March 10, 2015 – “Climate Protection & Community Rights (Part Two of Two)”

Paul Cienfuegos’ March 10th, 2015 Commentary on KBOO Evening News

(His weekly commentaries are broadcast every Tuesday evening. You can view or listen to them all at,, or subscribe via ITunes.)

Greetings! You are listening to the weekly commentary by yours truly, Paul Cienfuegos.

Last week and this week I’m sharing some short excerpts from a new speech I presented in Minneapolis on February 23rd, which I titled “We the People Standing Together to Protect Our Climate: Lessons From the Community Rights Movement”.

In the speech, I asked my audience to suspend their disbelief, and to envision a much bolder climate protection movement that no longer waits for our so-called state and federal leaders to lead us. Instead, I ask what is stopping us from passing Community Rights laws in hundreds and then thousands of towns, cities and counties, that immediately begin deep cuts in fossil-fuel emissions, and that start to shut down the infrastructure that is causing the climate crisis in the first place.

Those of you who regularly listen to my weekly commentaries already know that Community Rights laws are a very public challenge to unjust state and federal laws that violate our right to govern ourselves and to protect our community’s health and welfare. Many folks in the climate protection movement would probably fear that passing these bold new local laws would draw lawsuits from large corporations or from the state. In my speech, I respond to this concern by posing this question:

Which of these scenarios is more frightening to you: your community getting sued for protecting itself? Or the consequences of catastrophic climate destabilization making our planet uninhabitable for our species in the future?

That’s the sort of question we need to start asking ourselves if we are to respond appropriately to the climate crisis.

Here are a few examples of bold new local laws that we could pass through the ballot box in Oregon and other states – starting next year – to begin to tackle catastrophic climate destabilization. As you listen to this list, you may think I’m crazy. But please ask yourself whether the climate crisis can adequately be tackled without such bold new lawmaking?

* Requiring local lending institutions to provide low-interest loans to individuals and companies proposing carbon-neutral developments, and also prohibiting those institutions from lending money to any new fossil-fuel development projects

* Establishing new local gas taxes at the pump, with all money being used to fund rapid expansion of community-based renewable energy projects and public transit

* Nullifying the local enforceability of global trade treaties that violate the community’s right of self- governance or its health and welfare

* Prohibiting any further local fossil fuel extraction, pipelines, coal or oil trains and barges through the community

* Recognizing, honoring, and enforcing Native treaty-protected rights to the local land and waters

* Requiring local grocery stores to reserve a growing percentage of their shelf space for products grown or produced within 500 miles, phased in over five to ten years

* Establishing the community’s locally enforceable right to clean air, water, and soil, the right to a stable climate, and the right to a sustainable energy future

* Using Eminent Domain laws to seize corporate property and place it under local public control whenever the corporate directors refuse to cooperate with the community’s objectives

* Recognizing local natural areas as having enforceable rights to exist, flourish and evolve

* In ‘Transition Town’ communities that have already written an Energy Descent Action Plan, embedding the existing plan into a local ordinance, with annual enforceable deadlines, that brings the community close to 100% renewables within ten to twenty years

* Prohibiting any increase in the number of flights passing through the local airport

* Prohibiting the privatization of local utilities, and if necessary, reversing previous privatizations, to bring decision-making authority back under local public control

* And…Prohibiting local media from accepting advertising from fossil fuel companies Your can read my full list of proposed local laws at my website at

I’m curious what feelings arose in your body when you heard this list. Excitement? Trepidation? Overwhelm? Imagining ourselves as the leaders who are going to solve the climate crisis is obviously going to bring up some intense feelings. And giving space to those feelings is going to be a necessary part of our preparing ourselves for the work ahead.

And let’s not forget that 200 communities and counties in nine states have already taken this very courageous plunge into new legal territory, and have already begun to take back their authority to define what their communities are going to look like in the future. Yes, we can do this!

If you’d like to hear my entire speech presented live, I invite you to come to the First Unitarian Church downtown on Thursday, May 14th at 7pm.

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 You can follow me on twitter at CienfuegosPaul. You can sign up for my newsletter at THANKS FOR LISTENING! And remember: WE are the people we’ve been WAITING for!

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