Activists who helped defeat the Atlantic Coast Pipeline have launched the Virginia Community Rights Network to help build a movement for structural change that secures political authority for local communities and ecosystem rights
Heidi Dhivya Berthoud
Virginia Community Rights Network
Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund
BUCKINGHAM COUNTY, VA: The Virginia Community Rights Network (VACRN) has been launched to support “local efforts to recognize and legally secure the Rights of Nature and Communities to a healthy environment through self-government at the city, county, and state level.” It will challenge “the injustice of illegitimate corporate rights that impede local and direct democracy, through educational training, workshops, campaign strategy development, and public outreach.”
The Network has been initiated by residents who worked to protect Buckingham County, Virginia from a proposed large-scale fracked gas compressor station for the now-defeated Atlantic Coast Pipeline. VACRN continues previous organizing in areas such as Buckingham, Nelson, Augusta, Charlottesville, Richmond, Campbell County, and the Town of Halifax, which passed a Community Bill of Rights in 2008 to protect against chemical and radioactive trespass.
“A system of community-based solutions that challenges a structure designed to exploit us is what’s needed here,” says Heidi Berthoud of the VACRN. “This is about our families’ and the planet’s physical life and death. We are fully committed to this struggle against corporations who ignore the inherent Rights of Nature, which, when recognized and upheld, protect us all.”
“Here’s a group of people devoted to putting the interests of people and ecosystems above the interests of privately owned and profit-driven corporate property. Establishment of the VACRN is a significant step in building the nation-wide movement of grassroots-based and community-supported institutionalized opposition to the existing hegemony of profit over people,” says Ben Price, National Organizing Director for the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund. “We look forward to expanding our work with them.”
“The VACRN joins sister networks in Oregon, Colorado, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New Hampshire,” says Susie Beiersdorfer of the National Community Rights Network. “These state-based groups are rooted in local communities and building power to advance state constitutional change and place the rights of people and Nature over the interests of private corporations. The goal is to empower communities to heighten protections for civil, human and ecosystem rights in the places where we live.”
Virginia residents and officials interested in working for systemic change and replacing Dillon’s Rule are encouraged to connect with the VACRN at vacommunityrights.org.
About CELDF — Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund
The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) is building a movement for Community Rights and the Rights of Nature to advance democratic, economic, social, and environmental rights – building upward from the grassroots to the state, federal, and international level.