Our Living World Constitution:
Charter for Economic Rights—Articles 1-5

Posted on 01 May 2019

Our Common Wealth

Article 1.

Earth is a precious and finite resource that belongs to all who have ever or will ever live upon it. As such we must share what we have been provided.

Article 2.

To curb the excesses of business, ensure lawmaking is consistent with environmental goals, and protect our collective future we will establish Rights of Nature Tribunals at state and federal levels, granting them formal judicial powers.

Article 3.

Land use is of great consequence to the well-being of our planet. We will reserve spaces for natural processes, in order to secure the health of our shared biosphere and to respect the homes of non-human living beings. We will also ensure all Australian citizens and residents have access to secure habitation.

1) All land will be under the caretaking of publicly elected bodies and no longer privately owned.

2) Lands designated for human use will be done so under lease and will require regular payment to the government in the form of a land tax.

3) Everyone subsequent to their majority will have available to them free public housing, which is more than adequate to human habitation.

Article 4.

Any cash, assets, or property must at its core have some form of real and accountable human beings associated with them. Any cash, assets, or property of any kind not claimed by a living person, government or accountable foundation is abandoned property and its ownership will be handed over to the state.

Article 5.

We can no longer ration goods by price point: whereby only those with sufficient money can afford diminishing goods. In times of great trial we have rationed our resources among the entire populace. In this way we safeguarded our collective good.

1) As the Earth is straining under our use, we will return to communal rationing in order to preserve our living world.

2) In our modern world we no longer need the intermediary of money to distribute goods and services. Therefore the government will provide and administer infrastructure whereby goods and services can be directly requested and delivered fairly as available.


Explication

Article 1.

This article sets the premises upon which all other articles are based: sharing and preservation of this Earth for our collective well-being.

Article 2.

The Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature has set up an International Rights of Nature Tribunal in partnership with a number of concerned groups.

The tribunal was created as “a system of jurisprudence that sees and treats nature as a fundamental, rights bearing entity and not as mere property to be exploited at will.” (GARN: About us)

According to the Earth Law Center, one of the founders of this tribunal, “People’s Tribunals have a long tradition of addressing fundamental issues of justice beyond the reach of traditional courts, including military interventions and human rights abuses. They can and have evolved into formal, legal Tribunals…” (Earth Law Center: Rights of Nature Tribunals)

In Australia 2016 the Australian Earth Laws Alliance assisted in the formation of a permanent Rights of Nature Tribunal for our country. This Tribunal is a Regional Chapter of the International Rights of Nature Tribunal. The Australian Peoples’ Tribunal (APT) for Community and Nature’s Rights has a panel which is made up of First Nations Peoples, lawyers, community representatives and eminent scientists.

Its work needs to be expanded so that everyone can feel its influence and share in improving the well-being of our planet and our people.

Article 3.

Recently Prosper Australia released a report that found a total of more than 60,000 homes in Melbourne were vacant in 2017. Karl Fitzgerald, the author of this report, suggests that properties are being held vacant in order for their value to go up before opening them for sale or rent.

According the the Australian Bureau of Statistics Census of Housing and Population 2016, more than 20,000 people were suffering from homelessness in Victoria.

We have more than enough housing available for our poorest citizens. What we need is the political will to ensure they have some place to live. According to Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

(1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.

Land and housing speculation are seen as the most secure areas of investment, because in order to survive people must have some place to live. For thousands of years certain people have used land ownership as a means to hold people hostage and demand their labour.

Traditional forms of land ownership are inimical to modern democracy.

Worse, holding land for the purposes of emptying it of its natural resources solely for personal enrichment is destroying our living world and making our planet a lifeless waste.

People need security. Within certain limits we all need things we call our own. We also need a healthy thriving world, which is only possible when sufficient land is set aside to allow natural processes to keep our biosphere properly functioning.

Land must be made a common resource under the protection of our duly elected government.

The government could still arrange lifetime leases for residential properties, which must be renewed whenever a new person takes over ownership of the house. However, any use of the land would accrue a tax because any benefit someone derives from it belongs to all of us.

When a mining company strips land of its mineral wealth for sale, that wealth cannot come for free. The company must pay for removing our collective resources and the damage it does to our natural world. Currently, the public is not receiving adequate remuneration for mining operations. Nor are these companies taking appropriate and direct responsibility for the damage they do. The same can be said for other uses of our land. As such a few people become immensely wealthy, but the public is not receiving sufficient to fund public services. This is a form of theft.

Certain states of Australia have instituted land taxes, in particular inspired by Henry George and the Georgists. Providing free housing for all without means testing was trialled in the US under President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal and the Housing Division within the Public Works Administration. Currently the People’s Policy Project is working to bring back free public housing in that country. Urban-policy scholar Peter Dreier has written, “Americans are used to national parks, state parks, fire departments, police departments, public schools, public-utility companies, water utilities—they are used to public ownership of essential services, but somehow they don’t think of housing in the same way.” Efforts are being made to change people’s minds.

Article 4.

No one document can close all legal loopholes that bad actors will use to abuse our country’s public systems. However, we do need to set a standard of responsibility. Tax avoidance is a crime because it is theft from the public coffer and thereby the well-being of our nation’s people. We have a duty to be gentle with those of small means and expect greater responsibility from those with greater resources. The wealthy should be deprived of methods by which to hide their riches. As all citizens they are required to participate in the public welfare of their nation by contributing. If any asset lacks clear ownership by individuals, especially in order to avoid legal responsibilities such as taxation, it is forfeit.

Article 5.

According to the Food Security Information Network’s 2018 Global Report on Food Crises an estimated 124 million people in 51 countries are currently facing Crisis food insecurity or worse. That is an 11 million increase since their 2016 report.

Sara Menker, founder and chief executive of Gro Intelligence, an agricultural data technology company, says we won’t have enough food to feed the planet by 2027.

The UN reports in 2018 that over 2 billion people lived in countries experiencing high water stress. With the existing climate change scenario, by 2030, water scarcity in some arid and semi-arid places will displace between 24 million and 700 million people

We are also using up the planet’s resources. MIT reports that “Earth’s phosphorus is being depleted at an alarming rate. At current consumption levels, we will run out of known phosphorus reserves in around 80 years.” Phosphorous is used for fertilisers. Currently, it is used once on fields then washed out to sea while damaging our water ways.

We may have reached peak copper. Most copper ore that is mined only contains about 1% of the metal. More than 97% of all copper ever mined and smelted has been extracted since 1900. More than 50% of all copper ever mined and smelted was extracted in the last 25 years. Copper can be recycled. However, its depletion currently makes it a valuable resource for creating wealth. Therefore mining is likely to continue. University of Virginia warns, “The environmental consequences of the mining process are substantial and have both acute and chronic effects on the geography, water, vegetation and biological life in the surrounding areas.”

Forests, fish, coal, oil, natural gas: many resources we are using up at high speed and once they are gone, they are not coming back. Meanwhile we have people preying on one another using scarcity as a means to extract wealth and dominate political policy. China may have already used its dominant holdings of rare Earth metals to affect Japanese policy. By reducing its export of these metals in 2010 to Japan it is speculated that it forced the country to return Chinese prisoner Zhan Qixiong, whose fishing trawler collided with two Japanese Coast Guard patrol boats.

Scarcity of necessary resources creates tensions between nations and can result in war. Scarcity of resources within a nation, especially when the wealthy have primary access to them, can result in civil war. Wars obliterate precious lives and create refugees. Wars are also tremendously damaging of our fragile ecosystem.

Australia has many natural resources, but we are squandering them. We are contributing to the causes of Global Warming and bringing about greater desertification of our own lands while increasing the chance of wildfires.

We can’t recycle our way out of this. We have to live more moderate lifestyles. We have to share what we have with one another more. We must fairly ration goods and services. As Greta Thunberg has said, “We cannot solve a crisis without treating it as a crisis. We need to keep the fossil fuels in the ground, and we need to focus on equity. And if solutions within the system are so impossible to find, then maybe we should change the system itself.”

During World War 2 and afterward people were willing to ration in many nations including the UK, Canada, the US, and Australia. They did this not only to support troops, but when the war concluded to share essentials with the people of Europe who now needed help to rebuild. The challenge we face right now may seem somewhat less visible than an army, but its effects are more far reaching and dangerous. Using modern technology to move goods and services around with community input, rather than relying upon cash, is a fast and effective way to reach our goals.

Other articles in this series:


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Charter for Economic Rights—Articles 1-5

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