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Network forms to support rights of nature

The Virginia Community Rights Network (VACRN) has been launched to support local efforts to recognize and legally secure the rights of nature and communities to a healthy environment through self-government at the city, county, and state level.

It will challenge the injustice of illegitimate corporate rights that impede local and direct democracy, through educational training, workshops, campaign strategy development, and public outreach.

The network has been initiated by residents who worked to protect Buckingham County from a proposed large-scale fracked gas compressor station for the now-defeated Atlantic Coast Pipeline. VACRN continues previous organizing in areas such as Buckingham, Nelson, Augusta, Charlottesville, Richmond, Campbell County, and the Town of Halifax, which passed a Community Bill of Rights in 2008 to protect against chemical and radioactive trespass.

“A system of community-based solutions that challenges a structure designed to exploit us is what’s needed here,” Heidi Berthoud of the VACRN said. “This is about our families’ and the planet’s physical life and death. We are fully committed to this struggle against corporations who ignore the inherent rights of nature, which, when recognized and upheld, protect us all.”

“Here’s a group of people devoted to putting the interests of people and ecosystems above the interests of privately owned and profit-driven corporate property. Establishment of the VACRN is a significant step in building the nation-wide movement of grassroots-based and community-supported institutionalized opposition to the existing hegemony of profit over people,” Ben Price, national organizing director for the community environmental legal defense fund said. “We look forward to expanding our work with them.”

Virginia residents and officials interested in working for systemic change and replacing Dillon’s Rule are encouraged to connect with the VACRN at vacommunityrights.org.