Sept. 30,2014 – “To Protect Our Climate, We Have to Tackle Corporate ‘Rights’”

 Paul Cienfuegos’ September 30, 2014 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 new weekly commentary by yours truly, Paul Cienfuegos.

A little more than one week ago, an estimated 400,000 people marched in New York City, demanding bold action from our federal government on the catastrophic climate destabilization that is already causing havoc across the planet. Climate activists were quick to point out that the numbers of people that showed up far exceeded their expectations, and that this proves once and for all that Americans do care about this issue. The implication being that our federal government is not yet acting boldly on the climate issue because Americans aren’t well enough informed yet to be pressuring government to act. I reject that analysis.

Polls have been showing for years now that something in the range of half of us think the climate issue is a priority that must be addressed. That’s more than 100 million of us. So clearly the problem is not lack of public attention. I would argue that the real problem that needs to be addressed is a democracy problem. That it really doesn’t matter what the American public wants because we’re not the people that our elected officials are paying much attention to.

We live in a society that’s designed to appear as if it was democratic in its design, when in fact it’s really designed to serve the 1% and the corporations they run. Government is functioning exactly as it was designed – it’s not broken at all.

So if we start with a different assumption – that our elected officials aren’t really that interested in what We The People want, then we can start shifting our collective focus away from begging and pleading with them, and towards the building of real political power in a more direct way – re-learning the lost art of exercising our inherent right to govern ourselves.

The Community Rights movement has been leading the way in these efforts since 1999, helping We the People to pass legally binding rights-based laws – directly where we live –

that can be used to protect our air, water, and soil – for example by banning corporate fracking, corporate water withdrawal for bottling, or corporate factory farms – because those corporate activities violate our right to clean air, water, and soil.

To give you a more specific example, four New Hampshire communities recently passed local laws enshrining their Right to a Sustainable Energy Future. Their method was absolutely fascinating and cutting-edge. They came up with their own definition of “UNsustainable energy”, and then they banned any energy production in, or

distribution through their town, that matches their new definition. In other words, in Sugar Hill, and three other New Hampshire communities, it’s now illegal for a corporation to generate or distribute any unsustainable energy. Imagine that! Talk about taking ourselves seriously as We the People!

Do we really think that President Obama and his Democratic Party have the backbone to pass bold legislation to address the climate crisis, even if they were to regain their majority in the house and senate? Do we really think that the Republican Party is prepared to honestly address the climate crisis? Let’s get real!

Virtually all of the key decision-making that impacts the global climate isn’t even being made by politicians. It’s being made by corporate boards of directors, behind locked doors. And those corporate boards have a protected constitutional right to decide to keep drilling and fracking for more oil and gas; a constitutional right to decide to keep building bigger cars and trucks. Those corporate boards have a protected constitutional right to decide that our economy is going to grow forever, as if our planet has infinite resources.

So any strategy that climate activists use, to try to turn around this climate crisis, is going to have to directly and frontally challenge these corporate constitutional so-called “rights”. We’re really wasting our time if all we continue to do is beg and plead with our politicians to act boldly on the climate crisis, because within this conventional framework of law, there’s little that politicians are willing or able to do.

On the other hand, if we step outside of these conventional tactics of begging and pleading and demanding, a whole new world opens up to us – a world where We decide which corporate activities are permitted and which are not. Yes, it’s a very long road if we are going to have to address the climate crisis one community and one county at a time – at least initially. But I’m convinced that we’ll actually get to our intended goal much faster than if we continue on our present course. And we’re quickly running out of time.

You’ve been listening to the new weekly commentary by yours truly, Paul Cienfuegos. You can hear future commentaries every Tuesday on the KBOO Evening News. I welcome your feedback.

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