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. http://www.smdp.com/hc.e.73358.lasso#print