To the Editor,
A year ago, I was a NH parent worried about how to address our statewide problem with PFCs—persistent synthetic chemicals that don’t leave the environment or our bodies and that are especially consequential for those in utero, like the child I am carrying.
A year ago, I would have lauded Governor Sununu for signing into law a pathway for lowering PFC standards to reduce NH water contamination. But I’ve evolved from concerned parent to community rights activist. Today I see the law as a potentially dangerous lateral move toward complacency.
Before I continue, the mothers of Testing for Pease and Greenland SafeWater Action — and NH Representative and now NH Congressional candidate Mindi Messmer — deserve copious praise for making NH’s PFC issue so public and officially recognized. My criticism is not for these tireless advocates, but for our institutionalized minds.
We’re conditioned to celebrate lowered levels of toxic chemicals even when we know that no amount is good for us. To be fair, I’ve heard NHDES scientists genuinely concerned about PFCs state the impracticality of setting a zero standard because of the ubiquitous nature of PFCs. I respectfully can’t accept this.
The CDC just reported that NH has the nation’s highest rate of pediatric cancer. Our children are being poisoned and dying. We must go beyond standards and reductions to elevate people’s and ecosystems’ rights by wholly preventing future contamination by disallowing it.
Problematically, NH and its permitting agencies abide by a regulatory system standardizing “safe” chemical levels, thereby legalizing the claimed “right” of corporations to harm us, favoring corporate profit and toxic consumer choice over health of people and planet.
I believe we rely on this system because we’re not awoken with outrage that we have such little democratic pathway to directly protect ourselves in a state functioning under Dillon’s Rule, meaning that NH is the parent and its municipalities are the children who must obey even if the parent allows harm to come to them.
Enter community rights, a people’s movement of rights-based ordinances. RBOs are local laws NH residents adopt to protect themselves and their ecosystems from corporate harm while not limiting already protected state and federal rights of individuals. Since 2006, RBOs have been adopted in NH towns by individual residents collectively exercising their right to vote yes or no in a town vote on the RBO.
Residents adopting and enforcing RBOs reference a number of NH Bill of Rights Articles, namely Article 1 — all government of right originates from the people, is founded in their consent, and instituted for the general good; and Article 10 — people have the right and duty to reform governments when those governments manifestly endanger public liberty.
This year, a people’s movement of supporters brought forth the NH Community Rights Amendment to recognize and secure the right of NH residents to adopt RBOs, so long as they always expand, not limit, established rights of NH residents. As a constitutional amendment, it needs 2/3 the NH people’s vote, but we can’t cast this vote unless our legislators allow us to by giving the amendment at least 3/5 support in both House and Senate. This year it earned 1/3 House support and will be back. You can learn more from the NH Community Rights Network, a statewide, grassroots non-profit that informs citizens and legislators about their inalienable right to local self-government.
In the meantime, NH towns continue adopting and organizing RBOs, including my town where I co-founded Alliance for Newmarket Citizen & Ecosystem Rights. We’re so new we’ve yet to make a website or Facebook page, but we invite you to these upcoming public events.
Monday July 30, from 7 to 9 p.m., ANCER will host an all-ages fundraiser at Newmarket’s Stone Church, with a brief informational presentation between two sets by local blue-grass duo Green Heron. $5 suggested door donation.
Friday, Aug. 17 from 6 to 9 p.m. and Saturday, Aug. 18 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., ANCER will host Daniel Pennock Democracy School at The Loft in the Newmarket Mills. Given by the nonprofit, public interest Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, Democracy School explores how corporations have hijacked democracy and how NH residents can push back against legalized unsustainable activities that violate the rights of residents, our communities, and nature. Registration is due Aug. 10 on a sliding scale: $30-$50 (scholarships available). Please email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.