March 27 - To the Editor,With alarming frequency, daily new stories chronicle the perilous state of our environment. Climate change brings increasing temperatures and more erratic weather that is associated with floods, droughts, and wildfires. According to NOAA, climate-related disasters cost 138 lives and over $40 billion in damage in 2016 alone. Last year, drought conditions led more than 150 New Hampshire community water systems to impose restrictions, especially in the heavily populated southern third of the state. Toxins in our air, water, and soil threaten biodiversity and compromise our health. On the Seacoast, a pediatric cancer cluster has raised concerns about possible water, air, or other environmental links to childhood illnesses, and the discovery of PFOA and other chemicals in community water supplies has triggered an ongoing investigation by the Department of Environmental Services. Together, climate change and pollution add mightily to the ongoing demands that development places on nature and our increasingly scarce, hence ever-more-valuable, resources.
Environmental threats compromise the rights of nature, the scenic beauty of our communities, and our health. The environmental crisis we face has coincided with a crisis of democracy. Corporate profit-seeking too often trumps the interests and even the democratic will of citizens in their own municipalities. Powerful corporations and their lobbyists exert disproportionate influence over state and federal law-making, and since the 2010 Citizens United ruling, the role of big money in politics has only increased. The current framework allows corporations to pollute the environment and pursue energy projects, resource extraction, or water privatization without duly accounting for the local priorities of those most affected by such ventures.
Citizens of the state have a right to protect their health and well-being. They have a responsibility to be good stewards of the environment and to defend the rights of nature. And they can best do this in the context of their own communities, where threats to human rights and the rights of nature have the most visibility, immediacy, and the power to generate strong resistance. Citizens in Alexandria, Barnstead, Barrington, Nottingham, Plymouth and elsewhere have coalesced around locally-enacted Rights-based Ordinances that endeavor to restore the democratic rights of residents and protect the rights of nature at the local level. The New Hampshire Community Rights Network (NHCRN) supports these efforts and has worked to return power to people and their municipal governments. Interested citizens can obtain more information about the work of the NHCRN by visiting www.nhcommunityrights.org or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
New Hampshire Community Rights Network Board of Directors, Portsmouth