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.