Agenda 21 vs. the TPP

Stop TPP

A new wave of reaction to Agenda 21 threatens to confound the public and undermine efforts toward global cooperation on both environment and development.  Meanwhile, those who raise the alarm about Agenda 21, a non-binding agreement, are silent about negotiations of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a binding agreement that would grant corporations new rights to interfere with our democracy.   

Agenda 21

 I was part of the United Methodist delegation to Rio de Janeiro in 1992, during the historic United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, or “Earth Summit,” where Agenda 21 was signed.  The agreement was negotiated openly in advance, with input from governments, corporations, and civil society.  Its purpose was to suggest principles, policies, and guidelines that could help the nations of the world move cooperatively into the 21st century (hence the name) in ways that could both protect the earth and raise poor nations out of poverty.

 Agenda 21 is not a treaty, so it was not ratified by the Senate.  It does not have the force of law.  It is non-binding, to be enacted voluntarily as governments see fit.  Some jurisdictions in various countries, including the United States, have enacted policies based on  Agenda 21’s suggested principles, such as protecting biodiversity, controlling pollution,  reducing greenhouse gas emissions and the progression of global warming, combating poverty, strengthening the role of marginalized groups, etc.  Agenda 21does not infringe upon national, state, or local sovereignty.  It’s goal is not to abolish private property or take away our freedoms or create an “eco-dictatorship,” regardless of what Glen Beck or Fox News have to say.

 The TPP

Now let’s look at the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP.  It is being negotiated secretly, behind closed doors.  The public does not have access to the draft, yet corporations have not only seen it but are helping to write it.  Portions of the document have been leaked, so we know that this so-called “free-trade agreement” deals with far more than trade.   If enacted, its reach will extend into every aspect of our lives. 

 Unlike Agenda 21, the TPP would take precedence over U.S. law, and would bind us far more than any treaty.   The enforcement mechanism of treaties is internal to each country, but the enforcement of trade agreements is external.  If our government refuses to change a federal, state, or local law that is ruled “illegal” under the TPP, fines or tariffs would be leveled against us.  The position of the U.S. government is that we will change our laws to comply with the terms of  trade agreements.  This has resulted in many of our democratically-enacted laws being overturned through World Trade Organization (WTO) and North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) tribunals.

 The TPP incorporates the worst of the WTO and NAFTA, and expands corporate rule even further.  With the WTO, a corporation has to convince a government to file a dispute against (sue) another country.  With the TPP, as with NAFTA, a corporation can sue a country directly for lost profits, past, present, and future.  In other words, if people in a particular town rise up to prevent a corporation from building a power plant, the corporation can sue the federal government for profits they might have realized if the project had gone ahead.

The TPP not only threatens U.S. sovereignty, it places corporate profits above the democratic  process.  Why the silence on the TPP?  Why the alarmist rhetoric about Agenda 21?  I agree with Thom Hartmann’s analysis:  “It’s a sleight-of-hand technique to keep us focused on bogeymen, while the ranks of Texas oilmen, outsourcing CEOs, and Wall Street banksters carry out the true destruction of the United States of America: the pillaging of the Middle Class at home and the construction of a WTO-style one-world corporate government to promote unfettered capitalism and free trade everywhere on the planet.”

The major challenges facing humanity will require global cooperation, through open negotiation and the input of civil society.  It’s a big mistake to abandon our precious world to agreements like the TPP, a corporate bill of rights that would result in the consolidation of corporate rule.

 

The damage caused by free-trade agreements motivated me to write Shaking the Gates of Hell:  Faith-Led Resistance to Corporate Globalization, which includes an overview of the global economy, a description of its rule-making institutions (such as the WTO and NAFTA),  nonviolent resistance to global corporate empire, and globalization from below.

For more truth-telling about Agenda 21, see Thom Hartmann’s “Agenda 21: The Latest Sleight of Hand Trick by Corporate Elite” or the scholarly article on “Property Rights and Sustainability” by ethicist Donald Brown.

Find out more about the TPP and take action to Stop the TPP at Popular Resistance .  Find more resources at Public Citizen  or Flush the TPP

 

Stop the Global Warming Train

train

I’m grateful this morning for the weather.  There’s been plenty of rain in the past few days.  The sun is out now, along with the clouds, and there’s a nice, cool breeze.  Mmmmm.  Lovely.

I’m grateful that we have weather at all.  I’m grateful for the exquisitely balanced climate system, which has evolved along with life as we know it over billions of years.  I’m also deeply concerned about the disruption of the climate system and the warming of the earth caused by ever-increasing emissions of greenhouse gases since the beginning of the Industrial Age.

This is no hoax, even though 240 members of the U.S. House of Representatives voted that it is.  How can they believe this?  To whom are they listening?  Not to the majority of scientists, for whom  the debate is over about the two key facts about climate change:  1) Global surface temperatures have increased in recent decades and 2) This trend is caused primarily by human-induced emissions of greenhouse gases.  Go to The Consensus Project to find out more.

There is debate and skepticism among scientists about other issues related to climate change, such as climate sensitivity, projected rates of warming and other effects of continued greenhouse gas emissions, analysis of factors leading to short-term fluctuations (such as “flattening”) of the warming effect, what if any action should be taken (nuclear power, fracking, renewables, etc.)  After all, science is a skeptical discipline.  But there is a strong scientific consensus about the above key facts.

Still, the Global Warming Train continues to pick up speed, with CO2 emissions reaching 400 parts per million (ppm) this month.  Those who are driving the train, the policy makers (such as the House members), must not be listening primarily to scientists.  They must be listening to someone else.

In last night’s presentation on climate change, we looked at the controversy surrounding climate change.  For the most part it is a political and ideological controversy.  Climate change skeptics downplay, deny, or dismiss the key facts of global warming based on politics, economics, or ideology.  The popular media in the United States treats the key scientific facts as debatable.  The fossil fuels industry and their supporters, free-market think tanks (such as the Heartland Institute), and anti-science religious associations (such as the Cornwall Alliance) actively work to discredit the scientific consensus on global warming.  No wonder people are confused and feel powerless to take action.

This raises the question of who is actually driving the Global Warming Train.  Policy makers in government have special responsibility.  But when corporations write laws, create industry-funded “studies,” and dominate the media and the political process, they are also driving the train.  Furthermore, policy decisions are made in the context of the global system of unrestrained free-market capitalism, which is based on the values of greed and profit.  Those who are driving the train have a vested interest in keeping the current system in place.

Many people are already getting run over by the Global Warming Train, especially those who live in poor nations that are especially sensitive to climate change, along with poor people everywhere.  Some of us are passengers.  We pay our fare and help support the system by buying gas for our cars, heating our homes, taking airplanes.  Some of us may feel guilty for doing so.  Some of us try to live simply and reduce our carbon footprint, but still the train is accelerating.  What can we do?

Last night we began to answer that question by looking at what we could do as a society if it were politically possible.  Here are a few ideas:

  1. Stop subsidizing fossil fuels and invest in conservation and renewable energy.
  2. Stop subsidizing agribusiness and invest in supporting small organic farms.
  3. Stop using the U.S. military to preserve access to oil.
  4. Engage in good-faith negotiations toward an international treaty with binding limits of greenhouse gas emissions.
  5. Employ a progressive “fee and dividend” approach to lowering emissions.

What we can do and what we must do is change what is possible.  The rest of the presentation covered some of the things that people are doing to bring about positive systemic change.  “Another world is possible” has become the slogan of the global justice movement.

Humanity is captive, on a train towards irreversible, catastrophic climate change.  Those who are driving are debating about how fast we are going, what’s up ahead, what would happen if we slowed down, why we should (or should not) keep going.  They are making policy decisions that affect all of humanity, other species, and future generations.

Meanwhile the train is picking up speed.  We see the signposts as we go by:  350 ppm, 400 ppm.  At what point do we decide to take responsibility for ourselves and our fellow passengers?  At what point do we decide to stop the Global Warming Train?

A Moment of Profound Choice

Another World is Possible

We are at the beginning of a new era in the earth’s history. Humanity has reached a crossroads, a moment of profound choice between two incompatible futures. One direction seems almost inevitable: the world’s dominant institutions and prevailing ideologies are driving at an ever-accelerating speed toward a market-based future dominated by corporations. The billboards along this multi-lane freeway advertise the benefits of where we are headed: toward a wonderland of accumulated wealth and general prosperity, technological achievement, economic and cultural integration, and peace through U.S. military domination. Most people are simply going along or being forced along for the ride. But increasing numbers of people around the world are choosing to get off the main road, to walk to the side and off the pavement to find another path, one that leads toward a global future of equity, justice, ecological and cultural diversity, and peace through mutual respect and cooperation. People are defending or changing their lifestyles, working within their communities, and creating alternative institutions. Some are even hiking back up to the main road and blocking it with their bodies, linking arms with others, trying to prevent the tragic consequences of a world given over to greed.

Who will decide which road will be taken? We will. We must. This is our right and our responsibility as human beings. We can refuse to take on the responsibility and allow the institutional Powers to make these decisions by default. Or we can exercise our freedom by refusing to collude, by resisting the Powers that would lead us to destruction, and by embodying life-giving alternatives here and now. This is a profound spiritual choice, since it involves shaking off spiritual domination by the Powers.

At this critical moment in earth’s history each of us is called to exercise our human freedom, to choose whether to go along the broad road that leads to destruction or the narrow path that leads to life. As we open ourselves to the Spirit, we create an opening through which change can happen in the world. As we choose, we are part of humanity’s choosing. We are a part of the earth’s passion for life.

This is an excerpt from the Introduction to Shaking the Gates of Hell:  Faith-led Resistance to Corporate Globalization by Sharon Delgado.  Order the book from your local bookstore, directly from Sharon, or from online distributors.

Easter and Guantanamo

Guantanamo action

“Remember those who are in prison as if you are in prison with them.”  Hebrews 13:3

Every Thursday afternoon, for years now, a group of Women in Black and their male allies gather at the freeway overpass in Nevada City.  Women in Black is a “world-wide network of women committed to peace with justice and actively opposed to injustice, war, militarism and other forms of violence.”

Yesterday we joined these friends with our “Torture is a Moral Issue” banner and our signs to “Close Guantanamo.”  This local action was one of many taking place around the country on the National Day of Action to Close Guantanamo and End Indefinite Detention, sponsored by Witness Against Torture  and the National Religious Campaign Against Torture.  This is the third month of a hunger strike among Guantanamo prisoners.  Some are being force-fed.

It’s the season of Easter, but Christ continues to be crucified as our neighbors in Guantanamo (and elsewhere) suffer the cruelty and injustice of indefinite detention.  Some of the men at Guantanamo have been imprisoned for over ten years, without trial.  Some were arrested as children.  Some were subjected to torture.  They have all been separated from their families, ignored by the media, and all but forgotten.  Human rights campaigners and Interfaith groups have persistently tried to publicize their fate and gain justice for all who are imprisoned there.

As we stood there yesterday with our signs, most people driving by gave us a “thumbs up” or flashed a peace sign.  One young man walking by asked me, “What’s this all about?”  I briefly explained about Guantanamo.  His response:  “But this is Nevada City.”  Then he walked away.

Those of us who live freely here in the United States may not realize how connected we are to the prisoners in Guantanamo.  Their pain and their struggles may seem to have nothing to do with us.  But we are connected to them, and to the people killed by U.S. drone strikes and other victims of our country’s foreign policy.  I am a citizen.  I pay taxes.  I vote.  I remain silent or I speak out.  Our government can only take such actions through the active participation or the silent complicity of the people.

“But this is Nevada City.”  Even if we do feel bad about what our country is doing, we may feel that there’s nothing we can do to bring change.  This sense of fatalism is a spiritual sickness and a fruit of the Domination System, which benefits when a majority of people believe “there’s nothing we can do about it anyway.”  My book, Shaking the Gates of Hell, describes this system, it’s outer and well as inner effects, and how to regain hope that can motivate action for change.

Signs of the Reign of Death are all around.  It might be easy to give up and think that nothing I  do can make a difference in the larger patterns of history.  But my faith tells me otherwise, and my faith compels me to act.  Love calls.

It’s not too late to take action on behalf of these men.  To find out more about the hunger strikers or to make a phone call on their behalf, go to Witness Against Torture.

Whatever your faith, believe the unbelievable.  Love conquers hate.  Life conquers death.

Christ is risen.  There is hope.  Even for the people in Guantanamo.

Speaking Peace on Palm/Passion Sunday

This blog post is taken from the speech that Sharon gave at a Tour de Peace event with Cindy Sheehan in Nevada City, California, on Palm/Passion Sunday, March 24, 2013.

Hi friends.  It’s good to be here with all of you.  I’m so glad to be part of a community of people who are passionate about peace.

The first peace group I ever attended was the Nevada County Anti-draft Coalition. Our kids were young teenagers, and the government had just re-instituted draft registration.  It was 1979.  Not long after that, I became involved in the Nuclear Weapons Freeze Campaign.  I was motivated to work for peace out of concern for my children.

I was also motivated by my faith.  The first time I was arrested for peace was over 30 years ago, at the Nevada Test Site, on Good Friday.  We prayed and sang under a rustic cross, then held the barbed wire for each other and stepped through onto the test site.  I felt connected to Jesus, who had engaged in nonviolent direct action against Empire so many years before.

Today is Palm/Passion Sunday, the Sunday before Easter, the first day of Holy Week.  This morning all the children were marching around the church singing “hosannah” and waving palm branches, because that’s what the people of Jerusalem did so long ago when Jesus came into the city riding on a donkey.  Then we went downstairs and played “Pin the Jesus on the Donkey.”

On that first Palm Sunday, the people shouted “Hosannah.”  Many wanted to make Jesus king, like his ancestor David.  They wanted him to defeat the Romans, who were occupying their country, to drive them out and set up their own kingdom through military might.  They gave Jesus a hero’s welcome.  But the story quickly devolves from there.

Jesus stops and looks out over Jerusalem, and he  begins to weep.  He weeps over Jerusalem, saying to the people, “Would that you, even you, had known this day the things that make for peace, but they are hidden from your eyes.”  He warns that they and their children and their children’s children face disaster if they don’t turn around.   Jesus weeps.

I feel like that sometimes.  I look at how the future will be for my grandchildren and for their grandchildren,  and I can see that they’ll face disaster if we don’t turn around as a people.  I weep.

From there Jesus, a faithful Jew, goes to the Temple and engages in nonviolent direct action. He overthrows the tables of the money-changers there. He always challenged unjust laws, but for the ruling authorities, both political and religious, this was the last straw. This symbolic action went to the heart of an economic system that oppressed the people, a system upon which Jewish collaboration with Rome had been built. This infuriated the elite religious leaders who benefited from cooperating with the Roman occupation. Within days Jesus was arrested, tried and convicted of treason, tortured and executed on a cross, the Roman Empire’s preferred method for doing away with subversives and traitors. Just 30 years before the Romans crucified over 2000 people because there had been a revolt in Galilee.

From there Jesus goes to the Temple and engages in nonviolent direct action.  He overthrows the tables of the money-changers there.  He always challenged unjust laws, but this was the last straw.  This symbolic action went to the heart of an economic system that oppressed the people, a system upon which Jewish collaboration with Rome had been built.  This infuriated the elite religious leaders who benefited from cooperating with the Roman occupation.  Within days Jesus was arrested, tried and convicted of treason, tortured and executed on a cross, the Roman Empire’s preferred method for doing away with subversives and traitors.   Just 30 years before the Romans crucified over 2000 people because there had been a revolt in Galilee.

Empire requires the willingness to use massive and overwhelming force.  It was true in the time of the Roman Empire, and it’s true in today’s global Empire.

There’s a new book out called “The Passion of Bradley Manning.”  This book is a comprehensive look at the case of Bradley Manning, who released classified information to get the truth out about the Iraq War.  The book tells about his passion, the sufferings he has endured-solitary confinement and mistreatment.  He’s being charged with aiding the enemy–that’s treason.  The government is making an example of Bradley Manning in order to prevent other soldiers from also becoming whistleblowers.

What does this say about our values as a nation?  What values are we teaching our children?  Our children are being sacrificed on the altars of money and military power.  As a culture, we do not know the things that make for peace.

This is part of the passion of our time.   It’s a time when international law is ignored, kill lists are created, war crimes are covered up, whistleblowers are punished.   It’s a time when drone “pilots” sit at computer terminals and kill people by remote control thousands of miles away, a time when we talk of supporting our troops while so many veterans suffer from PTSD, or are disabled, or homeless, or suicidal. It’s a time when there are seven times as many empty houses, many of them foreclosed, than there are homeless people.  It’s a time when health care, schools, the post office, libraries, and vital services are cut rather than raising the taxes on the 1%.  It’s a time when corporations regulate governments rather than the other way around.

We live at a time of global empire, held together by an interconnected global economy, dominated by huge corporations, supported by an ideology of unrestrained free market capitalism, dependent upon a permanent war economy, and enforced by militarized police forces and home and the most powerful military industrial complex in history.

The world desperately needs people who are passionate and willing to take action for peace.

Cindy Sheehan has gone through her own passion.  She has suffered, of course.  What can be worse than the death of your child?  So many families have lost loved ones in these endless wars, military families here and also families in countries like Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan.  But Cindy also has a passionate commitment to work for peace, so that the insanity and evil that took her child will end.   That’s the point of the Tour de Peace… to revitalize the Peace Movement, so that the death, and destruction, and torture, and endless war, and war on nature will cease.

Since my name went up on the poster saying that I’d be speaking at the Cindy Sheehan event, several people have shared their thoughts with me.  Some people react with passion.  One mother told me, “I can’t go there.  My son is in Afghanistan.  All I can do is visualize him safe until he comes home.  I can’t go any further than that.”

Another mother said to me, “Some people bad-mouth Cindy Sheehan.  But I totally support what she’s doing.  If that was my child who was killed, I’d be doing the same thing.”  Then she said, “I’m Cindy Sheehan.”

I get that.  I care about the children.  I care about the future.  I care about the things that make for peace.  I know you do, too.  Each of us could say “I’m Cindy Sheehan.”  But instead we need to

ask ourselves what we can do, what gifts do we have to bring to this struggle, what are we uniquely able to contribute.  Our challenge is to go deep within ourselves, to find the spiritual resources that will enable us to bring our whole selves to this struggle to help create the “other world” that is possible.  There are many things that we can do:

Support the Tour de Peace through donations and in other ways–Cindy will tell you how.  Support the Peace Center, which does so much in this community.   Support our local Move to Amend Coalition, working with national groups to enact a constitutional amendment to abolish corporate personhood and make it clear that money is not speech.  Check out the Earth Justice Ministries display, buy my book, follow my blog.  Prepare yourself spiritually, mentally, and physically so you’ll be ready when the next right action for you to take comes along–maybe even nonviolent direct action.

Today is Palm/Passion Sunday, but Easter is coming–a celebration of new life, of resurrection.  Take it literally or take it as Archbishop Oscar Romero put it when he called on the soldiers of El Salvador to lay down their arms, just days before he was killed while serving Holy Communion.  He said, “If you kill me, I will rise in the Salvadoran people.”  We don’t need to fear.  We can take strong and passionate action for peace.  We the people will rise.  We are rising.