Advancing Community Rights

Advancing Community Rights in the Face of Threats around the World

CELDF works with communities facing fracking, pipelines, factory farms, and other threats are recognizing that these seemingly “single” issue threats share something in common – the community doesn’t have the legal authority to say “No” to them. The existing structure of law ensures that people are blocked from advancing their rights, governing their own communities and acting as stewards of the environment, while protecting corporate “rights” and interests over those of communities and nature.

No matter what the issue, the problem is the same... Communities are stuck inside a box:

the box of allowable activism

The Box of Allowable Activism

The Box of Allowable Activism above depicts how communities are boxed in by a legal system designed to protect corporate interests and limit their rights to local self-government.

  1. State Preemption: State legislatures enact laws that remove authority from communities and define the legal relationship between the state and municipalities as that of a parent to a child. This deprives communities of their own rights.
  2. Nature as Property: Nature is considered property by law, meaning anyone with title to property has the legal right to destroy it. This allows the actions of a few to impact the entire ecosystem of a community.
  3. Corporate Privilege: Often referred to as corporate “rights” or corporate “personhood,” it means that corporations claim “rights” to protections of free speech (1st amendment/money as speech), protections from search and seizure (4th amendment), due process and lost future profits (5th amendment Takings clause) and equal protection (14th amendment). Contracts clause protections, civil rights laws, and commerce laws, further amplify corporate power to override local decision-making.
  4. The Regulatory Fallacy: The permitting process, and the regulations supposedly enforced by regulatory agencies, are intended to create a sense of protection and objective oversight. By working through regulatory agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and our state agencies, we’re told we can protect our community. We can challenge permit applications and demand regulations be enforced. Except, by their very definition, regulatory agencies regulate the amount of harm that takes place. When they issue permits, they give cover to the applicant against liability to the community for the legalized harm.

The final blockade to community self-government is the Black Hole of Doubt. We think we’re not smart enough, strong enough, or empowered enough – we literally do not believe we have the inalienable right to govern. Sally Kempton, author and feminist, says, “It’s hard to defeat an enemy who has outposts in your head.” 

CELDF realized it would take a people’s movement to establish rights for humans and nature over the systems that control them, and is now at the forefront of that movement.

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