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Community Conversations with the
Ohio Community Rights Network

4th Wednesdays of the month, 6:00 pm
Live and on Zoom

Our 5th Conversation
"Rights of Nature vs. Water as a Commodity"

Dear Ohio Friends and Neighbors,
 

We, the Ohio Community Rights Network, are inviting you to join us for, Water as a Commodity, on Wednesday, June 26, at 6:00 pm, for a conversation with Sherry Fleming. Sherry is a member of the OHCRN’s board and a founding member of their local citizen group, the Williams County Alliance. Williams County is located in the far northwest corner of Ohio and is totally dependent upon the Michindoh aquifer for water.

 

In July 2021, AquaBounty, a land-based aquaculture corporation, announced plans to build an 11-acre indoor facility in Williams County that would be one of the largest in the world, where it would hatch, raise, process, and sell genetically engineered salmon. This facility would withdraw over 5 million gallons of water every day and dump almost the same amount every day into the St. Joseph River – a river which lies in the watershed of the western basin of Lake Erie.

Water is life, yet lakes and streams are polluted and aquifers are being depleted and contaminated.  What does that say about how we as a culture value water? How often do we think about or even know where the water we use comes from, let alone understand how water is treated under existing law. If existing law is failing to protect the water, can we learn from cultures that have a different relationship with water?

A resident from a rural county in northwest Ohio will share their community’s story of facing the commodification of the Michindoh aquifer, their only source of water, and how that might impact the Great Lakes ecosystem.

Join this community conversation to explore our relationship to water.
 

REGISTER using the link below. You will receive a confirmation email with the Zoom link.
https://us06web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZIudOyrpj4tG93Z3ahKlJYGxwwMrSoqxo1e

In order to prepare for a rich discussion, we are asking you to:

 

View this short video ahead of time:
Why lakes and rivers should have the same rights as humans | Kelsey Leonard,

Read the article Nature Needs a New Pronoun: To Stop the Age of Extinction, Let’s Start by Ditching “It”, and

 

Consider the following questions beforehand:

1.       In 2019, Ohio implemented legislation which gave the Ohio Department of Natural Resources sole authority over groundwater, basically equating groundwater with other natural and mineral resources in the state. 

Should water be designated as a resource under law? Why or why not?

 

2.       The regulatory system does NOT recognize the impact upon non-human entities in the ecosystem when issuing a permit to withdraw groundwater. How do you think that affects our relationship with water and other non-human entities? 

 

3.       How we relate to nature plays a role in how we treat water. In western culture, what is our relationship to the non-human world, such as water.  Is water alive? Are we part of nature or separate from nature?

 

4.       How might recognizing an ecosystem’s right to exist, flourish and evolve, give the water more protection than existing law?

 

5.       In the article by Robin Wall Kimmerer, she shares that in Indigenous culture, non-human beings are referred to in the same manner as family. Western culture objectifies non-human things as “it”.  Do you think language could help shift perspectives about nature? If so, how might that shift in the use of language to refer to the natural world happen?

Our 4th Conversation

On Wednesday, May 22, we hosted our 4th conversation entitled, "A Truth and Reckoning with Nature: Isn't it time Ohio?", with Tish O’Dell, OHCRN board member and Consulting Director for CELDF to imagine what being in right relationship with nature and each other might look like and how can we get there.

 

Click  HERE  or on the image to view  the Zoom recording of the Conversation.

Points to Ponder:
When an industry announces plans to come into a community, residents may discover that there is more to the story than the “more jobs and money” mantra. Instead, what they learn often raises concerns and many times actual fear and panic. Elected officials will attempt to quiet the alarm by stating that we have “strict regulations” to protect the community and nature. But is that really the case? Does the existing system of law recognize the important relationship between healthy ecosystems and healthy communities or does it place more importance upon the needs of an industry to profit from exploiting nature and the community and future generations.

Is it time to consider whether we continue to participate in a rigged system which too often places communities and nature in an abusive relationship with industry – or do we begin to be honest with ourselves - and with each other - and admit this is bullshit.

It is a tough pill to swallow, but if we are going to change the system and attempt to create something new, we have to free ourselves to think creatively and imagine a healthy, just and sustainable community as the first steps to making them real.

In order to prepare for a rich discussion, we shared the following:
 

Viewed this video:  Reckoning with the Truth to Get in Right Relationship with the Great Lakes https://youtu.be/x0CO-05VvxY?si=r9D1TuY7LPANDi4s,

 

Read this article ‘Truth, Reckoning and Right Relationship’: A Rights of Nature Epiphany,

And considered the following questions.
 

1.     What is your relationship with a body of water in your community/ecosystem? Would you say you are in a right relationship? 

maumee bay _ toledo blade.png

2.     Our current cultural and societal norms, which are reflected in both our laws and policies, separate humans from the natural world (nature). Can you think of examples of this? 
 

3.     What changes would need to happen (culturally, legally, and economically) to meaningfully protect the ecosystem your community is part of and to allow them to flourish and thrive?   What impact do you think that would have on the residents of the community now and in the future?
 

4.     Our current environmental laws and policies regulate instead of prohibit harms to nature. This regulatory model permits and legalizes “regulated amounts” of toxins, poisons and destruction of nature, while causing us to believe that we are somehow being protected from harm because of these laws and policies. We seem to notice or pay attention when a spill or explosion or other disaster happens. We seem to have a reactionary approach to protecting nature instead of a precautionary one. Can you give examples of this in other areas of our society besides the environment?
 

5.   Are we nature?

Our THIRD Community Conversation on Industrial Excess Landfill (IEL) - Ohio’s Regulatory Train Wreck was on Wednesday, APRIL 24, with participants from around the state (on Zoom) and featuring activists who have worked for over 40 years to get the Industrial Excess Landfill cleaned up.  The discussion was heartbreaking and inspiring as we heard from activists who will not be silenced!

Click  HERE  or on the image to view video of the Conversation.

 

In order to prepare for a rich discussion, we watched this short 6-minute video Uniontown, Ohio Landfill News Clip #24 and consider the following questions.

1.     Is a former 30 acre sand and gravel pit, unlined, on a hill, near the center of town, with 3000 residents living within a 1 mile radius (mostly dependent upon well water) a proper location for an industrial landfill? Where is a good location for an industrial landfill?
 

2.     How long do you let residents ingest contaminated groundwater before testing, then inform them that they MUST abandon their private wells (under the threat of civil penalties and fines) to hook up to a provided public water supply?
 

3.     The remedy provided by the combined professional expertise and resources of the USEPA, Ohio EPA, Ohio Department of Health, Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), multinational Potentially Responsible Parties, US Army, National Analytical Radiation Environmental Laboratory (NAREL) and others was to simply cover the IEL site with a 4” thick semi-permeable cap and surround it by a chain-link fence. How protected would you feel living next to that?
 

4.     Do court settlements with imposed gag-orders supersede the public’s right to know when life, health, safety and welfare are at stake? Worded differently, does money supersede humanity?

2024 Mar_27_OHCRN2nd Community Conversation.jpg

Our SECOND Community Conversation on The Regulatory Fallacy was Wednesday, March 27, with participants from around the state (on Zoom) and featuring the Youngstown community. It was a lively discussion! Click  HERE  or on the image to view video of the Conversation.

For this discussion, we viewed this short 4-minute video on the Regulatory Fallacy and discussed the following questions (shared beforehand).

 

1. Have you or your community had any experience with a regulatory agency (Not limited to environmental agencies)? What was the process and the result?

2. What do permits actually do?
3. What are some problems with regulations and regulatory agencies? Are regulatory agencies really designed to protect us?

4. What are some reasons that make it difficult/impossible for people to create the sustainable communities they envision?

A few pertinent links from the conversation.
    Our Book: "Death by Democracy"   https://www.ohiocrn.org/community-stories    
    SOBE Concerned Citizens of Youngstown.  https://www.stop-sobe.com/
     The Box of Allowable activism
https://celdf.org/2015/08/is-it-really-illegal-to-think-outside-the-box/
     Explore EPA's environmental justice screening and mapping tool
https://www.epa.gov/ejscreen

2024_Feb_29_OHCRN_Community Conversation

Our FIRST Community Conversation on State Preemption was Wednesday, February 28, with participants from around the state (on Zoom) and an in-person panel and participants from the Athens community. It was an informative and empowering discussion!

Click 
HERE  or on the image to view video of the Conversation.

 

We viewed this short (less than 5 minute) video on Preemption and discussed the following questions.

 

1. What are the two main types of preemption and what is the difference? 
 

2. What are some of the most recent examples of state preemption in Ohio?

3. Which type of preemption is mostly being used by state legislatures these days and what are the arguments used to justify them? Whose interests are being served by enacting them?
 

4. Have you had direct experience with a state or federal preemption law in your community? Does the principle of democracy conflict with state preemption?

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