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January 2012, Week 4

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Mon, 23 Jan 2012 22:00:47 -0500
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How Can Communities Defend Themselves From Corporate
Interests? 

Monday 23 January 2012 

by: Rose Aguilar, Truthout | Report

http://www.truth-out.org/how-can-communities-defend-themselves-corporate-interests/1327072431

(Image: Gibbs Smith)

Why isn't activism working? It's not for lack of
trying, says self-described recovering environmental
attorney Thomas Linzey. The environmental community has
created a slew of environmental laws and launched an
alphabet soup of environmental regulatory agencies, but
what do they really do?

Linzey says they merely regulate the level of harm and
amount of poisons that can be legally injected into our
water, soil and air; they're not designed to stop it.

In the new book, "Be The Change: How to Get What You
Want in Your Community," Linzey and Anneke Campbell, an
environmental justice documentary filmmaker, argue that
it's time to stop begging the government and
corporations to cause less harm. It's time to replace
corporate minority decision-making with community
self-government.

Linzey and Campbell write about people from all walks
of life doing just that by leaving their comfort zones
to become community leaders.

Gail Darrell left gardening to stop water-withdrawal
corporations from taking her town's water in Barnstead,
New Hampshire; Michael Vacca pours concrete by day and
stops coal corporations from destroying his western
Pennsylvania community by night; Cathy Miorelli, a
local elected official and nurse, has led her borough
council in taking on some of the largest waste
corporations in the state of Pennsylvania; and Rick
Evans, a member of the Laborers Union in Spokane,
Washington, is working to protect the constitutional
rights of workers.

"They didn't wait for an environmental group to come
along and try to save them, or for a state or federal
agency to intervene," writes Linzey. "Just as
important, they refused to listen to anyone who told
them there was nothing they could do to keep their
communities from being damaged or destroyed."

So how did they do it? They just did it. They did it
because they had run out of hope that anyone else
would," he writes.

Through his work with the Community Environmental Legal
Defense Fund (CELDF) and the Daniel Pennock Democracy
School, Linzey and others are helping communities
across the country learn how laws actually work and
organize effective responses to corporations exploiting
water, air, resources and land.

The Daniel Pennock Democracy School is named in honor
of Danny Pennock, a 17-year-old from Berks County,
Pennsylvania, who died of sludge poisoning on April 1,
1995.

The School "examines the way the US Constitution was
written, how it was anchored in an English structure of
law, and how the Supreme Court has slowly interpreted
it to enshrine the rights of corporations into settled
law. The school explores a number of those judicial
interpretations, which have led to the Bill of Rights
protecting corporations from everyday citizens."

It also encourages participants to reframe the issues
they are dealing with, so that, instead of fighting
against something, they are fighting for something and
creating a vision of the community in which they want
to live.

Patty Norton from Peaceful Valley, Washington, told
Linzey, "It' hard to change the conversation from "what
can we get" to "what do we want?" We've been so beaten
down, we were only focused on what little concessions
we could get. Democracy School helps you change that
conversation."

When the sessions are complete, the CELDF helps
participants draft local laws aimed at achieving their
goals for their communities and works with community
leaders to adopt them.

Over 100 communities across the country have adopted
Legal Defense Fund-drafted laws intended to assert
local, democratic control directly over corporations.
Campbell points out that the citizens are not begging
the government to give them more rights; they are
manifesting new rights for themselves and their
communities through lawmaking at the local level.

Citizens in Santa Monica, California, are working on an
ordinance called the Sustainability Bill of Rights,
which would declare that Santa Monica residents,
natural communities and ecosystems have a right to a
healthy environment. Under the ordinance, corporations
"shall not have the rights of 'persons' to the extent
that such rights interfere" with its components.

Citizens in Mt. Shasta, California, are preparing to
vote on an ordinance that would refuse to recognize
corporate personhood and ban corporations like Nestle
and Coca-Cola from extracting water from the local
acquifer.

"Today, it is our communities and natural systems that
are treated as property under the law - just as slaves
once were - because people living in communities can't
control their own futures, and what's in our
communities is routinely bought, sold, and traded
without a whisker of local control," says Linzey. "In
many ways, this work is about walking in the footsteps
of those prior movements to transform ourselves from
being property under the law to becoming people who
harness the power of government to defend and enforce
our rights."

Listen to "Your Call" discuss self-governance and the
most effective ways to go about taking back control of
our communities.

Guests:

Thomas Linzey, co-founder of the Daniel Pennock
Democracy School and the Community Environmental Legal
Defense Fund, and co-author of "Be the Change: How to
Get What You Want in Your Community."

Shannon Biggs, director of Global Exchange's Community
Rights Program, and contributor to "The Rights of
Nature: The Case for a Universal Declaration of the
Rights of Mother Earth." Creative Commons License [3]

This work by Truthout is licensed under a Creative
Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States
License [3].

___________________________________________

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