Renewing our strengths to strengthen and heal our Earth

One of Earth’s remarkable gifts is the cycle of life that Nature regenerates.  In a sense all Life recycles.  All life–including human life, from dust to dust, recycles.

Metaphorically, a kind of recycling is revealed as the Earth rotates, and sunrise lights each day; moonrise brightens night.  Such a natural reality can boost one’s spirit of renewal.  At this time, the week of the People’s Climate March, Flood Wall Street,  the UN people’s summit and momentum on the divestment from fossil fuels, individual and collective strengths have been revitalizing.  In community our
strengths abound, our individuality shines.

Deepening actions and taking new actions to live in healthy and humane ways, loving and honoring each other and all creatures of Earth’s biosphere enable us to breathe anew.

15312539402_9d01cb6ff3_zAs people marched, stood up, spoke out and sat-in, a sense of ourselves rose as citizens of the world and fellow creatures of the biosphere.

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At home in our daily lives what does that look like?  When we have choices to make, what do we choose to do?  Take the time to walk a mile instead of driving it.  Listen to the birds; feel the breeze or heat as air sensations.  Greet a neighbor.  Turn from Facebook to a real book.  Read in solitude, to a child, with a group.   Plant a seed, a sunflower, a tree, a garden.  Cultivate with others.  Remove a lawn.  Refresh reuse with imagination.  Ask, “Do I need to buy this thing?”  Buy local.  Help create a restoration.  Build a  local economy based on restoration, learning, service.

There’s much to do and we have the power.  It’s the power not the purchase that marks our freedom.  That’s the strength we need that in turn can strengthen and heal Earth, Mother Earth.

It’s time to express ourselves by enacting humane, ecological habits of being.

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Organic Growers Feed the Spirit and Body Politic

eco farm conf            Last week being with the Eco-Farm community at Asilomar, CA assured me that the organic growers—farmers, gardeners, and all who study, support, supply, partner or ally with them—feed more than populations.   As they cultivate and care for the land, the crops or animals, helping the biodiversity of flora and fauna and watersheds to flourish, these organic growers participate in a growing organic grassroots that feed our national and international spirit and the health of our body politic.

Since J. I. Rodale founded in 1930 the Rodale business in farming and publishing to focus on healing and the synergy of healthy soil and healthy people, organic growing practices and understandings have boosted what it means to see that human beings are a dynamic part of Nature and to have thriving relationships with the natural world.  More than 1600 people were a part of the 2014 Eco-Farm Conference initiated 34 years ago continuing the deepening of an ecological consciousness.  Some of the elders in the organic growing community convened a week earlier to reflect on what has been learned and what needs to be done.

Certainly, what has been done has included helping to generate an environmental, a.k.a sustainability, movement and many policies and laws that affect the political economy, starting with limiting damage that can be done to the biosphere.  Although there is much more to be done, the near-settled 2014 Farm Bill has provisions that assist organic farming and research.  Yet, in the United States, environmental laws have generally been based on the Commerce Clause in the Constitution, which recognizes Nature as property, a thing to be consumed or used.

Thankfully, in places, like Santa Monica, CA, the 20 year-old, continually updated, City’s Sustainability Plan has led to shifting the paradigm to recognize the rights of Nature in a Sustainability Bill of Rights.  Natural ecosystems, like a community, have fundamental inherent rights to thrive.  Those rights supersede private corporate interests.  Now, any Santa Monica citizen has standing to speak for the ecosystem and, if necessary, in a court of law to defend those rights of the Natural ecosystems, particularly the watershed, within the city.  Here’s an example of a local community deciding for itself how to be healthy and truly sustainable.

  asilomar_conference_grounds_beach_pacific_grove_california_unitedstatesAt the 2014 Eco-Farm conference new seeds for opening minds and practicing humane habits were planted.  Visiting nearby independent organic farms and a community cannery-kitchen commenced the lessons.  asilomar_conference_grounds_pebble_beach_4Later, tucked in in Asilomar’s Monterey Pine forest across from sand dunes and ocean, it was enlightening to sit in gracious spaces—architectural weaves of wood, stone and light—to converse, question, or dine with a multigenerational gathering of farmers, gardeners, students, scientists, activists, educators, merchants, craftspeople, artists, poets, physicians, academics, leaders and neighbors. Keynote speaker Dr.Temple Grandin urged us to be better observers, attentive to the details that take into consideration an animal’s thinking-in-pictures.  Closing presenter Maria Rodale reminded us, as her grandfather understood, organic growing heals—in short, to Ms. Rodale, “More love, less fear.”   With such consciousness, the organic community is quite an animated organic grassroots that enliven the spirit and body politic.

The People’s Song is to Save Mother Earth

Saturday, September 21, in Seattle’s Myrtle Edwards Park, the Puget Sound poured into Elliot Bay and refreshed us at the shoreline.  There, our determination and love of Mother Earth, our commitment to our fellow creatures, especially the young, meshed with the breezy sunshine to bathe us.  Bill McKibben named it such a pretty “solar spill,” to me, our balm and nourishment.

We made our personal commitments in solidarity with the young boy who asked us to “save Mother Earth” and waved our red banners to “Draw the Line” against the Keystone XL 1379835075-350org-draws-the-line-in-seattle_2754106pipeline and confront the climate crisis.

That  excessive materialism and unconscious consumerism have largely generated climate change does not deter us from awakening to our finest consciousness and humane living in the Anthropocene Age.

The beauty of that realization rushed back to me later in the evening when I sat immersed in a local Seattle performance of Les Miserables and the “People’s Song”uplifted the voices in unison to assert the human power to live free, joyfully and lovingly.

The Law is that Nature has rights in Santa Monica: “We are a living, breathing planet.”

It took no more than a minute, perhaps because nearly three years of thoughtful work, education and advocacy made it so obvious, that on Tuesday, April 9, 2013, the Santa Monica City Council unanimously, 7 – 0, enacted into law the Sustainability Bill of Rights (SBR).  The ordinance recognizes the rights of Nature and community rights as fundamental and inalienable, superseding corporate interests.  Accordingly,  “Natural communities and ecosystems possess fundamental and inalienable rights to exist and flourish in the City Of Santa Monica.”  The law challenges the legal status of nature as merely property and empowers the City or residents to bring actions on behalf of local ecosystems.

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Significantly, this new law codifies “that corporate entities, and their directors and managers, do not enjoy special privileges or powers under the law that subordinate the community’s rights to their private interests.” Commercial corporate interests shall not violate the community’s rights for a sustainable future nor treat the natural ecosystem as property for short-term profit.

The ordinance reflects a momentous, ecologically conscious act of local self-government.  It was sparked by the absurd and destructive Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission Supreme Court 2010 ruling that unleashed unlimited corporate or union funds in United States elections, equating spending money with the people’s protected free speech.

The city’s Task Force on the Environment foresaw a flurry of potential election spending by polluters jeopardizing natural environment protections.  Biologist Mark Gold, task force chairman, brought forth ideas he was considering with environmental lawyers about a legal paradigm shift regarding Nature and its relationship to human beings.

Linda Sheehan, the Earth Law Center’s Executive Director and Shannon Biggs, Global Exchange’s rights-based organizer, partnered with the task force, along with residents who convened Santa Monica Neighbors Unite! to promote understanding and passage of the SBR.  Thomas Linzey, co-founder of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, lent early support, and his colleagues brought the Democracy School to town.  Santa Monica City Attorney, Marsha Moutrie, spent months studying and grappling with bold possibilities and developed the legal language with Gold and Sheehan.   Dean Kubani and Shannon Parry, leaders from the city’s Office of Sustainability and Environment added to the deliberations with care.

The community really stepped up engaged in local meetings at homes or at neighborhood associations, workshops and town halls.  Santa Monica College and Santa Monica High School student leaders endorsed the SBR right away and immediately joined SM Neighbors Unite!, energizing gatherings and so inspiring the city council.  SMC’s Associated Students Presidents Harrison Wills and Parker Jean and SaMoHi Solar Alliance 2011 – 2012 co-presidents Charlotte Biren and Jenna Perelman, along with the school’s Team Marine, have proven invaluable as dedicated environmentalists with vivid imagination, joy and understanding.

On January 24, 2012, where the city council resolved to move forward with the SBR, the mighty voices of youth particularly heralded the profound meaning of this bold ordinance.

Some might argue that the SBR needs to be stronger by denying U.S. Constitutional protections of corporate personhood rights or of the Commerce Clause that favor corporations over community interests.  True, but the SBR advances our natural world’s protections in ways that energize our struggle to hold sacred Mother Earth, safeguarding her, ourselves and our community rights.

The reality is that when we recognize the rights of Nature, we really deepen and strengthen our human rights.  Our biological existence—synapse, heartbeat and breath—is entwined so delicately with the elements and energy of Earth’s biosphere and natural ecosystems that embrace, comprise and nourish us.  Mother Earth brings life to our metaphysical being.  In the material world, our natural being bears our souls.

Realizing the vitality of Nature verifies the vividness and vulnerability of our own lives.  Where would we be without Nature?  Such a simple question can unearth a bounty of lush understandings or tremulous uncertainties.   Where would we be without Nature?

Marianne Simon, a community member, serenely voiced an eloquent answer that deeply moved us at the March 12 council meeting’s first reading of the Sustainability Bill of Rights  ordinance.  Listen to her and others there:

     We are a living breathing planet over 4 billion years old.  As humans we showed    up some few thousand years ago, and have the illusion that we control things.  But the way we’ve done things up to this point has not always been for the greater good.

And as our development increases exponentially around the world, we have to look at our approach through different eyes.

The earth was here before us, and at this rate, she will be here after us.  No matter how much we eviscerate, level, dam or channel, it is just a matter of time, before things revert.  But the question becomes at what point in our process do we, as a species, become at risk?

How much water do we have to taint, before there is none left to drink? How many mountains do we have to level before we drown in our own avalanche of sludge.  How many oceans do we poison, before we ourselves have nothing to ingest but those self same poisons.  How many species, varieties do we destroy before we find ourselves vulnerable to a devastating virus, bacteria or wilt.?  All the money in the world won’t save us.

Ask a 5 year old and they will tell you the answer.  How can such an intelligent race be so stupid in their shortsightedness about our future.

It is long overdue that the earth have a seat at the table in the decisions we make.  In how we utilize our resources in a sustainable manner, in how we can grow and support future generations of not just human beings, but all living things.

It is long overdue that this bill become the standard by which we guide ourselves and our impact on the planet.”

The Rights of Nature in Santa Monica!

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It’s time!  March 12, 2013, the Santa Monica Sustainability Bill of Rights is set to be considered by the Santa Monica City Council after two years of study and advocacy.  With imagination and deep understanding of the influence that Santa Monica can have to shift the legal paradigm for environmental and human sustainability, the Task Force on the Environment has recommended a new law that recognizes the rights of Nature and the community rights to supersede corporate interests.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

6:30 p.m.

Santa Monica City Council Meeting

Santa Monica City Hall, 1685 Main Street, 2nd Floor

Santa Monica, CA 90401

Agenda Item 7-C: Introduction and First Reading of an Ordinance Establishing Sustainable Rights for Santa Monica residents and the natural environment.

 STAFF REPORT and SBR Ordinance

Who Determines our Sustainable Future—Residents or Corporations?

We need a Santa Monica Sustainability Bill of Rights to protect our water, air, and land and to remedy climate change.

Write or telephone council members: council@smgov.net or (310) 458-8201.

            In 1994, Santa Monica established its first comprehensive City Sustainability Plan.  The city and community have worked hard to protect the natural ecosystems that make life possible.  Based on the recommendation of the Santa Monica’s Task Force on the Environment, Santa Monica will now move to recognize the rights of Nature with a new legal paradigm for sustainability to be a legal obligation and not just a voluntary intention.  Now, we need to ensure that the rights of the community and our natural ecosystems take precedence over corporate interests.

Why?  Big corporations are dominating people, Nature and our democracy.

The Supreme Court’s January 2010 Citizens United ruling has given corporations freedom- of-speech rights that belong to “We, the People.”  Our environmental laws and regulations can thus be weakened by corporate campaign donations buying politicians’ loyalties that can lead to laws favoring corporate interests above everything else.

Santa Monica needs a Sustainability Bill of Rights as the law to protect our inalienable rights to a sustainable future.  We are a part of Nature, and our natural ecosystems are not solely property to manage and control. 

 A Santa Monica Sustainability Bill of Rights empowers the community to:

•  Have sustainable water, food, energy, air, soil, climate systems, waste treatment, etc.;

•  Set policies that advance self-sufficiency within the City to help achieve those goals;

•  Decide how to ensure the community’s health, safety and welfare; and

•  Put sustainable needs of people and natural ecosystems above corporate interests.

The Splendor of Being

“If you could see the Earth illuminated when you were in a place as dark as night, it would look to you more splendid than the moon.” –Galileo Galilei

To see our Mother Earth in her quintessence in the Milky Way reminds us that all living beings potentially bear her splendor.  Only as each of us, as human beings and fellow creatures of the biosphere, acting  compassionately, reflecting deep understanding and thought can our splendor really shine.

Travel through such beauty with NASA.

Rachel’s Gift of Water

Children and young people see deeply into how we are one on this planet.

As one nine year-old, Rachel Beckwith, could ask that gifts for her birthday be giving water to others, each of us can imagine how we can turn our hopes into practical service for others to share in Mother Earth’s nourishment.  Imagine and act with love.  Rachel’s inspiration gives to all of us.