Radical SUSTAIN-Ability

What does it take to heal ourselves and Mother Earth?  Just our realization that getting to the roots of our problems or mistakes–being radical–enables our true sustaining abilities.  That’s why we’re in the movement for environmental rights.  We are far beyond and deeper than an environmental regulations campaign.

Listening to Dr. Mark Gold make the case at the Santa Monica College Earth week keynote address lifts the spirit and the radical momentum.

 

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.”

Leading the Way for a Sustainability Bill of Rights

The Santa Monica Sustainability Bill of Rights ordinance is close to becoming the local law to ensure that community rights and the rights of Nature supersede corporate interests.  Chair of Santa Monica’s Task Force on the Environment, Mark Gold, associate director of the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, has been a thoughtful, creative leader who has wrestled with the limitations of our environmental laws and regulations in the United States.  He has studied and considered the deeper means to securing the well-being of our natural ecosystems that secure our human well-being.

 

We are a Part of Nature and Nature, We!

It is so refreshing to hear lawyers who understand the first principles of what the law needs to protect–as in our deep relationship with Nature.  Linda Sheehan, the Executive Director of Earth Law Center, expresses this fine tuned consciousness with a firm and inspiring eloquence. We are intricately a part of Nature and Nature a part of us.
On Tuesday, March 12, 2013, The Sustainability Bill of Rights ordinance will be considered by the Santa Monica City Council to shift the legal paradigm for environmental protection by recognizing the rights of Nature and putting the rights of the community and natural ecosystems before corporate interests.

Tell the Santa Monica City Council what a profound and timely commitment this is: council@smgov.net.

The Rights of Nature in Santa Monica!

RaindropsLeaves

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.

Luminosity

SunsplashA luminous 2013 New Year commences, and the year’s sunrise illuminates a creativity to stretch as a human being on Mother Earth, caring more extensively with compassion, imagination and understanding for each other and our natural communities—fellow creatures of the biosphere.  Energizing and strengthening humanity, living consciously to generate and regenerate biodiversity enliven our health and wellbeing.

In the opening canto of Dante’s Inferno, in the trembling wake of doubt and fear, the poet sees his midlife journey carrying him into a dark forest that opens to a foothill path, whereupon, he envisions:

            I looked on high and saw its shoulders clothed

            already by the rays of that same planet

            which serves to lead men straight along all roads.

In Italian, the song beats as a wide-opening heart:

            guardai in alto e vidi le sue spalle

            vestite già de’ raggi del pianeta

            che mena dritto altrui per ogne calle.

To lighten the spirit and paths ahead, each and every sunrise can lift a weight from one’s shoulders, a kind of chain mail that heavily clings to a body to ward off blows and throes of private or public mistakes, uncertainty and insecurities.

From climate change and diminished biodiversity to economic inequality and social injustices, from a culture of violence and destruction to crony capitalism and greed, we can emerge by seeing ourselves anew and our home-planet anew.  Stretching beyond typical expectations and routine habits of progress and material aggrandizement, we can open ourselves to the myriad possibilities of creating an eco-nomy” that generates and restores the intricacy and grandness of our natural communities.

In those realms grows our creative confidence and humility that move with confronting who we really are—souls who breathe in and because of the wonders of Mother Earth’s Nature.