Santa Monica Lookout
Santa Monica Council to Vote on Sustainability Bill of Rights
By Jason Islas
March 8, 2013 -- The Santa Monica City Council will decide Tuesday whether to adopt an ordinance that would enshrine the right of residents -- both sentient and otherwise -- to live in an environmentally sustainable city.
The sustainability bill of rights not only asserts that the bayside city's human population has the right to live in an eco-friendly and pollution-free city, but also that “natural communities and ecosystems” have the right to “exist and flourish in Santa Monica.”
To that end, the ordinance would also empower residents “to enforce those rights on behalf of the environment.”
The ordinance asserts that, “all residents of Santa Monica possess fundamental and inalienable rights to: clean water from sustainable sources; marine waters safe for active and passive recreation; clean indoor and outdoor air; a sustainable food system that provides healthy, locally grown food; a sustainable climate that supports thriving human life and a flourishing biodiverse environment; comprehensive waste disposal systems that do not degrade the environment; and a sustainable energy future based on renewable energy sources.”
“Santa Monica takes pride in its long-standing commitment to environmental leadership,” staff said. The sustainability bill of rights is an extension of Santa Monica's Sustainable City Plan, adopted in 1994, which “commits the City to protecting, preserving and restoring the natural environment.”
Recently, the City adopted a climate action plan that aims to reduce Santa Monica's carbon dioxide emmissions by 29,000 metric tons over the next two years. (“Santa Monica Adopts Climate Action Plan,” March 4)
However, staff felt that in the face of grave environmental crises, such as global warming, deforestation, wide-spread pollution and resource depletion, a new approach was needed, “an approach that would recognize the rights of both humans and the natural environment to exist and flourish.”
“This natural rights movement is based on the belief that Earth is a community whose members are humans, other animals, plants, rivers, streams end eco-systems and that all members of the community must have rights to ensure the sustainability of the whole,” staff said.
The sustainability bill of rights stems from a movement that hopes to move “away from the current economic and legal systems' classification of nature as 'property',” staff said. Those classifications would eventually give-way to “a more holistic view that would place the interest of natural communities and long-term sustainability ahead of short-range, individual and corporate economic goals.”
As a result, the bill of rights would not only enshrine the rights of individuals, along with the rights of the myriad flora and fauna, in the community, it would “subordinate corporate rights insofar as those rights threaten sustainability.”
The ordinance also commits staff to a biennial report “on the state of the local environment and the City’s progress in implementing and enforcing the Sustainable City Plan and the provisions of the ordinance.”
The plan would have to include recommendations for ensuring compliance with the Sustainable City Plan and be reviewed at a City Council meeting.
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