The Santa Monica City Council unanimously supported a resolution last night affirming individual environmental rights to clean air, water and soil, sustainable water and food supplies, and a climate unaltered by anthropogenic impacts. Nearly 40 speakers ranging from high school and college students to environmental activists from Northern California spoke in support of the sustainability bill of rights.
The resolution, crafted by Santa Monica city staff in response to a draft ordinance recommended by the city's Task Force on the Environment, commits the city to come back this summer with recommended legal changes to allow individuals to protect those rights. Although the council vote only approved a resolution instead of a legally enforceable ordinance, the action puts the city on track to a process that provides individuals defensible environmental rights and extends protective rights to local natural resources.
Last night was a first step towards changing the dialogue on environmental protection in Santa Monica, and hopefully that shift in dialogue will move far beyond the city’s borders. The recommended legal changes to Santa Monica law will come to the city council at the same time as the third iteration (and third decade) of goals and metrics under Santa Monica’s Sustainable City Plan. We could see a draft as early as mid-summer.
We all have the right to clean air, water and soil, and corporate rights should never supersede these rights. The time is now to move from just voluntary intentions to making these sustainability goals legal, enforceable obligations.