"The right of citizens of the United States to use and enjoy air, water, wildlife, and other renewable resources determined by the Congress to be common property shall not be impaired, nor shall such use impair their availability for the use of future generations."
The State legislature is gutting environmental laws in a misguided effort to produce jobs and balance budgets.
The movement argues that environmental laws are unfairly protecting natural resources. Once a fringe group, these folks and their corporate sponsors are now one of the new darlings of the political right. They seek to remove any environmental law or regulation that protects and preserves our natural resources.
In this rush to balance budgets and rebuild a struggling economy, we are throwing out the baby with the bathwater. The short-term solution stockholders and corporations favor presents an even greater and long-term problem for us all.
Indeed, past environmental laws have had ambiguous constitutional authority; they were more common sense or common law. Some argue they are all reactionary, albeit necessary for the common good. At present these laws are being rewritten. Rewritten not by the people or for the people: however, by corporations and either knowingly or unknowingly supported by misguided (and possibly good intentioned) legislators. In light of the obvious partisan politics that rules the day, what's needed is Constitutional balance, not more reactionary debate.
Currently, common property, which by its nature cannot be owned by an individual is left without environmental protection. Yet, preservation of this common property, such as air and water, are essential to all other rights. The protection of property also broadens the concept of "takings," the term used in the private property debate. Common sense tells us that if common property exists and is being undermined, it needs protection, just as private property has.
The taking of common property through abuse of private property use should be as illegal as the converse. Therefore we propose a Constitutional remedy that can provide these dual protections.
In revisiting the Constitution, we found no protection for common property. But we did find a clause that which, when married with new language, will provide such protection. The basis, we think, is in the Preamble.
The Preamble states that these constitutional rights belong not just to us alive today but also to those of the future: "We the People of the United States . . . secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity." (Emphasis added.)
This Posterity clause clearly states that our descendants are guaranteed these "Blessings of Liberty." And we must infer that while we may use them today, we have no right to expend or damage them so that they are unavailable for the future. Rights were legally guaranteed for future generations. This was not a typographical error, nor was it superfluous filler. We intend to enliven this clause in our effort to assure the needed protections.
Thus, as we seek common property protections, we do so not just for today, as a momentary reaction to those in power, but to become constitutionally obligated to be caretakers for generations to come.
This different vision will enable us to see the consequences of our actions differently. By protecting rights for ourselves and for posterity, we provide for the baby while changing the bath water.
Iroquois Chief Oren Lyons, in an interview with Bill Moyers, said that Benjamin Franklin turned to the Iroquois among others in trying to shape a better form of government. Apparently, he listened and included elements of Iroquois governance, including the concept of posterity.
Franklin's posterity, found in the Preamble, was the Iroquois concept of providing for the 7th generation. Chief Lyons said that as the Iroquois leaders contemplate policy they must always factor in how today's decision will affect the 7th generation into the future.
By simply attempting reform with what is available today, we remain in a stagnated "jobs vs. environment" polarization. In these complex times we must be more creative, proactive, and indeed accommodate all of our interests and rights, especially for those yet to come.
To that end we, the 7th Generation Committee, have developed draft language that we think overcomes this dilemma. We call it the 7th Generation Amendment to the US Constitution. It was initially called the Common Property Amendment.
If we adults refuse to look out for the future, our children will do the same and in seven generations there shall be no future to look towards. Every action has a definite and distinct reaction. While sparse environmental policies and gung ho mining tactics have had fiscal benefits in the short term, the depleted resources and harmful toxins will remain to haunt future generations.
If we rob from the future generations to balance our budgets; we are ostensibly denying our posterity the opportunity to enjoy the blessings of Liberty.
And we must always remember, water is always more precious than gold.
7th Generation Amendment
"The right of citizens of the United States to use and enjoy air, water, wildlife, and other renewable resources determined by the Congress to be common property shall not be impaired, nor shall such use impair their availability for the use of future generations".