Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has. Margaret Mead

Democracy School gave us some tools.   This email is going out to the hundred plus people who have signed up to take those tools and put them to work.

I am now extending the invitation to the community at large to join the work party.  And have no doubt this is going to be a party. This is the original email. 

Hello People!!!  You are getting this email because at some point you signed up to be a part of the Right to Clean Water Action. This list goes all the way back to the Eaath conversation after the Bill Mckibben talk last November, Earth Day at El Chorro in April, and most recently Bioneers Expo in San Luis in October.

Welcome all. Quick update. Just held a Democracy School conducted by Global Exchange and CELDF.  30 people in attendance learning how to change the rules of the game in local government and live to brag about it. It was about 150 other communities in the US who have bravely and boldly gone where no laws had gone before. Communities saying no to Fracking, GMO’s, corporate personhood, sludge, Big Box stores, water extraction, weather modification, writing Food  Bill of Rights, Rights of Nature and our unalienable right to self-governance.

It’s not a new idea, that’s how this country got started. Bunch of volunteers getting together and writing the Declaration of Independence and saying NO to one of the most powerful countries in the world and Yes to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.

We are just revisiting that whole concept.  Oh yea, and there is a big difference between inalienable and unalienable and unalienable is in the Declaration and that is what we are talking about here.

Fracking was most probably the most immediate clear and present danger and on everyone’s mind when you signed up. Fracking is all about the Water. Water is all about life. All life on earth depends on Water for its existence. And not just any water. CLEAN Water. Fracking is all about taking our essence, 9 million gallons a well, and regurgitating it back to us in a deadly toxic soup. No thank you. Not drinkable. Not livable. And here’s the rub. WE can’t just say NO to this deadly process because over time our right to say NO got all tied up in knots, changed, exchanged, modified, codified and indemnified into a bunch of legal mumbo jumbo of administrative regulatory rules and regulation.

We haven’t got time to go back and untie all the knots. Instead we are going back to the beginning, to our essence, and make that the subject and topic.  Our essence is Water. This ordinance  has to be about what we stand For Not about what we stand against. This ordinance is a declaration of our right to exist, to prosper and thrive and giving thanks and honor and homage to the one and only thing that can make that possible. Water. Banning,  in particular, Fracking at this point in time leaves the door open for whatever  other threats and there will be others, that haven’t even surfaced yet threatening our Water. This puts us in constant defense mode always having to be ready to write another law banning the new threat.

This is where the Democracy School training and Tom Linzey of CELDF comes in. Using the community rights based tools we write the ordinance that insures that Nature, as our Benefactor, has a voice. By giving Nature the legal status as our Benefactor we give ourselves legal standing as the beneficiary. All the laws of Nature which we are duty bound to respect and honor take precedence over man-made laws and the exemptions to them. This is Offense mode talk.   Big difference from what we what we have been dealing with . Offense is the power position.  Nice place to be for a change.

Now Nature and our precious Water from which all living organisms are conceived has legal rights that we are obligated to protect and preserve and in so doing protect and preserve our rights and well-being.  Tom Linzey will back us up with all the power and authority that is packed into our Declaration and Constitution. Rights Rule. If it comes down to a fight of our unalienable rights vs some fictitious corporate rights who among us would not say Bring it on Baby!!!! This is what Offense mode  feels like people. This ordinance is about reclaiming our rightful place in our community with Nature by our side. Makes one feel kind of invincible doesn’t it?

So, That was one year rolled up into a couple of paragraphs and now we are all on the same page.  What’s next is why you are getting this email.

November 7 is Transition Towns one year old Birthday. Transition Towns SLO, where this all began, is meeting from 7-9pm at the Ludwick Community Center, 864 Santa Rosa Street, San Luis Obispo, CA 93401

The Rights to Clean Water Action would like to now extend that invitation to our community at large. If you want to get in on the Action this is the place to be.  It will be the first opportunity for all the volunteers to meet and greet each other and the master plan for our group is on the table. We will only have about 15 minutes to take care of business as a group. There are 5 groups.  You will be amazed at what is going on.

For those interested in Our Right to Clean Water Action You will need to come to the meeting fully prepared to commit to one of many roles needed to get this ordinance on the ballot. Or just come to see where you would like to jump in at some point. There will be jumping in spots all over the place and we can work this in relays so everybody gets a chance to do something and nobody has to do everything.

I am going to give you everything, o.k. that is a stretch, you need right now so you know exactly what you are getting into, at least for starters.   And keep in mind we are approaching this issue of our right to self govern and Clean Water in much the same spirit and fervor as our founders. Taking the Offense.

That is to say you may have to let go of some preconceived, indoctrinated ideas of business as usual in order to make room for the creative genius in you that will spark this action into a work of art. This is an ACTION group. That being said our plan of action is going to be modeled after a community production of a Play.  Why?  Because putting on a play  has all the elements necessary to getting this show on the road. We are writing and we are producing the Play of our lives. It is ours. We are using the play writing and production format to get  everyone outside of their comfort zone and to be able to play parts without holding back. Life is but a stage and we are all just players.

The script is the Ordinance.  The star of the show is Water. We are writing a 10 minute play with a beginning, middle and an end. Keeping it simple. Short and sweet.

Then there is the whole other element behind the scenes which is the production crew. Here are the positions and production crew assignments.  There are 10 of them. Look for the sign up sheets at the self-governance table. Got to do your homework first and see what crew you want to sign up for, we only have 15 minutes. Or there will be a sign up sheet at the bottom of the production crew page above. We are making it easy.

Looking for Point persons to head up the teams.   So please specify your role on the sheet.  Point or support.  No effort is too small. Every person has a special unique talent that will be a contributing factor to our success. You will all make a difference. This is your time to give that talent a chance to shine. Share it and I can promise there is a place in this production to put it to good use.

So I am just remembering a quote, Inch by inch life is a cinch, yard by yard it is very hard. If everybody does something nobody has to do everything.  This is our first inch. A drop in the bucket if you will.

Craig Spease has volunteered to be our scribe. Thank you Craig. So appreciated. Will publish the minutes of this whirl wind meeting, a force of nature to be sure, and keep everyone posted. Get on the contact list.

That’s it folks. Let’s start humming a few bars and get this show on the road.

See you all on Weds. Nov 7 7-9pm.

Jeanne Blackwell

rsvp ing would be nice. thanks.

This is What Happened at Democracy School.

We held our democracy school this last week end with Shannon Biggs of Global Exchange and Ben Price of CELDF conducting the ceremonies. It was a celebration. In attendance 30 diverse, informed, caring, thoughtful, deeply committed, connected, loving persons.

For a few very special moments our lives and thoughts merged and things changed. We felt the ever so subtle movements of a butterfly flapping its wings.

A history of the rights of people and nature going back as far as 1066. It was only a 12 hour course, thank goodness, or Ben and Shannon would have taken us back to the beginning of time I am sure.

It didn’t take long into the course to see a well organized and methodical pattern of intent to create a system of control that would reign supreme over all the dominions on earth.

Sounds rather depressing doesn’t it? Well this is the really cool part and shows how knowledge translates into power. When you realize what you are up against and how it got to be the way it is and where it comes from that knowledge changes everything. It untangles a bunch of knots. That was no butterfly that was B-52.

I felt a real sense of empowerment. It’s all about Rights. My rights as a human being. Natures Rights. Rights can not be given or taken away. They can’t be brought, sold, traded, downsized, minimized or comprised. They are inalienable.

Whoa. If that is the case then why in the hell am I attending this Board of Supervisors meeting or Water quality control Board hearing and begging for my right to clean water? Why am I begging the Air Quality Control board for my right to clean air? Why am I begging the NRC to regulate the level of harm to all the marine life in a seismic testing zone? Why am I begging for mercy before a self appointed, dominion oriented control board to please don’t hurt me or my Mother so much or anymore? Why? Because I didn’t know then what I know today. And so it begins.

NO more begging. No more pleading. No more asking permission to be granted our inalienable rights and Rights of Nature. The next step, turning knowledge into power. The right to self govern is powerful stuff and we got all we need from the Declaration of Independence to make our Rights and the Rights of Mother Nature the supreme law of this land right here in our own backyard. It has already started.

Core group is forming to write a local ordinance. A law.

A law that duly ordains and establishes our Rights and the Rights of Nature as a legal premise on which we can apply a remedy when there is an infringement or violation. By giving Nature the legal status as our Benefactor we give ourselves legal standing as the beneficiary and Executor of Her Estate.  All the laws of Nature which we are duty bound to respect and honor take precedence over any man-made laws that would exercise a fictitious right as a right to infringe and violate. Nature has Rights and we are obligated as Her beneficiaries to protect and preserve those Rights and in so doing protect and preserve our Rights.

Love these life changing moments especially when you can wrap it all up in a week-end with good food and great company. Check Democracy School off my bucket list and put on the Rights of Nature and Right to Clean Water ordinance. ✔✔

WHAT IS GOING TO HAPPEN AT THE DEMOCRACY SCHOOL? Giving up HOPE is going to happen.You have to read this to understand Why that is a really GOOD thing.

Turning Defense into Offense: Challenging Corporations and Creating Self-Governance

Thursday, 04 January 2007 10:31

by Tom Linzey
It’s rare that someone comes along and tells us emphatically that we activists no longer have to keep banging our heads. Linzey has a solution. You may not like what you hear because we may have to give up hope in order to get there. But I and many others think he’s right on target and ought to be listened to.

Excerpted from a speech at the recent October, 2006 Bioneers Conference in San Rafael, CA.

After ceding our authority to decide whether the Monsanto or Weyerhaeuser Corporation will tinker with genetic codes of life or buzz-saw their way through old growth forest ecosystems, and exchanging it for a regulatory process that assumes that they will, but merely regulates how fast, the wonder is not that things have gotten worse, but that things aren’t worse than they are.

So why has our activism failed so miserably to not only build the world that we want, but even to draw a line in the sand to keep things from getting worse?

Perhaps it is because our activism is built, tooth and nail, on one critical and most times, completely unquestioned assumption.

That unquestioned assumption, a box within which we’ve constructed our activism over the past four decades, is the assumption that we actually live in a democracy.

That is, we assume that we live in a country where it actually matters what majorities of people think and want; where it actually matters what a majority of people within a given community think and want.

It is that assumption that hardwires our organizing the assumption that the fundamental governing structure under which we live, actually recognizes, and is dictated by, the will of majorities. It is that assumption that determines that our activism will be sufficient if we merely perfect our roles as regulators, consumers, and investors.

That if we just get enough people to write letters to congress, that if we just get enough people to attend a hearing or protest, that if we just get enough people to buy the right stuff, or invest in the right stuff, that we’ll force those who actually run this country to reverse course.

In other words, in assuming that we live in a democracy, we mistakenly tailor our strategies and our tactics towards mobilizing people in the same tired old ways that have now failed for close to half a century.

Perhaps, just perhaps, we’re in this mess today not only because we don’t live in a democracy, but we find ourselves in this mess because we’ve never had a democracy in this country. Indeed, perhaps the corporate cultural IV in our arms has been working so well that it’s hard for us to even imagine what self-government would look like.

As a result, we tangle ourselves further each year by continuing to define the nature of the problems we face as the projects themselves that we seek to oppose: thus, we define the problem as aerial herbicide spraying in Alaska; or a toxic waste incinerator being built in Ohio; or sewage sludge being dumped in Berks County, Pennsylvania.

In defining the problem as the project itself, we then gather people who care or we work to convince people that they should care – in the belief that if we just mobilize enough people that the decision-makers will take note and the project will be stopped. In short, we assume that it matters that community majorities don’t want the spraying, incinerators, or the sludge.


Community majorities are overridden on a daily basis. Regulatory agencies legalize projects and actions that communities don’t want. Zoning and land use ordinances are routinely overridden by judicial doctrines like the Fair Share Doctrine in which courts can throw out zoning and land use ordinances if those laws don’t allow for the communities fair share of development as compared to communities next door; local laws are routinely nullified that conflict with state and federal laws.

And when communities really try to practice democracy, and refuse to swallow what they’ve been given, corporate managers write new preemptive laws and use the state legislatures to nullify community lawmaking. When state legislatures get out of hand, they use the federal government to preempt the state legislature. When national governments get out of hand, they use international trade agreements to preempt them.

What wasn’t so clear to me, at least, was how that structure of law became like a dead hand from the past, ending up insulating agribusiness corporations and the small number of people running them – against community majorities in rural Pennsylvania.

To my surprise, it turned out that the only thing jettisoned by the American Revolution was the king. The English structure of law, on the other hand, was heartily embraced by those drafting the U.S. Constitution many of whom were lawyers, of course, in the finest English traditions who revered English Law.

And so, that body of law, forged in the fires of expanding an empire while protecting minority rule at home, was thus hardwired into the fundamental governing document of this country, the U.S. Constitution.

Now that’s an astonishing proposition to some, but not to our folks in Pennsylvania who are being hit upside the head with that structure of law on a daily basis. Something in that proposition has made deep sense to them, especially when they listened to what some of the founding fathers had to say about it.

Listen to James Madison, generally regarded as the architect of the constitution who bluntly stated:.

“Our government ought to secure the permanent interests of the country against innovation. . . It ought to be so constituted as to protect the minority of the opulent against the majority”.

Madison, again:

“The states ought to be placed under the control of the general government at least as much so as they were formerly under the king and British parliament”.

The courts tell us that garbage is interstate commerce, that corporate pork production is interstate commerce, that cell phone towers are interstate commerce, and that production and distribution of toxics are interstate commerce. .

Under the commerce clause, exercising local, democratic control over those industries can not only get you sued, but forced to pay future lost profits to waste, agribusiness, telecommunications, and other corporations.

In addition to the Commerce Clause, the constitution now shields corporations under the 1st Amendments free speech protections (thus enabling corporate advertising to frame issues before anyone even decides to run for office); shields corporations from surprise regulatory inspections as unreasonable searches and seizures under the 4th Amendment; requires governments to pay corporations for the impact of health and safety laws under the 5th Amendment; and now cloaks corporations with the fundamental rights and protections of Equal Protection and due process under the 14th Amendment.

It’s no wonder that some anti-federalists, challenging the ratification of the constitution itself in the late 1700s, declared that the plan of governance it set forth was nothing less than a plan for a global economic empire that would commence in a moderate aristocracy, eventually swallowing up every other government on the continent.

So what does all of that have to do with the mess that were in today? Well, as it turns out, everything: whenever we try to fix the mess, we run not only into our courts, the legislatures, and our culture being wielded by a corporate minority against us, we also run smack into the ultimate trump card; the Constitution itself.

In 2004, I stood on this stage and told a Bioneers crowd how a hundred small, rural, conservative Pennsylvania townships, targeted for hog factory farms in their communities, had begun to take aim directly at the four corporations that control over sixty-five percent of pork production in the United States.

I told the story of how those communities reframed the problem away from the air and water pollution and property devaluation caused by factory farms indeed, away from factory farms themselves – reframing the problem as the corporatization of agriculture, and the elevation of the rights of those corporations over the rights of those communities.

I told the story of how some of those communities followed the lead of nine mid-western states and began passing laws banning agribusiness corporations from farming in essence, prohibiting those corporations and the few who run them from defining what farming would look like within those communities. In a very real way, they acted to replace corporate minority decision-making with community self-government.

I told the story of other communities who watched as two children died in Pennsylvania after being exposed to land applied sewage sludge, and who began passing local laws that prohibited sludge corporations from operating in their communities. .

All together, over 300,000 people are now living under new governing frameworks we’ve drafted with them.

In passing those laws, all of those communities crossed a line a line that has been carefully etched by a corporate minority who have used the law to place all real decision-making and thus all real governing – beyond the authority of we the people.

As they watched, people in these communities saw the Pennsylvania Legislature work overtime, on behalf of the agribusiness industry, drafting state legislation to preempt the anti-corporate farming and anti-corporate sludge ordinances communities had adopted.

For over five years, those communities joined hands with each other to stop those bills aimed at nullifying their local laws. In support, our organization led a statewide coalition of environmental, labor, municipal, and farm groups to run interference for those communities. Together, we successfully kept that republican-driven legislation from becoming law each legislative session from 2000 to 2005.

All of that changed, however, when a liberal democrat from Philadelphia became Pennsylvania’s governor. Governor Eddie Rendell quickly known in our circles as Fast Eddie – pulled something off that even the republicans couldn’t for those five years.
He put together a coalition of legislators that passed a bill even worse than the bills we had beaten back. His bill authorized the Pennsylvania Attorney General to sue our local townships to overturn their ordinances.
Five months ago, the Attorney General filed the first lawsuits against four townships under Rendell’s law.

Now, when the power and authority of the state from the governor’s office to the Attorney General’s office to the offices’ of their legislators all join together to override lawmaking by majorities, it doesn’t take belief in a Tom Linzey or a Richard Grossman to figure out that something is fundamentally illegitimate in a system in which our own governmental institutions are almost always on the side of property, commerce, and corporations; and almost never on the side of local control, rights, communities, and nature.

That structure can’t be deemed a democracy. It can, however, be rightly defined as a corporate state. The prospect that we actually live in a corporate state and not a democracy is now dawning on community leaders and elected officials across rural Pennsylvania.


To which I explain that if we truly live in a corporate state and I think the data is pretty much in on that one and the constitution is the trump card used like rebar to support this concrete structure of law, then our work must focus on actually replacing our Property and Commerce Constitution with a Rights and Nature Constitution. Otherwise, I explain, we will always be beaten by the constitutional trump card plunked down last by a corporate few.

Which is usually where my lawyer friends the ones that I have left – run away as fast as they can.

But folks in rural Pennsylvania aren’t running away. Instead, they’re turning directly into the storm – not because were telling them that they should, but because they’ve seen how the system works, and understand that creating a new system is the only option they have left.

It is thus disobedience born from desperation.


Yes, people are taking self-governance very seriously in the Keystone State. They’re challenging you to get serious with them.

On September 19th, Tamaqua Borough in Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania, via Ordinance Number 612, became the first municipality to adopt a new generation ordinance, becoming the first municipality in the United States to recognize the rights of ecosystems and natural communities. On September 27th, Rush Township in Schuylkill County became the second. On October 16th, Blaine Township in Washington County became the third.

In addition to those new generation ordinances, some Pennsylvanians have begun to recognize the need to do battle with a property and commerce constitution by writing their own rights and nature constitutions. Several communities have now taken the first steps to write those constitutions under Pennsylvania’s home rule laws.

Two weeks from now, the residents of St. Thomas Township, Franklin County; and West Pike land Township, Chester County, Pennsylvania will be voting on whether to create a new constitution for their municipality one that may fundamentally challenge current constitutional underpinnings.

All of those efforts across Pennsylvania are being supported by, and driven by, our Daniel Pennock Democracy Schools named in honor of Danny Pennock, a boy who died after being exposed to sewage sludge in Central Pennsylvania. Our three-day activist training schools are now open at a dozen locations across the United States.

In response to requests from community activists energized by this work, we recently hosted our first annual campaign school in New York’s Hudson Valley two months ago, with attendees from Virginia, Alaska, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and California. That gathering is now helping to give birth to new campaigns that reframe problems and design new strategies that take aim at the corporate state.

In response to requests from institutional and individual philanthropists, we’re also hosting our First Funders Democracy School Retreat in Southwestern Virginia the second week of November.

Where will all of this lead? I believe that we are lending support to the first stirrings of a real peoples’ movement that is seeking to establish a rights and nature jurisprudence a structure of law that places the rights of people, communities, and nature above the claimed rights of property, commerce, and empire.

Eventually, it may result in five hundred to a thousand Pennsylvania communities writing new governing structures which may, in turn, drive a rewrite of the Pennsylvania Constitution. Those communities will then join hands with others in other states to drive a rewrite of the federal constitution.

Crazy? Maybe, but I ask myself what’s the alternative? Watching this planet continue to implode.

It’s not work for the fainthearted. Many of our friends in Pennsylvania are putting their reputations, their families, and in some cases, their lives on the line.

In those places, they’ve given up hope that the legislature will help them, that the courts will help them, that environmental groups will help them, or that state agencies will help them. Instead, they’ve turned to the same place that the abolitionists and suffragists turned, to the same place that the populist farmers of the 1890s and the American revolutionaries turned to themselves and to each other.

Giving up hope that someone else will save them thus is becoming a beginning, not an end.

As author Derrick Jensen put it recently in an article entitled “Beyond Hope”:

A wonderful thing happens when you give up on hope, which is that you realize that you never needed it in the first place. You realize that giving up on hope didn’t kill you. It didn’t even make you less effective.

In fact, it made you more effective because you ceased relying on someone or something else to solve your problems you ceased hoping your problems would somehow get solved through the magical assistance of God, the Great Mother, the Sierra Club, valiant tree sitters, brave salmon, or even the earth itself and you just begin doing whatever it takes to solve those problems yourself.

When you give up on hope, something even better happens than it not killing you, which is that in some sense it does kill you. You die. And there’s a wonderful thing about being dead, which is that they those in power cannot really touch you anymore. Not through promises, not through threats, not through violence itself. . . When you give up on hope, you turn away from fear. And when you quit relying on hope, and instead begin to protect the people, things, and places you love, you become very dangerous indeed to those in power.

In case you’re wondering, Jensen writes, giving up hope can be a very good thing.

Reprinted with permission from Tom Linzey.