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Friday, March 6, 2009

Protecting Water & Environment Rights with Democracy

Promising signs of Democracy
Shapleigh, Maine gave the natural environment rights. Arcata and Point Arena passed a similarly intentioned resolution in 2004 (link) which is not legally binding.
This could be a concept whose time has come!

Maine Town Passes Ordinance
Asserting Local Self-Governance
and Stripping Corporate Personhood
Sun, 2009-03-01 18:08.

Today the citizens of Shapleigh, Maine voted at a special town meeting to pass a groundbreaking Rights-Based Ordinance, 114 for and 66 against. This revolutionary ordinance give its citizens the right to local self-governance and gives rights to ecosystems but denies the rights of personhood to corporations. This ordinance allows the citizens to protect their groundwater resources, putting it in a common trust to be used for the benefit of its residents.

Shapleigh is the first community in Maine to pass such an ordinance, which extends rights to nature, however, the Ordinance Review Committee in Wells, Maine is considering passing one in their town. These communities have been under attack by Nestle Waters, N.A., a multi-national water miner that sells bottled water under such labels as Poland Springs.

Communities have opposed the expansion by Nestle Waters, but the corporation will not take no for an answer. The town of Fryeburg, Maine has been in litigation with Nestle for six years. Nestle wants to expand and the town's people say no to the tanker trunk traffic which has disrupted their quiet scenic beauty, so Nestle's tactic is to wear them down, and break their bank.

Nestle is the world's largest food and beverage company and has very deep pockets. However, we won't back down, we are the stewards of this most precious resource water, and we want to protect it for future generations.

Activists in Maine are well aware that the Nestle Corporation is not just interested in expanding for the purpose of filling their Poland Springs bottles today, they are interested in the control of Maine's abundant water resources for the future. They are expanding in many parts of this country from McCloud, California to Maine. Nestle is positioning themselves to capitalize on the emerging crisis of global water scarcity.

The right to water is a social justice issue and we believe that it should not be sold to those who can afford it, leaving the world's poorest citizens thirsty. Citizens will do a much better job of protecting this resource than a for-profit corporation.

The concept of a rights-based ordinance was pioneered by environmental attorney Thomas Linzey, founder of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund of Gettysburg, PA. Linzey has assisted the town of Barnstead, New Hampshire with their rights-based ordinance, which was passed in 2006 and with another in Nottingham, New Hampshire, which passed in 2008.

To date there have been no legal challenges to these ordinances. Linzey also crafted Ecuador's new Constitution, which also gives the ecosystem rights. Ecuador is the first country in the world to protect its natural resources from corporate exploitation.

Activists have learned the hard way that trying to protect their communities and the environment by going the route of fighting a typical regulatory ordinance, which is written by corporate lobbyists, will fail to protect communities from harms done.

The multi-national corporation's allegiance is never to the communities where they do business, as that could conflict with their fiduciary responsibility to make a profit for stockholders.

People throughout the country are saying "enough is enough, large corporations have too much power." Constitutional Rights were granted to corporations from the bench in the 1800's and it is time to rectify a wrong! People are saying let's dismantle the neo-colonial corporate power by starting with their right to personhood.

In Maine, we are tired of Nestle behaving as if they are a Colonial power with a right to our water resources. We decided that we will behave as if we have the power and ignore the naysayers who said that people will never vote to take rights away from corporations or to give rights to nature. We want to encourage other communities join us. The time is now!

Copies of the The Shapleigh, Maine Town Warrant calling for a special town meeting and The Shapleigh Water Rights and Local Self-Government Warrant are available from the Contact Person, below.

For more information on attorney Thomas Linzey and the Community Environmental Defense Fund, please visit:

For more information about the battle to protect ground water in communities in Maine, please visit: . Click on the LEGISLATION tab and go to ORDINANCES to read the important new Shapleigh ordinance.

CONTACT PERSON: Jamilla El-Shafei Save Our Water steering committee member and organizer steering committee member of the Maine Water Allies (state-wide coalition) 603.969.8426

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