Interview with Delaney Pearson, Community Rights Lane County (OR) by Willi Paul, Planetshifter.com Media
”Community Rights Lane County (CRLC) educates citizens about our rights to local community governance. We believe decisions affecting communities must be made by community residents – the people affected by these decisions and laws. We believe corporate structures should not have privileges that elevate corporate interests above community rights.”
Please see helpful articles from CRLC on the following topics -
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Interview with Delaney by Willi -
How are you using the system to change it?
We’re in the system, and to some extent, we must use the system to change it. But we also need to step outside of the ‘box of allowable activism’ in order to see that the system is rigged in favor of the Corporations.
People have inherent rights established by our constitutions, amendments, initiative processes, etc. But they are buried under years of re-centralized power, where regulations, originally crafted to protect these rights, are now rewritten by the Corporations. The permit process is a good example of why people need to approach our challenges differently.
Our best approach is the initiative system – one of the last remnants of our right to local self-government in action – where we can write and pass laws that protect the people’s health, safety, and welfare at the community level, instead of the corporate-written laws that advance corporate profits over people and the planet. These people’s laws strengthen our right to govern ourselves free from corporate interference, and fundamentally challenge the existing structure of law that has been manufactured to advance corporate interests over the people’s well-being.
What are the historical foundations for the emerging community rights movement?
Well, we can go back to the U.S. Declaration of Independence, or here in Oregon, Article 1, Section 1 of our State Constitution where ‘all power is inherent in the people, and all free governments are founded on their authority’. These documents or declarations often emerge from confrontations with oppressive powers. Look at the abolitionist and suffragette struggles; community rights movements are definitely part of our history.
When existing laws violate human and natural rights, protests, civil disobedience, and legal challenges ensue. People don’t want to break laws just to have clean water or to prevent eminent domain or to stop Corporations from destabilizing their communities, but when the system of law is broken, what other choices do they have?
How does “self-governance” work in your vision?
I think we already see what self-governance could look like – it just isn’t sustainable. When communities initiate local food markets, when small businesses set up shop, when organizations work on behalf of homeless populations, when environmental groups organize to stop pipelines and fracking, those are all attempts at self-governance. And it ‘works’ when powerful interests cannot overturn the will of the people. If a community decides they want GMO labeling for their food, then any Corporation doing business in their town will need to abide by their rules. It’s really just democracy in action.
However, as people in communities nationwide, we need to take the next logical step to pass local laws that protect our health, safety, and welfare because this is self-governance. We need to remind our government that it works for the benefit of the people, and not corporations. Until our government and legal system get that straight, we the people have to do it ourselves.
Is CRLC advocating succession from local, county and State governments?
No. We don’t want to break away and build new governments; we just want ours to function on behalf of the people, instead of the Corporations.
Don’t we, as shareholders, own and direct the corporations?
It’s an argument currently employed by University Presidents and Foundation leaders who reject calls for fossil-fuel divestment; many of these institutions argue that they have more leverage holding shares in these companies than they would if they sold them off. The most glaring problem with this line of reasoning is the lack of evidence that they are helping drive these Big Corporations away from harm and toward better business practices. I’m not saying that it never happens, but the amount of energy and organization just to get these people to the table…, and then we’re still stuck with a structure of law that rules for the corporations almost every single time.
But most people are not shareholders of the multinational corporations that are running this country right now, and we’re stuck with suffering the decisions of corporate shareholders who lives hundreds and thousands of miles away from our communities. The corporations’ singular duty is to make profit for its shareholders – who are not us. We can’t expect corporations to put people over profit, but we can expect that our government is authorized to manage corporations so that both corporations and government work for the best interests of the people.
What are your favorite fiction or non-fiction stories from your work with CRLC?
Most people remember pivotal moments from their lives where what they believed to be true, was no longer true. We hear story after story about the first time people heard Thomas Linzey, the environmental attorney and CELDF’s Executive Director, speak about the failure of environmental laws and how they’ve been battered about in a system of rules created by the big polluters. Many people in Oregon first came into contact with Linzey at the PIELC, the annual Public Interest Environmental Law Conference.
And if you didn’t see him at the event, someone sent you a link to the video. He relayed several stories about people trying to protect their homes, land, and water - people who were repeatedly told, often by their own government, that they did not have the right to say no to corporate harms.
It’s astonishing to arrive at the realization that our structure of law works great for Corporations but no longer recognizes (real) people as having those same rights. The very framework we were brought up to believe in is now more fantasy than reality. It’s a pretty powerful thing when you wake up to this fact.
Tell us about the Charter Amendment to Protect the Right to a Local Food System by LocalFoodRights.com
This Charter Amendment will protect our local food system – local farmers, farmers’ markets, community–supported agriculture and more – by recognizing our community’s right to local food and by banning GMO agriculture. We will pass this law in defiance of state law that tells us our community cannot say no to corporate agriculture. We cannot stand idly by while our local food system is exterminated by Big Ag.
This Charter Amendment is a part of a triumvirate of local initiatives that seek to protect the people’s right to self-government by law, as well as the community’s health, safety, and welfare, which includes economic and environmental well-being. We must proactively seize our authority as We the People to protect ourselves, families and community from corporate control. To do nothing, it too accepts that status quo in which corporations reign.
What other State, regional and national groups are you partnering with?
The Oregon Community Rights Network, the National Community Rights Network, Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF), Support Local Food Rights (SLFR) and 350.org/Eugene.
What is your worst fear and greatest hope for the future?
One of my worst fears is being realized. Just look at Denton, Texas. A local community passes a law to ban fracking, and now banning fracking is illegal. Through the current system of law, Texas ruled that Corporations have the power to tell communities that they must endure the externalities of a hazardous and polluting industry. This is a blatant refusal to recognize people as rights bearing citizens with the power to determine how they want to live their lives. It’s no longer deal making in the back room, we’re being told to our face to go away. When your government argues for ruinous corporations and tells the electorate to get lost, we’re in big trouble.
My greatest hope for the future is that these very public confrontations help wake people up. The adage ‘united we stand, divided we fall’ is staring us down. It’s in our best interest to realize the truth and work together to change the system, because the Corporations will not alter harmful behaviors on their own. We the People need to work together and change the system now.
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Delaney Pearson’s Bio-
Delaney is an avid cyclist from California who is learning to love the Oregon rain and mud splatter up her backside. She currently sits on the board of 350.org/ Eugene and on the steering committee for Community Rights Lane County. She works on media and messaging for both organizations and co-leads a writing group for women concerned about climate. She has a minor degree in Economics from Foothill College and a BA from Harvard University.
Delaney Pearson, CRLC Media
delaneybikes at gmail.com
National Website - http://www.celdf.org
Facebook: Community Rights Lane County