Paul Cienfuegos’ March 17th, 2015 Commentary on KBOO Evening News
(His weekly commentaries are broadcast every Tuesday evening. You can view or listen to them all at PaulCienfuegos.com, CommunityRightsPDX.org/podcast, or subscribe via ITunes.)
Greetings! You are listening to the weekly commentary by yours truly, Paul Cienfuegos.
I have been active in the rapidly growing movement to dismantle corporate constitutional so-called “rights” for almost 20 years now. Our fledgling movement has come a long way since Wells Township, Pennsylvania, started reigning in corporate so-called “rights” fifteen years ago by banning – rather than merely regulating – factory farms. I am very proud that more than 200 communities in nine states have since passed historically groundbreaking laws that prohibit harmful corporate activities rather than simply regulating the rate of harm to people and nature. And 95% of those 200 communities have never been brought to court by the corporations that they stopped from harming them.
No other social movement in the US today can claim such a stunningly successful track record. But our nation’s ecological, social, and economic problems dwarf our success, and the fact that we are adding a few dozen communities to our total number of wins each year pales in comparison to what is really needed. Which is why I continue to be shocked at how little attention is being paid to the Community Rights movement’s successful strategy by the leaders of the thousands of existing environmental protection groups and social justice groups and labor rights groups across the country.
While the Community Rights movement is reigning in the corporations’ so-called constitutional “right” to harm us in the first place, and enshrining into law across the country a community’s right to govern itself and to protect the health and welfare of its human and non-human residents, conventional activist groups continue to toil endlessly to stop one new coal and oil export terminal at a time, one new pipeline at a time, one new timber harvest plan at a time, one new genetically modified food product at a time, one new big box store at a time. Is this really the best they can do? I don’t think it is.
My email in-box is packed every day by endless organizations pleading with me to sign their latest online petition, always with the explanation that the sky will fall if I don’t respond immediately. And have you noticed that these same groups rarely if ever send a follow-up notice to tell you what happened after they filed the petitions? That’s because, most of the time, our side loses, and you’re not supposed to be reminded of that unpleasant detail, because it might impact your willingness to keep signing those petitions, and to keep sending them donations. Which in turn might negatively impact their ability to keep receiving grants from the large foundations that keep their organizations financially afloat.
One of the lesser known things that these large foundations also do is to ensure that these thousands of single-issue groups follow the very strategies that are the least effective in achieving their intended
results. There’s even a book written about this scandalous relationship between our nation’s advocacy groups and those who fund them. It’s called The Revolution Will Not Be Funded.
Imagine what we might be able to achieve if conservation organizations started organizing to pass Community Rights laws, first at the local level, that stripped industrial corporations of their so-called “right” to poison our communities and the natural world, and to ensure that ecosystems gained their own enforceable right to flourish and evolve everywhere.
Imagine what we might be able to achieve if labor unions started organizing to pass Community Rights laws, first at the local level, which enshrined enforceable Bill of Rights protections for working people. (You thought workers had Bill of Rights protections while at work? Think again!)
Imagine what we might be able to achieve if racial justice organizations started organizing to pass Community Rights laws, first at the local level, that provided, for the first time ever, effective citizen oversight to monitor our police forces to ensure that they serve all members of our communities, and ensure that police officers who violated their duties would be criminally charged, rather than simply transferred to another city.
Imagine what we might be able to achieve if climate protection groups started organizing to pass Community Rights laws, first at the local level, that prohibited any further fossil fuel developments, and that created legally enforceable timelines towards becoming entirely carbon neutral.
Imagine what we might be able to achieve if those who are working to protect homeowners from unethical foreclosures by the banks, started organizing to pass Community Rights laws, first at the local level, that made such bank foreclosures illegal, and held bank officials personally accountable for violating the rights of homeowners.
Imagine what we might be able to achieve if neighborhood organizations started organizing to pass Community Rights laws, that gave neighborhood majorities the right to say NO to large corporate industrial, residential and commercial developments that were opposed by the neighborhood. Spokane, Washington’s Community Rights group hopes to pass this very law in the next year or two.
Our nation is in crisis. I don’t know a single person that doesn’t agree with me. Yet most of our activist groups continue to organize as if we have all the time in the world to turn things around. And this attitude really scares me. What will it take for these thousands of groups to re-examine their current strategies, and to consider shifting gears towards a Community Rights approach? I am crossing my fingers that we can convince them to do so in the very near future. Time is of the essence. Will those of you who are listening today take this message to your local group? Thanks in advance for doing so!
You’ve been listening to the weekly commentary by yours truly, Paul Cienfuegos. You can hear future commentaries every Tuesday on the KBOO Evening News in Portland, Oregon, and now also in Viroqua, Wisconsin on WDRT, every Tuesday at 7pm. I welcome your feedback.
You can subscribe to my weekly podcast via I-Tunes or at CommunityRightsPDX.org. You can follow me on twitter at CienfuegosPaul. You can sign up for my newsletter at PaulCienfuegos.com. THANKS FOR LISTENING! And remember: WE are the people we’ve been WAITING for!