Building Activism, Stripping Corporate Power, Recognising the Rights of Nature

On September 15, Thomas Linzey gave a seminar on how communities are working to preserve their environment without being trumped by the government, or corporate rules and rights.  Communal and municipal actions and regulations can be overruled by the following; preemption from the federal and state government; Dillon’s rule, generally stating that the community or municipality is like a child which the state allows certain actions, and; corporate rights which lawfully personify company structures.  Problems would arise when a community would attempt to prevent structures such as a waste incinerator from being built in the area; the community was interfering with the corporate rights of the incinerator company from managing their business, and they were being preempted by the government’s issue of a permit to build.  Thus the pollution that such a structure might cause would impede the environment and the community.  The Community Environment Legal Defence Fund (CELDF) was created to give free legal services to communities with not enough lawyers to fight these trials.  In addition, one of their goals is to aid communities in making constitutional laws that would give nature the right to flourish.

The seminar may have been biased, under representing the balance between the needs of the community and corporations.  It was delivered enthusiastically and was not difficult to listen to.

I enjoyed the concept of the seminar, however I failed to grasp the effectiveness of the program to strip corporate power.  If communities create a constitution of environmental policy that the government is in disagreement with, what’s to stop the government from preempting the environmental legislation for what they consider more economically favorable?  The seminar gave me the impression that these civil changes are more effectively obtained through active protests, rioting and sometimes civil war.  The seminar gave examples of the protests of the suffragettes in the women’s rights movement or the civil war to abolish slavery.  Note this is not to say that CELDF advocates or opposes these tactics; their position was not mentioned, only the examples were given.  However, given the increasing popularity of environmental discussions, it may be in the interest of the government to consider their own policies to protect the government.  Still it appears they will have the final say.

While the concept of giving nature rights is brought up in the article Ecology in Ecuador, the question of whether assigning rights is the correct mode of action is brought up in The Return of Goodness by Skidelsky.  What I’ve obtained from Skidelsky’s article is that morality is not completely covered by a set of rights and rules.  If our actions interfere with the standards protecting others, this is immoral.  But if all we do is follow rules and regulations without having our own definition of virtue, do we lose our own innate ability to determine morality?  Skidelsky uses the example of the man watching porn:  He has the right to do so, and others may frown on his outlook, but he is not immoral (Skidelsky, 2008).  Take (for lack of a better one) the example of a river.  We have the right to use rivers for water (in general terms to use the river), but if we deplete the river are we immoral?  We are exercising our right to water (justified and positive) but we our using up our resource (a negative).  Our innate definition of morality would determine the balance.  It is society’s innate morality that makes our just laws.

3 Responses to “Building Activism, Stripping Corporate Power, Recognising the Rights of Nature”

  1. kookimebux says:

    Hello. And Bye. 🙂

  2. very intresting

  3. Milgu says:

    It is rediculous to suggest that just because the law does not prevent an action that that action is moral. Laws are and should be constantly questioned, this is one of the whole points of having a democracy. Furthermore, law can never cover every situation and if it ever came close to doing so just imagine the lack of freedom we would endure.