The following is an excerpt from the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund’s fall 2020 newsletter “Observing Revolution.” Email to receive a hard copy of our newsletters.

In the midst of historic Black Lives Matter uprisings, critics say: “but what is it really accomplishing?” not realizing that the protests are shifting the conditions of political action itself. Indeed, when movements are so structural—as to seek transformations of “public safety” and self-governance—it may be hard to observe their immediate impact.

The impact of rights-based community organizing, complementary and in solidarity with aims of the police abolition movement, can similarly take a trained eye to notice.

How can we develop creative forms of governance? How do we recreate public safety? What ends should it serve? Who and what should it serve? What is the purpose of the law?

Through “Community Rights” and “Rights of Nature” lawmaking, fundamental changes to the purpose of the law are being articulated, drafted, and enacted at the local level.

Like prior people’s movements, the Community Rights and Rights of Nature movement has experienced consistent, though nonlinear, growth. Tireless hours of community engagement, petition gathering, and other forms of collective action and community building have produced historic victories along with periods of dormancy, and setbacks—all leading up to what is today a moment of accelerated interest and momentum.

Some of the world’s most famous press outlets are starting to notice. Culture is shifting. Alternatives are forming.

A dedicated and defiant movement is emerging in the context of state austerity, corporate welfare, and movements for racial justice that challenge the purpose of the law.

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