Editor’s Introduction: July 2013

by: Posted on: July 08, 2013

Welcome to our July 2013 Editor’s Introduction-published on the 8th of every month.

This month we are featuring:

  • an extensive (multi-article) look at Spokane Washington’s efforts to pass what would be the first Community Bill of Rights on the West Coast
  • a story about why and how Oregon foster youth are sparking a dialogue on rights
  • coverage of Santa Monica’s historic Sustainability Rights Ordinance
  • a written conversation about hydrofracking ‘data acquisition’
  • a written conversation about who controls water quality standards
  • updates from the American Community Rights Movement
  • the results of a Read the Dirt elementary school writing competition
  • the latest of our experiments in audio production, with help from the Public News Service
  • a look at why it matters that ‘unalienable’ and ‘inalienable’ rights are not the same
  • and much more


In other news:

  • Read the Dirt original article “GM Wheat Discovered in Oregon, Benton County Continues Work on Food Bill of Rights” gets reprinted in popular national publication (Truthout). Link here.
  • Radio host endorses readthedirt.org in closing remarks—Wednesday Talk Radio with Lisa Loving. Link here.



The Articles:

Spokane Continues to Fight for the Right to Vote: Read the Dirt staff writer Alex Valentine gives context to Spokane, Washington’s current work to pass a Community Bill of Rights and a Voter Bill of Rights. In an effort to keep the citizen initiatives off this November’s ballot, corporate business interests, together with the Spokane County Commission, are bringing a legal suit against advocates of the Bills of Rights and the City of Spokane itself.

For more information read the following pieces we are publishing by Envision Spokane, a citizen coalition working to pass the Community Bill of Rights (in chronological order):


Foster Youth Bill of Rights, New Narratives: Continuing our coverage of rights-based narratives. Foster youth in Oregon are working to explicitly recognize rights of theirs that are being violated. What can we learn from their logic? Below is a written conversation between Read the Dirt editor Simon Davis-Cohen and Lydia Bradley, Oregon Foster Youth Connection Program Manager—working to pass a Foster Youth Bill of Rights in Oregon.

Santa Monica Passes West Coast’s First Rights of Nature Ordinance: Santa Monica recently passed an ordinance that elevates its right to enforce its Sustainable City Plan, the rights to clean air, water and soil, and the rights of nature above corporate entities’ privileges and powers. A written conversation between Read the Dirt editor Simon Davis-Cohen and Linda Sheehan, Executive Director of Earth Law Center and advocate of the Santa Monica Sustainability Rights Ordinance.

Speaking With a ‘Fractivist’: Data Acquisition to Federal Exemptions: A written conversation between Read the Dirt editor Simon Davis-Cohen and Shane Davis. Davis has pioneered “a method of data acquisition” that has empowered him to use Colorado State’s own data to illuminate State negligence.


Water Quality, Who Should Decide?: A written conversation between Read the Dirt editor Simon Davis-Cohen and John Osborn MD, Board President, Center for Environmental Law & Policy, Director, Sierra Club’s Columbia River Future Project. They speak about Tribal power to set cleaner water quality standards than U.S. and State law, and the fight over the health of the Spokane River. Osborn guards that the Spokane River Regional Toxics Task Force, which the Washington Department of Ecology has promoted as an alternative to the Clean Water Act—could be replicated elsewhere. Industrial polluters control the Task Force. Osborn argues that ‘local control’ in the Spokane River Basin “means that local and powerful industrial and municipal polluters of the Spokane River are in control.”


East Boulder County United Launches Campaign for the Lafayette Community Rights Act to Prohibit New Oil and Gas Extraction: In the past month citizens in Lafayette launched a campaign to become the first community in Colorado to pursue a Community Bill of Rights, and completed their petition drive to get on the ballot. This is a release announcing the launch of the campaign. See here for a release about the conclusion of petitioning.


“It is clear to us that an industrialization of this scale, forced onto this community by State government acting on behalf of oil and gas corporations, is far more dangerous to our public health, environmental sustainability, property values, and democratic decision-making than any threats of State or industry litigation.” -East Boulder County United


A Bright Future: Creative, Passionate Students at Class Academy in Portland Participate in Read the Dirt Environmental Writing Contest: Elementary students at Class Academy in Portland, Oregon, have been studying environmental issues that affect the Pacific Northwest and beyond. Much of their studies have focused on human interaction with and impacts upon the natural environment. Forty Class Academy students provided Read the Dirt with submissions for an environmental writing contest. With a heavy emphasis on water, the well-thought-out and written compositions covered a range of topics including privatization of water, depletion of aquifers, human impacts on water quality and the water cycle, storm water management, issues surrounding the presence of pesticides and other chemicals on our water, the health of our fisheries, and alternative energy. The students were judged on the clarity of their compositions, original thought, and seeking to find solutions to the problems they researched. While picking winners was incredibly challenging for Read the Dirt, the top three scoring essays are published here. We at Read the Dirt are incredibly encouraged by the passion, talent, and creativity that the students demonstrated in their submissions, and expect great future leadership and solutions from the students not only at Class Academy, but from the entire new generation of critical thinkers that they represent!


Selections from the Public News Service-July 2013 (Audio): The Public News Service is a free, public interest, news service. Their audio stories run from one to four minutes in length. We are experimenting with publishing stories of theirs we think Readers of the Dirt would find interesting.

How the Declaration of Independence got Hijacked: The author discusses the difference between ‘unalienable’ and ‘inalienable’ rights, and how since the first United States Declaration of Independence common language has replaced unalienable with inalienable.


The Beatitudes of Fairness: In Phil Damon’s third Sacred Democracy column for Read the Dirt he contemplates fairness across multiple scales. This article is co-published with Living Democracy.


Reprints: (We were given explicit permission to reprint the below articles.)


Benton County Community Group Files Petition for the Right to a Local, Sustainable Food System: By Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, via CELDF.org

Rivers and Natural Ecosystems as Rights Bearing Subjects: By Robin Milam, via Ecologist


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