CELDF is spearheading a movement at the local, state, national and international level to establish rights for humans and nature over the systems that control them.
Join the Movement Now!
There are many opportunities to get involved at CELDF, from hosting a Democracy School, to volunteering in a community, to helping organize a campaign. Check out the options and join the movement below!
What is a People’s Movement?
In spite of the legendary belief that the United States Constitution established a government of, by and for the people, it is the people themselves who have long been struggling to straighten the crooked bough of American law. In 1789 state conventions run by the wealthy members of society ratified a constitution that legalized chattel and debt slavery, denied the vote to all but white men, meaning women, Native Americans, African Americans, and white men who didn’t meet wealth qualifications in their states. The Bill of Rights offered no constitutional protections to these disenfranchised people; in fact those first ten amendments promised only to guard the rights of white men with property from government interference.
That the property status of African Americans has been ended, that women can vote, that gays and lesbians can now marry, and that land ownership is not a requirement for the franchise – these changes from the original intent of the constitutional framers (the “founding fathers”) are all due to people’s movements.
We can understand the nature of people’s movements by reviewing their goals: in each case it was the securing and protecting of fundamental rights for those whose rights have been denied and violated under color of law. Unless a systemic change in law and governance is being pursued, there is no people’s movement. Hence we can say unequivocally that there has never been a true “environmental movement” in the U.S. until recently, since there has not been an attempt to do more than regulate the rate of nature’s destruction. Only now are small enclaves of people organizing to recognize constitutionally protected rights for nature. Similarly, we can say without prevarication that today there is no “labor movement” in the U.S., since people are not currently organized to secure and enforce the inalienable rights of workers on the job.
A people’s movement requires four things:
- The collective effort of many people
- The end of begging for reform and the uncompromising exertion of community power
- The unerring goal of securing and enforcing fundamental rights
- The removal of systemic violations of those rights
CELDF has a plan
Step 1: Help communities stop threats, building a movement at the grassroots level. We’ve already helped nearly 200 communities sign legislation to protect their rights, hosted hundreds of Democracy Schools and are constantly working on education, organizing and providing legal services at the local level. We work diligently with communities every day.
Step 2: Bring communities together in coalitions to drive change at the state level. We’ve already helped build several independent state level coalitions in Pennsylvania, New Mexico, Washington, New Hampshire, Oregon, Ohio and Colorado. And we’re working towards more every day.
Step 3: Bring states together to drive change at the federal level.
Step 4: Use our model to help international Community Rights and the Right’s of Nature efforts. We’ve helped Ecuador recognize the Rights of Nature in its constitution, and are working in other countries, including India, Nepal, Australia, and the European Union.
Timeline of Results
First CELDF Ordinance adopted, by the Township Board of Supervisors in Wells Township, Fulton County, which banned corporate farming within the Township.
Orion Magazine runs feature article on CELDF’s work, titled “Consent of the Governed,” by Jeffrey Kaplan.
Thomas Linzey, Executive Director of CELDF, delivers a keynote presentation at the Second International BALLE (Business Alliance for Local, Living Economies) in Vancouver, Washington.
CELDF featured on national “Now with Bill Moyers” show, story by David Brancaccio.
CELDF wins first ruling, in the Fulton County, Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas, against a challenge to an anti-corporate farming law adopted in Belfast Township, Fulton County, Pennsylvania.
Thomas Linzey, Executive Director of CELDF, delivers the Twenty-Fifth Annual E.F. Schumacher Lecture in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, titled “Of Corporations, Law, and Democracy: Claiming the Rights of Communities and Nature.”
Thomas Linzey, Executive Director of CELDF, delivered a keynote presentation at the ACRES USA Conference in Indianapolis, Indiana.
First CELDF rights-based Ordinance adopted outside of Pennsylvania, in Barnstead, New Hampshire, by a unanimous vote of the Barnstead Board of Selectmen.
First CELDF Ordinance containing rights for nature adopted by Tamaqua Borough, Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania.
CELDF wins case in the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania in In re: Nomination Papers of James E. Light, qualifying first Pennsylvania home rule charter question containing a Community Bill of Rights, in St. Thomas Township, Franklin County, Pennsylvania.
Thomas Linzey, Executive Director of CELDF, delivered a keynote presentation at the 17th Annual Bioneers Conference in San Rafael, California.
Mother Jones Magazine runs feature article on CELDF’s work, titled “When is a Corporation Like a Freed Slave,” by Barry Yeoman.
Thomas Linzey, Executive Director of CELDF, delivers keynote presentation on “The Rights of Nature” with Cormac Cullinan, a South African lawyer, at Dickinson College and the Penn State Dickinson School of Law.
The 11th Hour – a Leondardo DiCaprio film including CELDF’s work.
Thomas Linzey, Executive Director of CELDF, named by Forbes Magazine as one of the U.S.’s “Ten People Who Could Change the World.”
YES! Magazine runs cover story on the work of CELDF in New Hampshire, titled “Communities Take Power.”
Thomas Linzey, Executive Director of CELDF, delivers keynote presentation at the 7th Annual Alliance for Democracy Conference in Tucson, Arizona.
The work of CELDF on recognizing the rights of nature is featured in Orion Magazine’s feature article, “If Nature Had Rights.”
The people of Ecuador ratify a new national Constitution, which recognizes the rights of nature and ecosystems; CELDF provided support to the Ecuadorian Constituent Assembly for the drafting of those provisions.
Thomas Linzey, Executive Director of CELDF, is interviewed on Democracy Now! by Amy Goodman.
Thomas Linzey, Executive Director of CELDF, featured as a top alumni by Widener Law Magazine.
Gibbs Smith Press publishes Be the Change, a CELDF book containing stories from several communities assisted by CELDF.
CELDF wins case against the Montgomery County, Pennsylvania Board of Elections, forcing the Board to place a Community Bill of Rights for the residents of Cheltenham, Pennsylvania, onto the ballot.
A CELDF representative delivers keynote speech at the Bioneers Conference in San Rafael, California.
CELDF’s work featured in The Bottom Line or Public Health: Tactics Corporations Use to Influence Health and Health Policy, and What We Can Do to Counter Them (published by Yale University Press, co-authored by a CELDF representative).
Thomas Linzey, Executive Director of CELDF, delivers keynote speech at the Waterkeeper Alliance’s annual conference in Seattle, Washington.
Pittsburgh first in nation to ban fracking as violation of rights through CELDF-drafted ordinance.
Thomas Linzey participates in panel discussion on history and development of RON, hosted by the Pachamama Alliance in San Francisco, CA.
CELDF wins an appeal in the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania in a challenge to the placement of a Community Bill of Rights onto the ballot in the City of Warren, Pennsylvania. The victory creates precedent at the appellate level which requires Pennsylvania boards of elections to place local Bills of Rights onto the ballot.
CELDF featured in This Changes Everything: Occupy Wall Street and the 99% Movement, published by YES! Magazine and Sarah van Gelder.
Thomas Linzey, Executive Director of CELDF, delivers a keynote speech at the Earth at Risk Conference in Berkeley, California.
CELDF travels to Nepal to assist Nepalese groups with drafting and introducing rights of nature language into the Nepalese Constitutional Assembly.
CELDF’s Ben Price, Projects Director, participates in a working group at the Rights of Mother Earth International Indigenous Conference at the Haskell Indian Nations University. Hosted by the the Indigenous Environmental Network in Lawrence, KS.
J. Stephen Cleghorn, PhD, a Pennsylvania organic farmer, becomes the first landowner in the U.S. to use a conservation easement to recognize and protect the rights of water, forest, and wild ecosystems.
The Nation Magazine carries a feature article on the work of CELDF, “Rebel Towns,” authored by Barry Yeoman.
Thomas Linzey, Executive Director of CELDF, delivers keynote speech at the Public Interest Environmental Law Conference in Eugene, Oregon.
Thomas Linzey, Executive Director of CELDF, delivers keynote speech to Earth at Risk Conference in San Francisco, California.
CELDF publishes The People’s Right of Local Community Self-Government: Grant Township v. Pennsylvania General Energy Company, authored by Thomas Linzey, Daniel E. Brannen, Jr., and Elizabeth Dunne.
PM Press publishes CELDF’s “On Community Civil Disobedience in the Name of Sustainability – The Community Rights Movement in the United States.”
First CELDF Ordinance drafted in Canada, in the Yukon Territory.
Thomas Linzey, Executive Director of CELDF, delivers keynote at the first-in-the nation Rights of Nature conference at Barry and St Thomas University Law Schools.
A CELDF representative presents at the Emancipation Week conference hosted by the Raizal People, struggling for self-determination in the Archipelago of San Andrés, Providencia, and Santa Catalina, off the coast of Colombia.