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Archive for Constitution

Women of the World Call for Urgent Action on Climate Change & Sustainability Solutions

International Women’s Earth and Climate Initiative

September 20, 2013 the International Women’s Earth and Climate Summit brought some 100 women leaders representing the broad diversity across continents – Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, North America and South America, ethnicity, race, politics, religion, and culture.  These women leaders include grassroots activists, economists, scientists, businesswomen, Indigenous leaders, policy-makers, faith leaders, culture shapers gathering to help further a women’s climate action agenda.  Together they set forth and ratified A Declaration of a world call for urgent action on climate change and sustainability solutions.

You are invited to stand with these global leaders and other women, and men, from ALL walks of life in a this global call for action.

Please visit IWECI.org/declaration to read the complete text and take a stand by signing.

Included herein is a short excerpt.

International Women’s Earth and Climate Summit

A Declaration

Women of the World Call for Urgent Action on
Climate Change & Sustainability Solutions

September 20, 2013

We are the mothers and the grandmothers, sisters and daughters, nieces and aunts, who stand together to care for all generations across our professions, affiliations and national identities.

We are teachers and scientists, farmers and fishers, healers and helpers, workers and business peoples, writers and artists, decision-makers and activists, leaders and thinkers. We work in the halls of power, the halls of faith and the halls of our homes.

We are gathering to raise our voices to advocate for an Earth-respecting cultural narrative, one of “restore, respect, replenish” and to replace the narrative of “domination, depletion and destruction” of nature.

We are committed to a transition from a future of peril to a future of promise, to rally the women around the world to join together in action at all levels until the climate crisis is solved.

Key anchoring points of the Declaration is the recognition that

We must act now for ourselves, for future generations, for all living things on Mother Earth.

and the call to

Respect and implement the Rights of Women, the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Rights of Nature and the Rights of Future Generations;

Read and sign the IWECI Declaration Statement.

For an engaging panel discussion on Rights of Nature visit How We Live: Rights of Nature, Community Rights, Earth Community Economy, Our Relationship to the Earth

Nature is not Mute by Eduardo Galeano

Excerpted from Inter Press Service, April 1, 2008 – http://www.ipsnews.net/2008/04/nature-is-not-mute/

At the time Ecuador was rewriting her Constitution to include Rights of Nature, Eduardo Galeano wrote the referenced article about why the time has come to recognize Rights of Nature in Ecuador — wisdom for the rest of the world, too!

“Nature has a lot to say, and it has long been time for us, her children, to stop playing deaf. Maybe even God will hear the cry rising from this Andean country and add an eleventh amendment, which he left out when he handed down instructions from Mount Sinai: ”Love nature, which you are a part of.”

An object that wants to be a subject

For thousands of years almost all people had only the right not to have rights. In reality, quite a few remain without rights today, but at least now the right to have rights is recognised, and this is considerably more than a gesture of charity by the masters of the world to comfort their servants.

And nature? In a way it could be said that human rights extend to nature because she is not a postcard meant to be viewed from afar. But nature knows full well that even the best human laws treat her as a piece of property, never as a holder of rights.”

 

For full article please, visit http://www.ipsnews.net/2008/04/nature-is-not-mute/

A New Civil Rights Movement: Liberating Our Communities from Corporate Control

Today’s global Rights of Nature and Rights of Communities over Corporate “Personhood” movement started over a decade ago in Pennsylvania’s heartland.  Thomas Linzey of Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF.org) has been working in the forefront with these communities.  Read further as Linzey highlights a landmark decision in March 2013 where a Pennsylvania judge holds that corporations are not “persons” under the Pennsylvania Constitution.

Community Environmen​tal Legal Defense FundCELDF.org

A New Civil Rights Movement:
Liberating Our Communities from Corporate Control
A Pennsylvania Judge Holds That Corporations Are Not “Persons”

Under the Pennsylvania Constitution
By Thomas Alan Linzey, Esq., Executive Director
March 28, 2013

To protect small and family farms from industrial factory farms, over a decade ago a handful of Pennsylvania townships picked a fight with some of the country’s largest agribusiness corporations. Recognizing that the state and federal government, rather than protecting them from factory farms, were in fact forcing them into communities, the townships took the unprecedented step of banning corporate farming within their borders.

Thus began the journey to spark a new civil rights movement – one aimed at elevating the right of communities over the “rights” of corporations to use communities for their own ends.

In a departure from the usual David and Goliath story, with one tiny community battling a giant corporation, today there are over 150 “Davids” in eight states that have followed the lead of those Pennsylvania townships. Community by community, they’ve banned corporate “fracking” for shale gas,  factory farming, sludge dumping, large-scale water withdrawals, and industrial-scale energy projects.

But they’re not intent on simply stopping the immediate threat of fracking or factory farming. Rather, they’re adopting Community Bills of Rights that ban such projects as violations of the community’s right to a sustainable energy and farming future. And to protect those Bills of Rights, they are legislatively overturning a slew of corporate legal doctrines – like corporate “personhood” – that have been concocted over the past century to keep communities from interfering with corporate prerogatives.

These communities believe that if ten thousand other localities do the same, that those tremors will begin to shake loose a new system of law – a system in which courts and legislatures begin to elevate community rights above corporate rights, and thus, begin to liberate cities and towns to build economically and environmentally sustainable communities free from corporate interference.

Last week, a Pennsylvania county court gave this new movement a boost – declaring that corporations are not “persons” under the Pennsylvania Constitution, and therefore, that corporations cannot elevate their “private rights” above the rights of people.The ruling was delivered in a case brought by several Western Pennsylvania newspapers which sought the release of a sealed settlement agreement between a family claiming to be affected by water contamination from gas fracking, and Range Resources – one of the largest gas extraction corporations in the state.  Range Resources argued that unsealing the settlement agreement would violate the corporation’s constitutional right to privacy under the Pennsylvania Constitution.

In a landmark ruling, President Judge Debbie O’Dell-Seneca of the Washington County Court of Common Pleas denied the corporation’s request on the basis that the Pennsylvania Constitution only protects the rights of people, not business entities.

In the ruling, Judge O’Dell-Seneca declared that “in the absence of state law, business entities are nothing.” If corporations could claim rights independent from people, she asserted, then “the chattel would become the co-equal to its owners, the servant on par with its masters, the agent the peer of its principals, and the legal fabrication superior to the law that created and sustains it.”
She further found that “the constitution vests in business entities no special rights that the laws of this Commonwealth cannot extinguish. In sum, [corporations] cannot assert [constitutional privacy] protections because they are not mentioned in its text.”

Judge O’Dell-Seneca cited sections of the 1776 Pennsylvania Constitution in support of her contention that corporations were never intended to be constitutionally protected “persons.” She declared that “an even more dubious proposition is that the framers of the Constitution of 1776, given their egalitarian sympathies, would have concerned themselves with vesting, for the first time in history, indefeasible rights in such entities. . . that language extends only to natural persons.”

Finally, she tackled the very nature of corporations by declaring that “it is axiomatic that corporations, companies, and partnerships have no ‘spiritual nature,’ ‘feelings,’ ‘intellect,’ ‘beliefs,’ ‘thoughts,’ ‘emotions,’ or ‘sensations,’ because they do not exist in the manner that humankind exists. . . They cannot be ‘let alone’ by government, because businesses are but grapes, ripe upon the vine of the law, that the people of this Commonwealth raise, tend, and prune at their pleasure and need.”

The court records unsealed by the ruling reveal that Range Resources, and the other corporations which were the subject of the complaint, paid out $750,000 to settle claims of water contamination caused by fracking.

The ruling represents the first crack in the judicial armor that has been so meticulously welded together by major corporations. And it affirms what many communities already know – that change only occurs when people begin to openly question and challenge legal doctrines that have been treated as sacred by most lawyers and judges.

It is that disobedience – of entire communities sitting at lunch counters demanding to be served – that is our only hope of salvation in a world increasingly commandeered by a small handful of corporate decisionmakers intent on remaking the world as their own.

A revolution that subordinates the powers and rights of corporations to the rights of people and nature now waits in the wings. Perhaps now, we’re ready to move it to center stage.

For a printable pdf visit: A New Civil Rights Movement:
Liberating Our Communities from Corporate Control

Stop The Mirador Open Pit Copper and Gold Mine in The Head Waters of The River Amazon

Sign our petition to the Ecuador Courts now on Avaaz at  http://www.avaaz.org/en/petition/Stop_The_Mirador_Open_Pit_Copper_and_Gold_Mine_in_The_Head_Waters_of_The_River_Amazon/?fSJdoeb&pv=1

Condor Highlands - Mirador Mine region upper Amazon of Ecuador

The Mirador Mine has been opened. In four years it will mine 60,000 tons of rock every day. It is located in the Tropical Cloud Forests of the Sierra Del Condor, feeding the Head Waters of The great Amazon River. Mining has been started at an altitude of 800 meters and the pit will be dug to a depth of 400 meters below sea level. There are over 200 sources of water in the area. The mine will destroy the hydrology of the area and will therefore destroy the forests, destroy the habitats of all species, pollute the rivers and spread poisonous heavy metals throughout the land rendering, fishing, hunting and farming impossible. The Shuar Culture will be destroyed. Fish are already dying in the rivers.

We ask Judge Paul Narvaez, who is presiding over the case brought by NGO’s and Human Rights Organizations, to stop the mine.

Please sign the petition now.

Thank you.

David Dene Co-founder of Protect Ecuador.

Why this is important

In this case the Judge can suspend the mine and call for a new Environmental Impact Assessment.The licensed EAI talks of extinction of species, poisoning of waterways with acid mine drainage, and possible failure of the Tailings Dams due to seismic activity.All this runs contrary to what we know is right and The Rights of Nature enshrined in the Ecuadorian Constitution.The Mine has the potential to destroy the lives of the Shuar tribe, and all others who live in the area of influence of the mine.

Protect Ecuador

For more information including videos about the project and the risk to fragile regions of the Upper Amazon basin of Ecuador visit ProtectEcuador.org.

Beyond Personhood: Why Corporations Love the Constitution More Than You do

By Randy Hayes of Foundation Earth and Shannon Biggs of Global Exchange

See full text at Global Exchange People to People Blog

As we grimly mark the 3rd anniversary of the infamous Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) Citizen United ruling that opened the corporate-funded floodgates, empowering Billionaires to speak loudest in our elections, it is an important if not overlooked question.

For the rest of us who can’t afford our own SuperPAC, ‘corporate personhood’ has become shorthand for all that ails our flagging democracy. Amending the Constitution to abolish it and/or repeal Citizens United is certainly a movement gaining steam, and it has created space for casting a critical eye on the structural defects of our system. But if the bull’s eye is fixing government in the hands of the people, then it is time to ask: If the Supreme Court had never granted “personhood” privilege to corporations, would rights of people, communities and nature be protected? Would we have democracy? Would this one fix affect the wide scale change we seek?

Truth is, there is far more standing in the way of building sustainable, democratic and just communities than corporate personhood. To dismantle corporate rule we have to look at ALL the tools that the U.S. Constitution provides to the powerful few corporate rulers, enabling them to override the needs of local and state majorities and the natural systems upon which we depend. Maybe it’s time to do what Thomas Jefferson advised every generation to do and rewrite the Constitution itself.

While criticizing corporate personhood has reached the mainstream, questioning the Constitution is not just a conversation killer—but the ultimate taboo topic from the lunatic fringe. With so much at stake, it’s time to take open stock of this powerful document and contemplate: What do we really love about it, or find convoluted or missing?

What the Constitution AIN’T

Here we sit 225 years into the current Constitution—and from the onset of climate disruption to drone warfare to the Internet, the world has changed in ways that would boggle a Founding Father’s mind. Yet questioning the legend or wisdom of the framers can still be as electrifying as touching the third rail on the subway.

Got Rights?

Chances are you, like most folks, “love” either thePreamble or the Bill of Rights … neither of which are actually part of the current Constitution, and neither of which affect the way decisions are made or who makes them. The “We The People,” Preamble encapsulates the dream of the Constitution for many, but has been ruled as mere poetry by the Supreme Court, and therefore cannot be used to make law, and bears little resemblance to the text that follows. The Bill of Rights is what most believe is the heart of the Constitution, but it was drafted as a tack-on concession to appease the masses who feared the new Constitution was a “conspiracy of the Well Born few against the sacred rights of their fellow citizens.” The Bill of Rights was left up to the unelected Supreme Court to interpret. Rather than using this unrivaled (and generally unquestioned) power to uphold these rights for the many, their decisions read like the wish list of the few: from ‘Separate but Equal’ to denying labor and environmental rights to creating corporate personhood.

Now consider that the Constitution doesn’t make it illegal to kill the planet. Nature’s needs are not addressed in the document. In fact, it encourages and legalizes destruction it every day by treating nature or natural systems as owned property with a price. That’s a problem when you realize that nature nourishes all things, including us. As far as business goes, remember that 100 percent of the economy depends on the functions of nature just doing their thing. The life support systems of this country, continent and planet are not mere things for the property and commerce titans to profiteer, plunder and trash. Consider natural entities such as a river and all the life it sustains have legal rights to exist and flourish. Now take the idea of human rights and apply them to ecosystems. Legal rights of nature wouldn’t stop development—just the kinds of development that interfere with the existence and vitality of natural systems.

If our own human rights come by virtue of being born, then they surely emanate from the natural world. And yet we treat the natural word as if our own rights don’t depend on the health of our planet. It’s like trying to take care of a single leaf on a tree that is dying all around us. We cannot protect nature as long as we treat it as a belonging, rather than seeing ourselves as part of the natural world. Nature needs legal rights in our Constitution. We would not be the first to do so; the Ecuadorian people ratified a new system of environmental protection based on legal rights when they rewrote their Constitution (lots of countries do this). Bolivia, New Zealand and some U.S. communities have paved the way for us. We can enshrine this as well.

When is the Constitution like a Hydra?

A deeper dive into our own history than we learned in school reveals that most Founding Fathers truly believed that the best form of government was one in which the wealthy made the rules, and set up the Constitution to put fat cats in charge to protect fat property and commerce, rather than liberty and justice for all. From day one, the Constitution embraced slavery and limited suffrage to only white men with property. And like a mythological many-headed hydra, when we finally ended the plantation system and freed the slaves (a time that looked like the birth of real democracy to many) out of thin air, the Supreme Court created and embedded corporate personhood into the 14th Amendment. No discussion, no vote, no accident, and nobody’s life was enriched but the corporate gentry.

So What IS the Constitution, anyway?

We now know it is NOT the Bill of Rights (though that would be nice). The Constitution is more of a flow chart for “how decisions are made” that currently is a set up to ensure the financially wealthy win and that real power is out of our grasp. Here is an example of how it works. Rather than recognizing rights for labor and nature, the Constitution houses these laws under the Commerce Clause, ensuring that decisions about labor and the environment have the stamp of approval from big business, and helps explain why we forfeit many rights upon entering the workplace, and why mountaintop removal is legal. It’s just good business, right? The fate of the environment then rests in the hands of a regulatory system that does more to regulate citizen input than corporate actions. Corporations and the courts routinely use the ever-expanding powers of the Commerce Clause to strip state and municipal governments of democratically elected laws designed to protect communities and natural systems from harm. (For a great history of the Commerce Clause see pages 18-37)

Image Credit: Global Exchange

We’ve said it before, but consider this: the system is designed to be an underground burrow for a never-ending game of Corporate-Whack-A-Mole. Whether it’s regulatory law, the Commerce Clause, lobbyists’ laws, corporate personhood or…or… or… We can’t stop those damned moles from popping up; it’s the function of a rigged game.

On the Road to Real Democracy

As our movements in the U.S. rise, we’ll demand a major rewrite. It will take a while, but it will be exciting and important work. Wikipedia tells us that natural rights are rights not contingent upon the laws, customs, or beliefs of any particular culture or government. Think of natural rights as universal or inalienable (they can’t be given or taken away and they belong to all equally). Natural rights are considered beyond the authority of any government or international body to dismiss. The Declaration of Independence declares upholding and protecting rights is the raison d’être for our government and laws.

It is these natural rights that we need to own, to breathe life into, to bring them off the page the ways the Abolitionists, the Suffragettes, and the Civil Rights movements did. Rosa Parks owned her rights, no mater what the Constitution, the courts or the bus company had to say. We need to distinguish these rights from the more opaque “legal rights,” which are really more of a governmental grant of privilege, like a property right. Dammit, it’s time to have a real conversation about what we want—and how to use new law to stop degrading our only planet—no matter how crazy it may sound to some. We can change from a rigged property and commerce Constitution to one based on legal rights, sensible responsibilities and real public governance.

Upon cutting off one of the Hydra’s heads two grew back. One step forward and two steps back is a hopeless situation. The weakness of the Hydra was that it needed at least one head. The U.S. Constitution is the central head of our legal system. By changing that head to one we truly love, we can shift from hopeless to hopeful.

Randy Hayes, Rainforest Action Network founder, has been described in the Wall Street Journal as “an environmental pit bull.” He works from Washington DC at Foundation Earth, a new organization rethinking a human order that works within the planet’s life support systems. As a former filmmaker, he is a veteran of many high-visibility corporate accountability campaigns and has advocated for the rights of Indigenous peoples. He served seven years as President of The City of San Francisco Commission on the Environment and as Director of Sustainability in the office of Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown (now governor). As a wilderness lover, Hayes has explored a bit in the High Sierras, the Canadian Rockies and the rainforests of the Amazon, Central America, Congo, Southeast Asia and Borneo.

Shannon Biggs, is the Director of the Community Rights program at Global Exchange,  assisting communities confronted by corporate harms to enact binding laws that place the rights of communities and nature above the claimed legal “rights” of corporations.