Resolution Declaring the City’s Commitment to Sustainable Rights

After 9 p.m. on a beautiful Tuesday night, before scores of eager young people, families, friends, neighbors, and allies, the Santa Monica City Council agreed 6 – 0 to approve a resolution to advance a Sustainability Bill of Rights at its January 24, 2012 meeting!  It’s a big first step.

Earlier, as the late afternoon light melted into crimson, violet and bronze, the sunset swept the community into Nature’s embrace.   Rallying on the steps of the Santa Monica City Hall, a couple of blocks from the Pacific Ocean, all sorts of people gathered to boost their energies for the upcoming meeting.  Charlotte Biren and Jenna Perelman, the co-presidents of the SaMoHi Solar Alliance, led the way by speaking clearly about the future that, as Jenna beautifully noted, we hold in our hands.

She called to our minds the gospel spiritual, “He’s got the Whole World in His Hands,” and emphasized that “He, we” can change, as we need now, to set ourselves on a firm sustainable footing.  Charlotte uplifted our spirit with her exuberance and determination to stress that it is the younger generations who will have to live with [or not] the results of how we now regard and use our natural resources.

Thanks to the inspiration of these two young women, other youths, many from SaMoHi Team Marine and Heal the Bay, came, too, bicycling, skateboarding, walking, or driving over to be a part of a growing local movement.  Clearly, the Millennials are wiling to press ahead in bold ways to sustain a future.  With activists and community members from all ages, they take seriously that we need to shift the paradigm from seeing Nature as ours to manage or control to recognizing the “fundamental rights of natural communities and ecosystems to exist, thrive and evolve,” as the resolution declares.  In short, it’s a shift to community rights and the rights of Nature coming before and being above corporate interests.

Participatory democracy moved indoors into a packed city council chambers, and a little after 8 p.m., 40 of us stood up before the city council to support the binding resolution to commit to a real sustainable future that the city’s Task Force on the Environment had brought forward.  A wide variety of people who live, work or study in or visit Santa Monica examined the issue based on diverse perspectives.

Parker, one of the Santa Monica College student leaders, quoted John Muir stressing, “God has cared for these trees, saved them from drought, disease, avalanches, and a thousand tempests and floods. But he cannot save them from fools.”  What Muir asserted about trees bears the truth for all of Nature.

By 9:30 p.m., the council voted 6 – 0 to require that the city staff makes sure that our City Sustainability Plan update, due by September, includes the practices, policies and new goals called for by the Sustainability Bill of Rights. The council resolved that the staff come back with proposed statute(s) that will make the commitments legal, enforceable obligations.

Okay, the Move to Amend resolution stumbled and fell 2 – 4.  The challenge is to convince the council that abolishing corporate “personhood” is not going too far and that that it is what the community calls for, after what our mayor expects to be a public airing and debate.  So be it.

It is indeed a serious matter to amend our Constitution.  As advocates, we’ll move forward to hold public discussions and debates for a serious, not a symbolic, vote from our council to put an end to affording corporations the rights of people.

It means we will also do our best to bring in a Democracy School.   All of our efforts are strengthening our sustainable future.

Here are two accounts of Tuesday’s community and council actions for a Sustainability Bill of Rights.


We Need You!

 We Need You to Help Us Choose a

Sustainability Bill of Rights

for Santa Monica to Protect our Clean Water, Air and Land

  and a Move to Amend Resolution!

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

  Tuesday, January 24, 2012

 5:30 p.m. Rally

Support Sustainability Bill of Rights on the steps of City Hall

6:30 p.m.

 Santa Monica City Council Meeting

Santa Monica City Hall

1685 Main Street

Council Chambers, 2nd Floor

Santa Monica, CA 90401

 Join Santa Monica Neighbors Unite! Urge our city council to agree! or (310) 458-8201


Santa Monica Blue Bus Lines #2, #3, #4 and #8 serve City Hall. Free parking (w/validation) on Olympic Drive, in the Civic Center Parking Structure

Who Decides, Santa Monica?

Who decides, Santa Monica?  Just US—making sure that our community rights and the rights of Nature thrive so we survive! 


      Sunshine or rain.  Sweet air.  Iridescent Earth.

Walking from home to our Santa Monica community garden early on a bright winter morning is one of the best ways for me to wake up.  Vivid cerulean skies sharpen the senses.  The sapphire ocean engraves a crisp line that carries the eye to a freckled boy whose hair tousles in the wind with the laughter of a girl, both riding bikes behind a woman, probably their mom, on her bike.  Scenes like these awaken me to what really matters.

Breathing in, breathing out: what beckons me outside pulsates within—my being a part of Nature.  That simple, profound, obvious fact makes everything clear.  We are a part of Nature—not above, beyond or separate from, but a part of Nature.   Nature—the Creation—makes our lives possible.

Natural ecosystems generate the force and energy of existence on earth—Mother Earth.  Denying or avoiding that truth does not change that reality.  Our human existence is a biological reality, an evolutionary testimony.  Human species, Homo sapiens, we are creatures of the biosphere.  To deny that reality threatens us.  To threaten that reality denies us.

It is critical that we confront these fundamental truths of our humanity, especially in these times of climate change, corporate domination, mass consumerism and militarism—the Anthropocene, the Age of Humans.  To me, in “Occupy” terms, it is time to  “reclaim our humanity.”  That is one big reason that in Santa Monica, California, more and more of us see that a vital way to do exactly that is to establish a Sustainability Bill of Rights ordinance, rooted in our community rights and the rights of Nature taking precedence over and subordinating corporate interests.

The vision is to build upon our seventeen-year comprehensive Santa Monica City Sustainability Plan first established in 1994.  A Sustainability Bill of Rights would establish that the measurable goals of our sustainability are enforceable legal obligations, not just voluntary intentions.  Over the years, our city and community have worked hard to protect our natural ecosystem, but the nation’s system of environmental laws and regulations are just not enough to secure our natural world and our lives.

On January 24, 2012, neighbors and allies will bring the ideas and commitments of a Sustainability Bill of Rights before our Santa Monica City Council to be carried forth.

We need to shift our paradigm and recognize the rights of Nature that assure our human rights.  Codifying that consciousness in laws and practices that relegate corporate profits and power to a subservient position is essential to life.  In concert with the international movement for the rights of Nature and working directly with the Earth Law Center, Global Exchange and the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, we are creating coalitions, including Santa Monica Neighbors Unite! to build understanding and support for a Sustainability Bill of Rights.

Yes, it is a momentous, existential expectation, what “We, the People” in Santa Monica can choose.  “We, the People,” the ultimate sovereign in our republic and the source of our democratic power, can take nothing for granted.

In early December, we learned from the Global Carbon Project that from 2009 – 2010 carbon emissions on Earth leaped 5.9%.  A looming increase in a single year, the jump is arguably the largest since the Industrial Revolution.  Yet, our United States political leaders quibble, dodge or stall, including at last month’s United Nations climate change conference in Durban, South Africa.  Oil profiteers press the State Department and the Obama Administration to allow TransCanada Corp. to build the XL Keystone pipeline, keeping us stuck in the sludge of dependence on dirty fossil fuels, the extraction of which produces multiple times the amount of Green House Gas emissions than do conventional modes of extraction—“crude” oil indeed.

International carbon outputs bedevil us, but locally we can invigorate what it means to be responsible in reducing our own emissions, as we also conserve, preserve and restore our natural ecosystems in imaginative ways that renew us.  We can begin by valuing our community rights to clean water, air and land as our birthrights and our true commonwealth.

It is up to us to decide—just us.