Thursday, January 28, 2010

Community Rights Vs. Corporate Rights

Many mice will tie down the lion...

Reposted from Global Exchange Community Rights Program

In your community, who decides if corporations can pollute or drive local business out?

Global Exchange drives the movement for community rights in California!

The biggest threat posed by corporations is not the illegal stuff of headlines. The real danger is what they are empowered to do legally, every day, in every community across the country. From water withdrawal to polluting refineries, toxic sludge spreading, GMOs and more, the corporate few wield the law against our communities, endangering our health, safety and the environment.

State and federal law says that corporations don't need community permission to drop pesticides overhead, or to site a toxic dump next to the school grounds. So who does decide? State agencies issue corporations "permits" and state legislatures routinely "preempt" (usurp) community lawmaking authority on behalf of those corporations. When corporate executives decide to site an unwanted project in our communities, we are told we cannot say "no," because that would be a violation of the corporation's Constitutional rights.

So what do we do instead? For nearly two generations, community organizing has taken a detour. Instead of rallying people to assert our rights to truly govern in the places where we live—and demanding what we really want—we settle for "mitigating"—or regulating—the corporate assaults that enter our communities. Ostensibly, the regulatory system is supposed to protect people and the planet from destruction, but typically it is the industry to be regulated that sets the standards. Like gambling in a casino, we're playing by the House's rules. Even when we "win" we don't get what we want, we can only hope to lessen the damage.

It is time to change the rules to ensure that the people who must bear the effects of policy decisions are the only ones who make them. It is time to assert our rights as communities to define the kinds of places we want to live.

People in Santa Cruz contacted us to see what could be done to stop the State's plan to drop pesticides from airplanes to eradicate the Light Brown Apple Moth. We had some surprising answers for them. "Stop begging the legislature," we said. "and stop demanding the enforcement of regulatory laws. You don't want to limit the damage, you want to stop it—so stop it!" Global Exchange helped draft a cutting-edge local ordinance that asserts the rights of the community to make the decisions about pesticide spraying, and protects residents from chemical trespass. It also strips corporations of Constitutional protections that had allowed the forced spraying of the community.

In Mt. Shasta citizens want to stop corporate weather manipulation (cloud seeding) and they don't want their aquifer drained by water bottlers either. We helped them craft an ordinance to protect natural water cycles and the community's right to water that they hope to pass into law this year—making them the first municipality in California to pass a rights based ordinance. But they are not alone. In Ukiah, citizens are looking to assert their rights to keep corporations out of their local elections process. In Nevada City, folks are asking us to help them protect their fragile watershed from various assaults. And more calls come in every day.

All of these communities are seeking to take control of their local destinies and to subordinate corporations to local democratic control. In so doing they link arms with over 120 communities in four states that have stopped working defensively against corporate harms and taken courageous action to assert their rights where they live.

Read updates from these California community actions.

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