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.

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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.

Thomas Linzey for We, the People, 2.0

Santa Monica welcomes Thomas Linzey, who will be giving an inspiring talk to be filmed for a new project called We, the People, 2.0.  To Linzey, “The environmental movement is a failure.  Whether it’s climate change or the health of our oceans, air, and soil, the planet is worse off now than it was 40 years ago, and rapidly declining. Yet, corporations have more rights than our communities or ecosystems and are doing just fine.  This is how we fix this situation.”

Thomas Linzey: Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund Fights for Community Rights and the Rights of Nature   

to be portrayed in a new film–We, the People, 2.0

Sunday, February 26, 2012

2 – 4:30 p.m.

Santa Monica Main Library, Martin Luther King Auditorium

601 Santa Monica Blvd., Santa Monica, CA 90401

(This is a free event.)

Tree Media is filming WE THE PEOPLE 2.0The time is now for this film.

Leila Conners, who co-directed the critically acclaimed film, The Eleventh Hour, sets out to bring us the voice of Thomas Linzey, awakening us to the grandeur of what we can do to revitalize caring for our natural ecosystems and ourselves.  Leila lets us know how momentous it is to be making We, the People, 2.0.  She relates, “Having dealt with environmental issues now for over 15 years, I know that the work of Thomas Linzey is THE solution to endless environmental destruction.  I’ve often wondered, as I know many of you have, why, if we all want clean air, water and soil and a healthy planet for our children, why can’t we make this happen?  Why is it just getting worse?  Thomas has the answer and also the solution. It’s across the board, it answers the 99%.  That’s why we are making this film, because everyone needs to hear about this work.”

With our help through crowd-funding, the film can be made.  Check in with Tree Media to help out!

Sustain!

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

http://santamonica.patch.com/articles/council-moves-toward-making-green-goals-mandatory

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! council@smgov.net 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! 

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      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.