What are the issues in your community that you would like to resolve? Are you concerned about the climate emergency, plastic waste, industrial pollution, a landfill, the health of your local river, a living wage, or fair housing? Are you wondering why any of these injustices are allowed at all? Can we have industry and workers rights, a healthy local economy and a clean environment?
Share your story with us. VACRN is here to support you to reframe your local challenge with a rights-based perspective. Creating a Community Bill of Rights (CBOR) is a way to achieve a vision for a future where, for example, Nature’s rights to exist, regenerate, evolve, and flourish are honored. Together we can contribute to the paradigm shift to a world where we truly take care of everyone and no one is left behind. Let’s start where we live, here in Virginia.
The Covid-19 crisis is laying bare how interdependent we are on a global level. We see the urgent need to recognize our moral responsibilities and obligations to one another, that are imperative in order for us to survive, evolve, and flourish. Indigenous peoples have understood this all along and are the essential keepers of this wisdom tradition. Let’s learn from them.
The predominant system of law that exists worldwide views everything as property – to be disposed of as the owner sees fit. Our laws frame how we organize our culture; this includes Nature, which also comprises the people and the labor needed to exploit the environment. The economic systems of extraction (dig, burn, dump) support this myopic view. This unsustainable need for constant growth and consumption feeds the insatiable fiduciary responsibilities that corporations have to their stockholders, all the while destroying life on Earth on an epic scale.
“An economy based on extracting from a finite system faster than the capacity of the system to regenerate will eventually come to an end—either through collapse or through our intentional re-organization. While transition is inevitable, justice is not. “
The belief that Nature – the species and ecosystems that comprise our world – has inherent rights has proven to be a galvanizing idea. Working within the existing legal systems, the rights-based approach has been a moral battle which won suffrage for women and freedom from slavery. Our work is to establish legal rights for Nature and local communities, to transform hearts and minds, and to advance the responsibility to respect those rights.
Let’s work now in our local communities to make changes from the ground up, starting with local self-government.
Over 200 locales across the US are changing legal precedent by writing Community Bills of Rights (CBOR) and getting them passed into law by their local governments. It is our mission to support communities across Virginia to transform their concerns into action by adopting this approach. The process of writing a CBOR is educational and deeply empowering. For many it has become a focal point for a community organizing.
Are you willing to take this step?
For a deeper dive
into the CBOR Movement in action, check out the following array of resources.
- Community Rights video: The Transformation from Reformist to Revolutionary. This video sums up the issues in 6 minutes.
- Community Rights Do-It-Yourself Guide to Lawmaking: a 62 page comprehensive guide developed by the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF).
- The Lake Erie Bill of Rights (LEBOR) passed as a charter amendment by 61% of voters in Toledo in February 2019 can be found here if you want to see how an actual law looks and what it contains. LEBOR was on the books for a year and was a classic case of corporate push back against local self- government and environmental protection that gave an ecosystem rights for the first time in the USA.
- Exeter, New Hampshire: In March 2019, the citizens of Exeter voted in a CBOR asserting the Right to a Healthy Climate. Three of the leaders of Citizen Action for Exeter’s Environment present a 20 minute excellent talk about the ‘Right to a Healthy Climate’ ordinance in Exeter, NH.
- Earth Law Center offers a Community Toolkit for the Rights of Nature, giving an overview and many details about the Rights of Nature movement in the US , including a review of resolutions and laws already adopted by local governments in the United States. For example, in 2013, Santa Monica, CA passed the Sustainability Code that recognizes in Article 12.02.030, “All residents of Santa Monica possess the right to self-governance and to a municipal government which recognizes that all power is inherent in the people…” and that “Natural communities and ecosystems possess fundamental and inalienable rights to exist and flourish in the City of Santa Monica.”
- Florida: See how people in Florida are protecting their waterways. Join us to do this in Virginia as well!
- Halifax, Virginia: An Ordinance to Protect the Health, Safety, and General Welfare of the Citizens and Natural Environment of The Town of Halifax By Banning Corporations from Engaging in Mining Within the Town, passed into law February 7, 2008.
- Buckingham, Virginia: An ordinance in progresss, borrowed from Halifax, with important updates. “Ordinance Requiring an Assessment of the Compatibility of Metallic Mining with the Right to Freedom from Toxic Trespass.” See our Take Action page.
- Buckingham: We the People created the James River Natural Community Bill of Rights to empower Buckingham County to protect the rights of the entire James River watershed and defend rights to direct action that could support this work.
- Communities in Ohio have successfully adopted Community Bills of Rights (CBORs) protecting community health, safety and welfare, by prohibiting harmful activities which would violate the rights of the community. Their work began in 2012. See Ohio Community Rights Network. For a timeline of the Ohio Community Rights movement click here.
- In Youngstown, Ohio, in 2017 a Bill of Rights was proposed for Free and Fair Elections and Access to Local Government.
- Communities across Colorado have written ordinances, including one to protect the homeless. Go to the Communities tab on the Colorado Community Rights Network. Click here to explore what the Metro Denver Community is doing.
- Oregon communities have been busy creating these ordinances: