Paul's Speech at the Tar Sands Pipeline Solidarity Rally in Portland
About 250 people were in attendance on a cold sunny afternoon at the amphitheatre next to Occupy Portland, on Sunday, November 6, 2011, at the rally in solidarity with Hands Around the White House to stop the Tar Sands Pipeline.
I'm an educator and community organizer focusing my time on helping communities to REIGN IN CORPORATE POWER. I've been leading workshops at Occupy Portland for the last few weeks that have stimulated a LOT of excitement, and I'm here to share some VERY HOPEFUL NEWS with you, and to try to convince you that there’s another way to CHALLENGE the Tar Sands pipeline project, AND the LNG pipeline project here in Oregon, AND the proposed coal trains carrying coal from the US and Canada to west coast ports and on to China.
We in the activist community are used to fighting these corporate atrocities one at a time, year after year. We don’t tend to see them as the same issue, so our campaigns are rarely if ever linked together. We’re each battling different corporate plans. End of story.
And more often that not, we end up LOSING these battles. Even when we win, usually we’ve only brought the project to a halt temporarily, which forces the corporate lawyers and planners to work a little bit harder to circumvent our opposition. And then, again, usually they prevail, and the project goes through. This is our record as activists. We work tirelessly, year after year, and more often than not, the project gets approved.
And how do we react to these losses? We convince ourselves that if we had only worked a little harder, or had built better community support, or had raised more money to pay lawyers or other experts, or had knocked on more doors, or had collected more signatures, we might have had a better chance of winning.
And what do we NOT do after we lose one battle after another? What we do NOT do is this:
* We do NOT ask ourselves if there are other strategies that might be more effective.
* We do NOT ask ourselves: Why is it that the regulatory agencies ALWAYS end up saying “YES” to these corporate plans, even when entire populations are opposed.
* We do NOT ask ourselves: Why do state and federal governments act as if they care more about what the corporations want than what We The People want?
* We do NOT ask ourselves: Why do we keep pleading with elected and appointed government people, rather than EXERCISING OUR CONSTITUTIONALLY PROTECTED RIGHT TO GOVERN OURSELVES? Why are we always waiting for someone else - someone high up in government to make the decision FOR us?
About ten years ago, rural farmers in the Pennsylvania Township of Wells started asking themselves these questions. They started doing research. They started learning their history. And what they discovered STARTLED them!
You see, they too had been working for years to try to stop a 14,000 head hog farm factory from being built in their township. So they gave up pleading with regulatory officials, and they instead passed the Anti-Corporate Farming Ordinance, which banned all non-family owned corporations from engaging in farming, or owning farmland in Wells Township. Within a year, five more townships had passed the same law.
Fast forward a few years, and dozens of Pennsylvania communities had now passed bans on corporate mining, corporate logging, corporate dumping of urban sewage sludge on farmland.
All of these local ordinances did something else as well: They all stripped away corporate so-called constitutional “rights”, which are at the root of why corporations are so powerful. And they also challenge the state’s authority of preemption. Preemption is what higher levels of government claim to have over lower levels of government. The people of these rural places said, we’re not having any more of that. From here on out, WE GOVERN OURSELVES at the local level!
Fast forward another few years: 130 communities in six states have now passed these laws: In Pennsylvania, Maryland, New Hampshire, New York, Massachusetts, and Maine. Every one of these ordinances prohibits corporations from engaging in a specific activity, and every one of these ordinances strips corporations of their so-called “rights”. In addition, about three dozen of these ordinances, for the very first time in US history, also protect nature’s rights. They have clauses in them that guarantee that nature shall have the right to thrive and evolve.
To read the actual ordinances that keep passing, go online to CELDF.org.
Now why am I telling you all of this information about these local democratic uprisings happening so far away from here? I think you’ve probably figured out where I’m heading with this, right?
Rather than all of us pleading with President Obama to do the right thing, and say NO to the Tar Sands pipeline, what if WE THE PEOPLE, in local communities all along the route of the pipeline - what if THOSE folks said no DIRECTLY, via local ordinances? Why aren’t they already doing just that, when this movement has ALREADY GAINED REAL TRACTION? Most likely, it’s because they don’t even know there’s an alternative to begging the President. Our media isn’t covering this growing Community Rights movement AT ALL, and that’s GOT to change. Fox isn’t, NPR isn’t, CNN isn’t, and Democracy now isn’t. So it’s no surprise that the good people who find themselves living in the pathway of the pipeline don’t know that there’s a different way to challenge this corporate atrocity.
To bring this point home, the press release for today’s rally stated: “President Obama has exclusive authority to approve or deny the pipeline application.” But is that REALLY true?
The people of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania know how powerful THEY are. They’ve passed what is perhaps the most exciting ordinance so far. Last November, the City Council - on a vote of 9 to 0 - banned corporate fracking, stripped corporations of their “rights”, and recognized and protected the rights of nature within the city. The Council declared that it wasn't enough to merely REGULATE fracking, because regulating is, by definition, ALLOWING fracking.
It’s time to stop BEGGING GOVERNMENT to do the right thing.
It’s time to stop BEGGING CORPORATE LEADERS to cause a little less harm.
It’s time to START EXERCISING OUR RIGHT TO GOVERN OURSELVES!
The folks here in the crowd today who are working to stop the Tar Sands pipeline, or who are working to stop the local LNG pipeline - PLEASE, I URGE YOU TO START PAYING CLOSE ATTENTION TO THE ONGOING LEGAL AND POLITICAL VICTORIES IN THIS GROWING MOVEMENT TOWARDS THE RIGHT OF LOCAL COMMUNITIES TO GOVERN THEMSELVES!
Now you may have heard in the past few days, or on Democracy Now yesterday, that the state governments of both Pennsylvania and New York have just passed laws that prohibit local governments from passing local laws that ban fracking. Please listen carefully to what I’m about to say:
These new state bans are only going to stop the more conventional local fracking bans. They are NOT going to impact AT ALL the growing number of communities that have passed Community Rights type fracking bans. Why? Because these state laws are ONLY targeted at local laws that are based on zoning and regulatory authority of local governments. State governments don’t have a coherent strategy yet to challenge the Community Rights-type bans. Why not? It’s a little bit complicated to explain in just a few words, but basically, the state would have to argue in an open court of law that the people who live in these local places do NOT have ANY inherent right to self-government, and that simply isn’t true, and THEY know this, and the COURTS know this. And ELECTED OFFICIALS know this!
You only have to read the first paragraph of every State Constitution to understand that we DO have inherent rights to self-government. For example, here is the very first sentence of our Oregon State Constitution:
Article 1: Bill of Rights
Section 1: Natural rights inherent in people
"We declare that all power is inherent in the people, and all free governments are founded on their authority, and instituted for their peace, safety and happiness; and they have AT ALL TIMES a right to alter, reform, or abolish the government in such manner as they may think proper."
We the People of Oregon no longer remember how to act as a self-governing people - what it actually LOOKS like, and FEELS like, not to plead and beg, but to EXERCISE our rights directly.
I know that this may all sound like gibberish to many of you. That you may be struggling to believe that what I’m telling you is really true. So I ask you to learn more about the Community Rights movement. Check it out for yourself.
I’m leading 2-hour introductory workshops every week here at Occupy. My schedule is in the flyers being passed out, and on my website at PaulCienfuegos.com. I’m also leading 2-day intensive workshops coming up in Eugene in mid-November and here in Portland in mid-January. This is the work I do full-time. Again, details on my website PaulCienfuegos.com, where you can also link to my talks, interviews, published articles, and sign up for my blog. And this Wednesday (the 7th) a talk I gave recently in Eugene will be rebroadcast on KBOO radio at 9am.
I URGE you to learn more about this work.
WE CAN STOP THE TAR SANDS PIPELINE by passing some of these local ordinances in the communities that it is proposed to pass through.
WE CAN STOP THE LOCAL LNG PIPELINE by passing some of these local ordinances in the communities that it is proposed to pass through here in Oregon.
We have ordinances ready to go that would stop corporations from using Eminent Domain laws against landowners who don’t want the pipeline to cross their properties. This is just ONE EXAMPLE of the kinds of local laws that could be passed that would bring this corporate outrage to a standstill.
WE CAN DO THIS!
I thank you so much for your time!
(I hope to link an audio recording of the speech to this page soon.)