Three recent newsletters discuss their organization’s perspectives on how to bring about change. One talks about nonviolent direct action, another about securing rights via home rule charters and constitutions, and the third about achieving change goals via the development of organizational strength and resilience. But you don’t have to worry about which strategy is right — all three have value. And the three strategies can all work together.
The May-June 2012 issue of Resist: A Call to Resist Illegitimate Authority, is devoted to the “Reemergence of Civil Disobedience”. Published by Resist, an organization funding social change efforts since 1967, it has three articles on instances of non-violent direct action:
- “This Land Is Our Land” talks about non-violent direct action keeping people in their homes in Madison, Wisconsin. Grassroots organizations there have been working together. This includes Take Back the Land Madison, Operation Welcome Home, Madison Area Community Land Trust, and Madison Community Cooperative.
- “Civil Disobedience: Not Only a Tactic, but a Way of Life” discusses the work of Arise for Social Justice, a low-income rights organization run by and for poor people based in Springfield, Massachusetts. A few examples. “Armed with yarn and hula hoops, we showed our anti-war strength [in 2001] by forming a massive ‘web’ and shut down intersections throughout the city”. In 2004, “when our cowardly city council backed out on its agreement [to try out a needle exchange program to address the HIV/AIDS infection rate problem], we did what we had to do – we hosted our own needle exchange program.” And they’ve “been fighting to keep a biomass incinerator from being built in our poor beleaguered city”, including taking over the city clerk’s office and agreeing to chain themselves to the plant entrance if all else fails.
- “Dispatches of Disobedience: The timeless tactic is roaring back with vengeance”, briefly cites examples of nonviolence cropping up and why the May-June issue is dedicated to “sharing the stories of groups engaging in this timeless tactic”.
The Summer 2012 issue of Susquehanna: A Publication of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, talks about CELDF‘s involvement in Community Bill of Rights efforts, Rights of Nature efforts, and Community Organizing. The focus here is on securing and protecting rights via home rule charters and constitutions:
- Two articles deal with communities working to get Community Bill of Rights written into their charters: Ferguson Township, Centre County, PA and Mansfield, Ohio. In Ferguson the amendment to its home rule charter ‘would establish as legally enforceable certain rights already recognized by the Constitution of Pennsylvania’s Declaration of Rights but frequently unenforced by the State, including a right to pure water and clean air”. In Mansfield, faced with the permitting of deep injection wells for fracking, folks have placed on Bill of Rights amendment on the Nov 6, 2012 ballot, “to frontally challenge the authority of gas corporations and the state within their community”.
- Organizations in Italy and Nepal are working to include Rights of Nature in their respective country’s legal frameworks. “The rights of nature work moves nature from being treated as property, to being recognized as having legally enforceable rights to exist and flourish.” CELDF is working with a rights-of-nature organization in Italy to plan for public education, legal research, and grassroots organizing. In Nepal, CELDF has been working with CESOD, a civil organization, “to build support for the rights of nature in Nepal’s constitution”.
- In “Overcoming the Obstacles to Community Organizing”, Gail Darrell talks about the barriers community organizers run into: “Whether it is the structure of law, the culture, the media, our neighbors, the CEOs of the corporation and their financial backers, or our own doubt, each aspect of the opposition to right-based community organizing presents an opportunity for us to expose the kind of system that governs our activism”.
- And in “Celebrating the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court’s Decision? Hold Your Applause”, Emelyn Lybarger points out that the Act 13 decision allowing “municipalities to retain their zoning powers appear to be a ‘win’, the reality is that zoning merely allows municipal officials to zone surface use, e.g. where the drill pads will be sited”. “Equally vexing in the decision is the Commonwealth Court’s refusal to apply Article I Section 27 of the Pennsylvania Constitution, which holds that people have the right to clean air and pure water. Instead, the Court declared that the interpretation of that clause was at the state’s discretion, and refused to recognize the right of communities to enforce it.” Some 140 communities in eight states “have declared community rights and rights of nature as inviolable, establishing these rights over the rights of property to cause harm. These communities are not waiting for a Supreme Court to let them know what rights they have.”
Finally, the July/August 2012 issue of Passages: Sustainable Food and Farming Systems, published by the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture (PASA), discusses the “PASA Model”, its approach to building a successful organization, how they’re set up to “promote economic viability, environmental protection and social responsibility all at once”. It’s an interested read to see what they’re saying about how they “flexibly build sustainable foodsheds and still maintain a strong, resilient organization at the same time”.