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21st century revolutions and constitutions

By Grace Lee Boggs
Special to the Michigan Citizen

The ongoing struggle in Egypt between President. Morsi and protesters is about power. But it also challenges us to think about the principles that 21st century revolutions and constitutions need to include.

Fifty years ago when the African nations won their independence, there was little consciousness of the fundamental contradictions inseparable from rapid economic development.

The main goal of the new African rulers, mostly men who had studied in Europe and the U.S., was to emulate the rapid economic development of the global North. The result has been continuing dependence, subordination and disintegration.

Twenty-first century revolutions and constitutions need to include new principles setting forth not only our rights, but our responsibilities to nature and to one another.

Arab Spring leaders could benefit by studying the Principles of Environmental Justice adopted at the First People of Color Environmental Justice Summit in October 1991. It came out of the experiences of people of color whose pain and suffering had made possible rapid economic development and the visionary organizing of Bunyan Bryant. For example, the Preamble:

“We, the people of color, gathered together at this multinational People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit, to begin to build a national and international movement of all peoples of color to fight the destruction and taking of our lands and communities, do hereby re-establish our spiritual interdependence to the sacredness of our Mother Earth; to respect and celebrate each of our cultures, languages and beliefs about the natural world and our roles in healing ourselves; to ensure environmental justice; to promote economic alternatives which would contribute to the development of environmentally safe livelihoods; and to secure our political, economic and cultural liberation that has been denied for over 500 years of colonization and oppression, resulting in the poisoning of our communities and land and the genocide of our peoples, do affirm and adopt these Principles of Environmental Justice: …

“No. 7: Environmental Justice demands the right to participate as equal partners at every level of decision-making, including needs assessment, planning, implementation, enforcement and evaluation. …

“No. 12: Environmental Justice affirms the need for urban and rural ecological policies to clean up and rebuild our cities and rural areas in balance with nature, honoring the cultural integrity of all our communities, and provided fair access for all to the full range of resources. …

“No. 17 Environmental Justice requires that we, as individuals, make personal and consumer choices to consume as little of Mother Earth’s resources and to produce as little waste as possible; and make the conscious decision to challenge and reprioritize our lifestyles to ensure the health of the natural world for present and future generations.”

Contact Grace Lee Boggs at boggscenter@boggscenter.org

 

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