Our environment is being dramatically transformed in ways that soon will make it difficult for the human species to survive. We must direct our energies toward building sustainable, local communities to weather the coming crisis, since we will be unable to survive and resist without a cooperative effort. The liberal class, which clings to the decaying ideologies used to justify globalism and imperialism, which has refused to defy the exploitation or galvanize behind militants to halt the destruction of the ecosystem, has become a useless appendage. The decimation of our manufacturing base, the rise of the corporate state, and the contamination of our environment could have been fought by militant movements and radicals, but with these voices banished, there were no real impediments to the self-destructive forces of corporate power. --- Chris Hedges, Death of the Liberal Class (New York: Nation Books, 2010), 194
We're precariously close to reaching a point of no return, a tipping-point where there's no looking back; where the environment is in dire jeopardy, due to climatic changes fueled by runaway corporate greed and myopic visions of unsustainable growth and profit at any cost. Living within ecosystems where we've created unforeseen levels of unbalance, the accelerating economic devastation of global capitalism...globalization...will shortly be matched by ecological devastation. With increasingly dramatic changes caused by global warning, coupled with economic despair, communities will fragment and disintegrate from internal chaos and division. Gradual, turning to certain, economic collapse will happen sooner than later, if we don't stop rearranging the deck chairs and start averting this mothership from a collision course with disaster. That's what assuredly awaits us, and in the very near future, if major paradigm shifts are not acknowledged and implemented -- soon.
Maybe it's going to take the foresight and stewardship of Bolivia's recently passed law that gives Mother Earth, and all living things and ecosystems and natural resources, the same recognizable rights that transformed humankind since Locke's universal and self-evident natural, or inalienable, rights of man found traction and footing in the 17th century. A passage toward, and through, another enlightenment may be all that separates us from the worst of Dante's Inferno. The Bolivian document speaks of the country's natural resources as "blessings", and grants the Earth a series of specific rights that include rights to life, water and clean air; the right to repair livelihoods affected by human activities, and the right to be free from human-created pollution. A Ministry of Mother Earth is proposed, and provides the planet with an ombudsman whose job is to hear nature's complaints as voiced by activist groups and other organizations, including the state itself. Bolivia's ambassador to the United Nations, speaking of the nation's law, said "If you want to have balance, and you think that the only (entities) who have rights are humans or companies, then how can you reach balance? But if you recognize that nature too has rights, and (if you provide) legal forms to protect and preserve those rights, then you can achieve balance." In 2008, prior to Bolivia's Earth-protection law, Ecuador became the first nation in the world to rewrite their Constitution to include rights for nature to exist, flourish and evolve.
But this idea must not be restricted; it needs to grow and find realization here, in the United States, and in other developed and developing nations of the world. For example, last November, the city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, became the first in the nation to assert the rights of communities and nature over those of corporations when it passed a city ordinance banning the practice of "shale fracking" within city limits. In addition, nearly two-dozen U.S. municipalities have passed similar ordinances, finding that existing laws are unable to protect their local ecosystems. Canadian communities are wondering if legally recognizing rights for nature can halt the privatization of their public water systems and stop tar sands extraction in the fragile Alberta region. For the last two decades, the Program on Corporations, Law & Democracy (POCLAD) has advocated such grassroots and local organization and legal advocacy in stemming the tide of corporate prerogative through the challenging of the existing corporate paradigm which manipulates our democratic processes.
Other organizations that have changed tactics, like the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF), used to work within the body of existing environmental law -- helping affected residents file lawsuits or appeal corporate permits -- to protect communities from environmental damage. Over time it became apparent this was only playing into the corporate game, and that the only viable strategy was to rewrite local laws to effectively give communities legal authority to say "no" to unwanted corporate activities, recognize the rights of nature, and strip corporations of their constitutional rights. To solidify this approach, democracy schools are a key piece of community organizing, and CELDF promotes and provides one-to-three day intensive seminars that examine how communities across the U.S. are beginning to demand local control to protect the rights of their communities.
The fight for survival has moved from Locke's natural rights, to the even more encompassing understanding by our southern neighbors that trying to protect their land and their people from exploitation is crucial to saving the planet and our species from annihilation. Once the shift in consciousness takes root, and people everywhere see the moral imperative that confronts them, I'm hopeful that restoration of our fragile world and all its magnificent beings and ecosystems will find balance and equilibrium through systemic processes that nurture instead of destroy, and replenish instead of consume. Because if this mindset doesn't form a taproot to grow and expand, we're truly doomed to extinction. There's no other recourse. Otherwise, Hedges's final chapter of Death of the Liberal Class, "Rebellion", is as sure to occur as the sun rising in the east. What choice do we have? Now you must make a decision.
Happy and blessed Beltane to all this May 1st! Let's continue to celebrate the fertility of spring and the greening of the earth, so we may all live; and live peacefully and in harmony with the only home we have -- Earth.
Watch the following interview of Vandana Shiva on GritTV: Understanding the Corporate Takeover. "The American people should see that corporations have abandoned them long ago", says scientist, environmentalist, and food justice activist Dr. Vandana Shiva, named one of the seven most influential women in the world by Forbes magazine. "The people will have to rebuild democracy as a living democracy."