being fracked. The latest report come from Columbus, Ohio where, since March of this year, 11 earthquakes have resulted from fracking operations in the area.
Baldwin Hills (Los Angeles County) California’s largest frack field (photo Transition Culver City)
California’s Dirty Secret is about to blow
In the Golden state, fracking is unregulated and unmonitored. Corporations do not need to disclose the toxic chemicals they are using or inform communities that fracking is happening. As a water-poor state, fracking and its toxic wastewater presents a serious danger to our communities and ecosystems. And in a state prone to earthquakes, human induced fault pressures present an alarming geological risk. Fracking proponents claim fracking has been going on for 70 years in California with no harmful effects—a misleading apples and oranges statement at best. Old-school fracking did not use the same chemicals or drill as deeply or horizontally, nor inject the kinds of chemicals that modern fracking uses. As a result of all of this, fracking in California is a well-kept secret: only 50% of residents know what fracking is.But that is about to change. Here in California, as communities are learning about fracking’s dangers, they want to stop it.
Along with our partners, Global Exchange’s Community Rights Program is embarking on a 7-day speaking tour from April 15-22. The tour will visit impacted California communities from San Francisco to San Diego and expose the reality of fracking in the state and engage community members in the movement to oppose and stop this harmful and dangerous practice, exploring with our partners all of the efforts underway statewide to stop fracking from transforming the state and the climate.
Tour stops include: San Francisco, Monterey, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Culver City, and San Diego, **with others still to be added.**
Each stop on the tour will include a day of action: along with our allies, we are working with host communities to strategize and develop unique actions that meet each community’s needs. Each day’s activity will be preceded by a local media plan, social media outreach, collaborative efforts, and planned meetings with various community groups. We expect much of the energy we generate on this tour will build toward larger statewide action.
Community Rights Director Shannon Biggs
Confirmed Speakers and partners on the road: We’ll bring Doug Shields, former Pittsburgh PA councilman enacting the first “rights-based” ban on fracking in the nation,
scientists, fractivists, and fracking experts from our partner organizations, many of whom take different approaches to regulate or ban or place a moratorium on the process. Our allies on the road include the Center for Biological Diversity, Food and Water Watch, 350.org,Clean Water Action, Transitions Towns, community-based groups, host community partners, and you! If you are concerned about fracking in your community or in general we are here to help you too! If you would like to join the tour, if you are interested in having us visit your community or if you would like to attend one of the events set up for the tour we’d love to hear from you.
Jessica Nuti and Executive Director Carleen Pickard at the Global Frackdown Bay Area
Global Exchange is helping Communities assert their right to say “NO fracking”
Five years ago, Global Exchange launched the Community Rights Program confronting corporate power at its core: by challenging unjust law and shifting the balance of power from one that protects the rights of corporations, to one that protects the rights of our communities and the environment. The Community Rights Program enters the California and national fracking debate via our expertise in grassroots, “rights-based” organizing, where we work with communities confronted by various corporate harms to enact local laws that place the rights of residents and nature above corporate interests. A right-based approach not only offers communities a way to stop the harmful practices of fracking in their midst, but addresses the core issue of a system of law that legalizes harmful corporate practices like fracking.
We’ve already been working with a handful of communities to pass rights-based fracking bans, including San Luis Obispo, and Culver City, and we hope to be working with many more. This efforts builds on the success of more than nine communities who have stopped fracking through passing rights-based fracking bans – the most notable in Pittsburgh, PA, led by featured tour speaker, Doug Shields. Across Pennsylvania, New Mexico and New York, nine other communities have followed suit (with many more underway), declaring their right as communities to protect the health safety and welfare of residents and the groundwater they depend on.
LEARN MORE: Want to be a part of the tour? Want the tour to come to YOU?
For another take on fracking in California from our Global Exchange colleague Corey Hill, check out this article at the East Bay Express.
Alina Evans and Anna Campanelli, authors of this blog post are interns with the Global Exchange Community Rights Program.
Shannon Biggs, Community Rights Program Director at Global Exchange, shares some holiday reading suggestions for fans of community rights, followed by a few staff picks.
COMMUNITY RIGHTS HOLIDAY READING
Exclusive! David Korten shares some thoughts on nature and the future of economics: A rights-based economy begins with the biosphere. In 2013 Global Exchange will be looking at how the rights of nature can play a role in shaping a new economy (or more correctly new economies) based on the needs of ecosystems and the human communities they support. What does that look like? Ecological economist, author and YES! Magazine co-founder David Korten gives Global Exchange a sneak peak ofa piece he’s working on. For more related to this topic, readDavid Korten’s article in the latest issue of Yes! Magazine.
An Inconvenient Truth About Lincoln (That You Won’t Hear from Hollywood): Have you seen the movie Lincoln? I watched it over the Thanksgiving break, and quite enjoyed the romp through the inner workings and backroom political dealings that go on (spoiler alert!) when passing an Amendment to abolish slavery. However much we love to love Lincoln, it’s worth noting that as a former railroad lawyer, he was a huge advocate of corporate personhood, as a means to ensure that the plantation system was replaced by a corporate version. Before you sit down to watch Daniel Day Lewis inhabit our favorite President,this Huffington Post pieceis a quick and entertaining read.
STAFF PICKS available at your local independent booksellers:
Community Rights staff suggest reading:Taming Democracy by Terry Bouton. Americans are fond of reflecting upon the noble Founding Fathers, who came together to force out the tyranny of the British and bring democracy. Unfortunately, the Revolutionary elite often seemed as determined to squash democracy after the war as they were to support it before.
This is what Shannon Biggs is REALLY reading at home:A Short History of Private Life by Bill Bryson. Bryson takes us on a room-by-room tour through his own house, using each room as a jumping off point into the vast history of the domestic artifacts we take for granted. As he takes us through the history of our modern comforts, Bryson demonstrates that whatever happens in the world eventually ends up in our home, in the paint, the pipes, the pillows, and every item of furniture.
Executive Director Carleen Pickard is reading:The War of Don Emmanuel’s Nether Parts by Louis de Bernières. Set in an impoverished, violent, yet ravishingly beautiful country somewhere in South America. When the haughty Dona Constanza decides to divert a river to fill her swimming pool, the consequences are at once tragic, heroic, and outrageously funny.
Online Communications Manager, Zarah Patriana is reading: One Hundred Years of Solitudeby Gabriel Garcia Marquez. A masterpiece that tells the story of the rise and fall, birth and death of the mythical town of Macondo through the history of the Buendía family.
And finally, in case you missed it, check out our most popular community rights blog post (to date), which was also cross-posted onAlterNet. Read it here.
‘When we speak of ecosystems as ‘resources’ — it is as if we are saying the Earth is in the business of liquidating itself.” — Randy Kapashesit of the Cree Nation
The sacred fire was lit as over 100 primarily Indigenous peoples gathered—and hundreds more participated online—for the RIGHTS OF MOTHER EARTH: RESTORING INDIGENOUS LIFE WAYS OF RESPONSIBILITY AND RESPECT International Indigenous Conference APRIL 4 – 6, 2012 at Haskell Indian Nations University, Lawrence Kansas.
As Renee Gurneau of the Chippewa Nation explained, the fire is an important spiritual tradition acknowledging our relationship with the rest of creation in all things we do, and part of “getting into our ‘right Indigenous mind.’ As she said, “We must always give before we can take, and the fire reminds us of our Original Instructions and helps us wake up to our own knowledge.”
The Sacred Fire
Each day as we walked by the fire circle right outside the auditorium where the conference was held, we felt very grateful and honored to participate in this historic gathering to hold a discourse about Rights of Nature / Rights of Mother Earth with Indigenous leaders and activists from the Global North and South.
Conference organizers, Tom BK Goldtooth (Indigenous Environmental Network) and Dan Wildcat (Haskell University) stated, “This is the greatest challenge facing humanity in the 21st Century. How do we re-orientate the dominant industrialized societies so that they pursue human well-being in a manner that contributes to the health of our Mother Earth instead of undermining it? In other words – how do we live in harmony with Nature?”
In part, the gathering was a response to the Cochabamba World People’s Summit on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth conference called forth by President Evo Morales of Bolivia who proposed that the United Nations adopt a declaration that recognizes that Nature or “Mother Earth” is an indivisible living community of interdependent beings with inherent rights, and that as human societies we have responsibilities to follow the true laws of nature, and to live within the carrying capacity of the planet.
Marlon Santi and Patricia Gualinga Montalvo of the Sarayaku Tribe with Shannon Biggs and Ben Price
In the Kichwa language of the Indigenous people of Ecuador it is called “sumak kawsay,” in Spanish it is “Buen Vivir” — decolonial concepts that mean ‘living well’, as opposed to consumer-driven notions of living more. But how do we get there? Starting from where we are now, can we really envisage a future other than that which has come from enslaving nature, and treating all other life as mere “resources” for exploitation?
The conference focused on a system of earth jurisprudence (rights of nature) that views the natural world, Mother Earth, not as property to be destroyed at will, but as a rights bearing entity with legal standing in a court of law. The intent of the gathering was to bring primarily Indigenous people together with some non-Indigenous allies to explore questions about how the rights of nature legal framework could re-direct the dominant industrialized society to one of living in respect of natural laws.
The Trail of Tears
The Trail of Tears, which refers to the forced resettlement of Native Americans from their homelands and spiritual sites to far-away encampments remains present in the stories of modern colonization, theft and destruction of lands throughout Indian country. It was quite humbling and heartbreaking to realize how little we learn in our conventional school systems about the history of Native American peoples, their brutal struggles, and their outstanding resilience to hundreds of years of ongoing assaults.
Modern stories of broken promises from government officials, corporations, speculators and lawyers have created a wariness among Native leaders to partner with outsiders, and for those of us “non-native allies” present, it was a constant learning of how to engage with love and humility in a space that was first and foremost—Indigenous. Tom Goldtooth spoke at the conference on the idea of Indigenous leaders partnering with non-native allies to promote Rights for Nature:
Although not everyone saw eye-to-eye throughout the 3-day event, it was clear to all in attendance that the basic tenants proposed by the rights of nature framework, while new to western legal systems, are actually based on”original instructions” — Indigenous worldviews and philosophies that uphold the essential interrelatedness of all life and our human responsibility to respect and protect the natural world that we are part and particle of. This basic unifying principle has the potential to create new alliances and protections for every community as we face the challenging years ahead.
Shannon Biggs and Clayton Thomas-Muller, Tar Sands Campaign Director for IEN enjoy some traditional eats
Almost all of the speakers at the conference were Indigenous—from as far away as Hawaii, Ecuador and Canada. Shannon Biggs of Global Exchange (co-author of this blog) and Ben Price from the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund had the honor and opportunity to present the work we do with communities confronted by unwanted and dangerous projects to write new laws to recognize legal rights for communities and ecosystems.
• Watch a video of Shannon and Ben present on Community and Nature’s Rights.
• For video and audio archive of the conference, go here.
Rights and Responsibilities to Future Generations
Representing Global Exchange and the Women’s Earth and Climate Caucus as well as our shared collaboration with the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature, we listened and learned a great deal from Indigenous leaders exploring concerns about rights of nature and how they might interface or interfere with existing Indian Native and First Nations laws. We have much to learn about how Indigenous communities define responsibilities as much as rights, and that the rights of future generations—not just of human but all species—is critical to building a bridge toward common understanding in the shared work that we do.
Renee Gurneau at the Harvest Banquet hosted by the Osage Nation
The call for environmental justice in Indigenous communities on the frontlines of uranium mining, tar sands extractions, water takings and more are all potential opportunities for rights of nature and community rights to come into action.
We look forward to further alliance building with Indigenous communities and offering all that we can as we look towards the Rio + 20 Earth Summit and beyond and how we can create broad support for the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth and care for all of our communities and bioregions in a truly just and respectful manner. As Tom Goldtooth said at the conference,
“We cannot flourish breaking the laws of nature. Rights of Nature is a human recognition that we are part of a larger Earth community and if we want to continue we must recognize the laws of that community; the true system governing our own well being.”
Hawaiian Rev. M. Kalani Souza, storyteller, songwriter, musician, poet, philosopher, priest, political satirist, and peacemaker joins a banjo playing friend impromptu for a song on the grass at Haskell College.
Shannon Biggs and Osprey Orielle Lake are offering Rights of Nature Trainings through the Women’s Earth and Climate Caucus and if interested, please contact Wyolah Garden (email@example.com). Also if you are interested in hosting a Rights of Nature Training in your community please contact Wyolah Garden.
Shannon and Osprey at the conference
Shannon Biggsis the Director of the Community Rights program at Global Exchange. She recently co-authored a book, Building the Green Economy: Success Stories from the Grass Roots (PoliPoint Press). Her current work focuses on assisting communities confronted by corporate harms to enact binding laws that place the rights of communities and nature above the claimed legal “rights” of corporations.
Osprey Orielle Lakeis a lifelong advocate of environmental justice and societal transformation. She is the Director of the Women’s Earth and Climate Caucus (WECC) and an International Advocate for the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature. Her book, Uprisings for the Earth: Reconnecting Culture with Nature (White Cloud Press) is a 2011 Nautilus Book Award winner.
The international peasants and farmers organization, La Via Campesina, ends their global Call to Action for the upcoming June 16-18 Rio +20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD) with ‘GLOBALIZE THE STRUGGLE!! GLOBALIZE HOPE!!!’
The stakes are high in Rio. As Via Campesina points out, “Twenty years later, governments should have reconvened to review their commitments and progress, but in reality the issue to debate will be the “green economy” led development, propagating the same capitalist model that caused climate chaos and other deep social and environmental crises.”
Critiquing the focus on corporate ‘Green Economy’ evident in the march to Rio documents and planning, Via states:
“Today the “greening of the economy” pushed forward in the run-up to Rio+20 is based on the same logic and mechanisms that are destroying the planet and keeping people hungry. For instance, it seeks to incorporate aspects of the failed “green revolution” in a broader manner in order to ensure the needs of the industrial sectors of production, such as promoting the uniformity of seeds, patented seeds by corporation, genetically modified seeds, etc.
The capitalist economy, based on the over-exploitation of natural resources and human beings, will never become “green.” It is based on limitless growth in a planet that has reached its limits and on the commoditization of the remaining natural resources that have until now remained un-priced or in control of the public sector.
In this period of financial crisis, global capitalism seeks new forms of accumulation. It is during these periods of crisis in which capitalism can most accumulate. Today, it is the territories and the commons which are the main target of capital. As such, the green economy is nothing more than a green mask for capitalism. It is also a new mechanism to appropriate our forests, rivers, land… of our territories!
Since last year’s preparatory meetings towards Rio+20, agriculture has been cited as one of the causes of climate change. Yet no distinction is made in the official negotiations between industrial and peasant agriculture, and no explicit difference between their effects on poverty, climate and other social issues we face.
The “green economy” is marketed as a way to implement sustainable development for those countries which continue to experience high and disproportionate levels of poverty, hunger and misery. In reality, what is proposed is another phase of what we identify as “green structural adjustment programs” which seek to align and re-order the national markets and regulations to submit to the fast incoming “green capitalism”.
Investment capital now seeks new markets through the “green economy”; securing the natural resources of the world as primary inputs and commodities for industrial production, as carbon sinks or even for speculation. This is being demonstrated by increasing land grabs globally, for crop production for both export and agrofuels. New proposals such as “climate smart” agriculture, which calls for the “sustainable intensification” of agriculture, also embody the goal of corporations and agri-business to over exploit the earth while labeling it “green”, and making peasants dependent on high-cost seeds and inputs. New generations of polluting permits are issued for the industrial sector, especially those found in developed countries, such as what is expected from programs such as Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD++) and other environmental services schemes.
The green economy seeks to ensure that the ecological and biological systems of our planet remain at the service of capitalism, by the intense use of various forms of biotechnologies, synthetic technologies and geo-engineering. GMO’s and biotechnology are key parts of the industrial agriculture promoted within the framework of “green economy”.
The promotion of the green economy includes calls for the full implementation of the WTO Doha Round, the elimination of all trade barriers to incoming “green solutions,” the financing and support of financial institutions such as the World Bank and projects such as US-AID programs, and the continued legitimization of the international institutions that serve to perpetuate and promote global capitalism.
“…From the point of view of these proponents of the green economy, in order to re-establish equilibrium with Nature, we must assign an economic value to the environmental “services” nature provides. An underlying assumption is only that which can be owned and profited from deserves stewardship.”
“…We are facing a debate in the United Nations among those that believe we need to strengthen the capitalist logic as it related to Nature, and others that suggest we should recognize the Rights of Nature. These are two very different conceptions. One advocates the path of the market, and the other the past of recognizing and respecting the larger system of the planet Earth on which we all live. The future of humans and Nature depends on the path humanity chooses.”
Global Exchange will be on the ground in Rio – promoting the Rights of Nature. Read more about the Community Rights Campaign here and join Via Campesina in the Call to Action. They:
… declare the week of June 5th, as a major world week in defense of the environment and against transnational corporations and invite everyone across the world to mobilize:
• Defend sustainable peasant agriculture;
• Occupy land for the production of agroecological and non-market dominated food;
• Reclaim and exchange native seeds;
• Protest against Exchange and Marketing Board offices and call for an end to speculative markets on commodities and land;
• Hold local assemblies of People Affected by Capitalism;
• Dream of a different world and create it!!
Global Exchange stands with Via Campesina to ‘GLOBALIZE THE STRUGGLE!! GLOBALIZE HOPE!!!’
Live in the Bay Area and want to learn more about the call for the Rights of Mother Earth at Rio+20? Attend the upcoming Rights of Nature seminar hosted by the Women’s Earth and Climate Caucus in Marin County April 13th-14th.
After 9 days of negotiations there is no doubt that we saw this movie before. It is the third remake of Copenhagen and Cancun. Same actors. Same script. The documents are produced outside the formal negotiating scenario . In private meetings, dinners which the 193 member states do not attend. The result of these meetings is known only on the last day.
In the case of Copenhagen it was at two in the morning after the event should have already ended. In Cancun, the draft decision just appeared at 5 p.m. on the last day and was not opened for negotiation, not even to correct a comma. Bolivia stood firm on both occasions. The reason: the very low emission reduction commitments of industrialized countries that would lead to an increase in average global temperatures of more than 4° Celsius. In Cancun, Bolivia stood alone. I could not do otherwise. How could we accept the same document that was rejected in Copenhagen, knowing that 350,000 people die each year due to natural disasters caused by climate change? To remain silent is to be complicit in genocide and ecocide. To accept a disastrous document in order not to be left alone is cowardly diplomacy. Even more so when one trumpets the “people’s diplomacy” and has pledged to defend the “People’s Agreement” of the World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth held in Bolivia last year.
Durban will be worse than Copenhagen and Cancun. Two days before the close of the meetings, the true text that is being negotiated is not yet known. Everyone knows that the actual 131-page document is just a compilation of proposals that were already on the table in Panama two months ago. The formal negotiations have barely advanced. The real document will appear toward the end of COP17.
But more importantly, the substance of the negotiations remains unchanged from Copenhagen. The emission reduction pledges by developed countries are still 13% to 17% based on 1990 levels. Everyone knows that this is a catastrophe. But instead of becoming outraged, they attempt to sweeten the poison. The wrapper of this package will be the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol and a mandate for a new binding agreement. The substance of the package will be the same as in Copenhagen and Cancun: do virtually nothing during this decade in terms of reducing emissions, and get a mandate to negotiate an agreement that will be even weaker than the Kyoto Protocol and that will replace it in 2020. “The Great Escape III” is the name of this movie, and it tells the story of how the governments of rich countries along with transnational corporations are looking to escape their responsibility to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Instead of becoming stronger, the fight against climate change is becoming more soft and flexible, with voluntary commitments to reduce emissions. The question is, who will step up this time to denounce the fraud to the end? Or could it be that this time, everyone will accept the remake of Copenhagen and Cancun?
The truth is that beyond the setting and the last scene, the end of this film will be the same as in Copenhagen and Cancun: humanity and mother earth will be the victims of a rise in temperature not seen in 800,000 years.
Pablo Solon is an international analyst and social activist. He was chief negotiator for climate change and United Nations Ambassador of the Plurinational State of Bolivia (2009-June 2011). http://pablosolon.wordpress.com/