AfD’s Workshops

Another World Is Possible - Another U.S. Is Necessary

AfD Participating in the US Social Forum

June 27 - July 1, 2007 • Atlanta, GA

AfD's Workshops

Thursday - Saturday, June 28 - 30. This is the tentative schedule for the Democracy Track.  The schedule will be posted after June 10 at the US Social Forum under Workshop Sessions.

Our Bodies, Our Water: Our Right to Safe Water and Health

Secret Deal Exposed: Transcontinental Pipelines for Private Bulk Water Sales

Defending Our Water and Protecting Our Food: Bringing Family Farmers and Water Rights Advocates Together

A World of Peace, Without Empires or War, Is Possible!  

Power Shifting: From Corporate Rights to Sovereign Communities

Race, Property, and the Commons

Trading Water, Trading Democracy

Our Bodies, Our Water: Our Right to Safe Water and Health
Proposed by Jeff Conant, Peoples Health Movement and Nancy Price, Alliance for Democracy. Sponsored by the Peoples Health Movement and Alliance for Democracy; Co-sponsored by Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice and listed in the Democracy Track and Water Track.  

Our bodies are intimately linked to the environment through the use of water. For the health of all people and communities, we must have access to safe, sufficient and affordable water for domestic and personal needs. Yet our water is saturated with toxic chemicals and heavy metals that put our health at risk. This workshop will focus on raising awareness about "chemical body burden" and introduce specific strategies for claiming our right to safe water in the face of corporations that profit from polluting our bodies.

Scientific research is expanding in new directions to show that trace amounts of chemicals and heavy metals can cause life-threatening diseases and disrupt our normal cognitive and neurological development from cradle to grave. We will discuss how this "body burden" creates a "precondition" for disease at any time in life, even many years after exposure.
Industry, agriculture, and the military are the worst offenders. They lobby government for lower regulations and exemptions, and vigorously endorse free trade agreements that erode drinking water standards and contaminate ground water.

Panelists will present scientific findings and testimonies about the community health impacts of corporate toxic trespass. U.S. Corporations, given the rights of persons in the 19th century, have no right to harm the bodies of natural persons and We, the People, must assert our fundamental and inalienable right to be free from involuntary invasion of our bodies by corporate and military pollution.
Clear steps for community action will be recommended for claiming our right to safe water and health:

The first is the Precautionary Principle Ordinance adopted in 2003 by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors which states that the City may act with "precaution" to prevent harms to the environment and protect public health even when full scientific evidence about cause and effect is lacking.

The second is the "Chemical Trespass Ordinance" prohibiting chemical bodily trespass within Liberty Township of Pennsylvania and establishing strict liability and burden of proof standards for chemical trespass; and subordinating chemical corporations to the people of Liberty Township.

The panel will be presented as follows:
  • Agrochemical impacts on water in California's Central Valley (Susana de Anda, Community Water Center, Central Valley, CA)
  • Toxic Packaging: Health Risks from Plastic Bottles -- a Precautionary Approach (Tim Montague, Rachel's Environmental and Health Newsletter)
  • Coal-fired Power and Mercury in Our Water (Jeff Conant, Peoples Health Movement)
  • Military Toxics and Groundwater Pollution (TBA)
  • Mike Shade, Center for Health, Environment, and Justice, PVC Campaign
  • Mountain-top Removal and Watershed Destruction (TBA)
  • Taking Back Our Rights to Water and Health (Nancy Price, Alliance for Democracy)

Secret Deal Exposed: Transcontinental Pipelines for Private Bulk Water Sales

Proposed by Nancy Price and Ruth Caplan. Sponsored by AfD and listed in the Democracy Track and Water Track.

This workshop will expose the new, neo-colonial, Super-NAFTA Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America (SPP) signed in Waco, Texas, on March 23, 2005, by President Bush, Mexico's President Fox, and Canada's Prime Minister Martin.  Virtually secret planning meetings have followed, attended by high-ranking government officials and military, corporate business, industry and financial leaders, and members of academia and think-tanks. Now each country has created working groups to accelerate planning and implementation.  

Bush signed the SPP for the U.S. with no Congressional debate or approval. Congress has passed no legislation to authorize the activities or funding of the SPP. Congress has no official involvement in the process and no oversight.

There was no public debate on the two essential and most alarming features of this plan that will have an enormous impact on our society, politics, economy and environment. The first is creation of integrated cross-border regional zones by opening the borders of Canada and the U.S, and the U.S. and Mexico. These regions have benign-sounding names, such as "Atlantica" for northeastern Canada, New England, and northern New York.

The second is building a system of huge transportation super-corridors linking these cross-border regions and running the length and breadth of the U.S. These super-corridors would have six lanes for cars and four for trucks. They would be paralleled by railroad tracks, oil and gas pipelines, water and other utility lines, including broadband cables. Oil, natural gas, AND WATER from resource rich areas like Canada would be extracted from and piped and transported to production, distribution and manufacturing centers.  Just recently, a document was leaked outlining plans for cross-border bulk transportation and selling of fresh water from water rich Canada to water poor areas of the U.S. and Mexico. When water is sold commercially, the rich will consume huge amounts, and the poor will be without.  This is an environmental and social justice issue of the first order.

The national media have virtually ignored this topic. However, Texas citizen groups have mobilized against the Texas Corridor already in the planning stages, that alone would take 584,000 acres of farmland, ranches and homes. In Canada, public forums are being held and communities in the "Atlantica" region mobilized. (Also visit here.)

After viewing the PowerPoint, "NAFTA, SPP, Atlantica, and Super-Corridors" based on the extensive research of Janet Eaton, Sierra Club Canada workshop attendees will discuss how to build awareness of the SPP, mobilize local opposition, and demand that Congress hold oversight hearings to provide full disclosure and informed debate of this scheme that is now on its own "Fast Track."  

Discussion Facilitators: Nancy Price, Alliance for Democracy; Ruth Caplan, Sierra Club. The Alliance for Democracy will invite someone from Texas to participate.

[NOTE: This two-hour workshop is now part of a four-hour workshop with the Alliance for Responsible Trade along with activists from Canada and Mexico.

Defending Our Water and Protecting Our Food: Bringing Family Farmers and Water Rights Advocates Together

Proposed by Jeff Conant, the Peoples Health Movement.  Sponsored by the Alliance for Democracy and the Peoples Health Movement and listed in the Water Track

Food and water go hand in hand as two of the most basic requirements for life. Yet, both our public water systems and our community food security have become subject to serious and growing threats from toxic contamination, corporate control, and lack of community ownership and oversight. This panel, developed in collaboration with a national coalition of water rights advocates, will explore the interactions between food security and water security from several perspectives, and offer models for action to protect these public goods.

A representative from the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy will describe how industrial agriculture threatens our water supplies, and what kinds of policy initiatives can protect us from these threats; the National family Farm Coalition will help us envision a National farm bill that will protect both small family farmers and local water supplies; a representative of the Community Water Center in California's Central Valley will discuss the impacts of dairy farming on a water-poor community and how they have organized to take back their water; and a member of the New Mexico Acequia Association will discuss traditional water rights for irrigation, how the state government is impinging on those rights, and what community activists have done to preserve both their cultural heritage and their food sovereignty.
  • Upstream/Downstream: How big agribusiness wastes water and pollutes the environment (Heather Schoonover, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy)
  • Case study: The Agribusiness threat to community water supplies in California  (Susana de Anda, Community Water Center, Central Valley, CA)
  • Farm security and water security, hand in hand: How a good farm bill can protect our farmers AND our water (National Family Farm Coalition)
  • Preserving Tradition: Protecting Water Rights in Northern New Mexico (Harold Trujillo, New Mexico Acequia Association)
  • Taking action (each speaker focuses on positive steps for action)
  • Question and Answer and audience interventions
A World of Peace, Without Empires or War, Is Possible!
Proposed by Arline and Jim Prigoff, AfD Chapter, Sacramento, CA. Sponsored by AfD and the School of Americas Watch.

A major focus will be on the analysis of major sources of violence in the United States and around the world. The increasing inequality in economic, military and political power and in access to resources by different sectors of national and global populations will be addressed and consequences noted. Human suffering increases, both locally and globally, as compiled in health and mortality statistics caused by degradation of the environment, by conflicts based on racial, ethnic and religious differences, and by abusive exercise of power. Who will provide leadership and organization to produce positive changes?

Those of us who have had the opportunity to work in the field of higher education are encouraged by the sharp perceptions, energy, and clear thinking of many of our students, some of whom are emerging as leaders in grassroots community organizing. We aim to help some young activists to participate in the U.S. Social Forum of 2007 in Atlanta, Georgia, as members of our team.

Those of us who have heard the messages of members of the School of the Americas Watch have come to recognize the extent to which military training can produce deadly skills, destructive both for target populations and for those empowered by their new ability to annihilate others.

Traditions at past gatherings of the World Social Forum have inspired the theme of our proposed session at this U.S. Social Forum. It was a World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, Brazil, which some of us attended, where it was first proclaimed that "another world is possible." As noted in Principle #4 of the World Social Forum's Charter of Principles, "the alternatives proposed at the World Social Forum stand in opposition to a process of globalization commanded by the large multinational corporations and by the governments and international institutions at the service of those corporations' interests, with the complicity of national governments." Those alternatives have been "designed to ensure that human solidarity will prevail as a new stage in world history. This will respect universal human rights and those of men and women of all nations, and will rest on democratic international systems & institutions at the service of social justice, equality and the sovereignty of peoples."

As noted in Principle #10, "The World Social Forum is opposed to all totalitarian and reductionist views of economy, development, and history and to the use of violence as a means of social control by the State. It upholds respect for Human Rights, the practices of real democracy, participatory democracy, peaceful relations, in equality and solidarity, among people, ethnicities, genders and peoples, and condemns all forms of domination and all subjugation of one person by another." This session will focus on methods to prevent war and violence within and between human societies on the planet earth.     

Power Shifting: From Corporate Rights to Sovereign Communities
Proposed by Nancy Price. Sponsored by AfD and listed in the Democracy Track.

Corporate elites are united in creating the first truly global trade empire based on a legal system of supra-national governance and secret courts. Current free trade agreements impact local community sovereignty through the investor-state provisions that are a challenge to constitutional federalism, an assault on democratically passed rules and regulations at all government levels, and the finality of state court judgments.

Communities are bound by free trade agreements already signed. And, there is no certainty that current negotiations and future agreements, including WTO/GATS, will include the reforms required by global civil society for the kind of "People's Trade Agreement" proposed by Bolivia's President Morales, as the recent trade deal brokered by the Democrats and Republicans on Peru and Panama FTAs, in the hope to influence Fast Track renewal.  

Meanwhile, grounded by their beliefs and values, indigenous and place-based communities in Oaxaca and Chiapas are linked with the people of Ecuador, Bolivia, or the Niger Delta in Africa resisting globalization, and with communities in Pennsylvania, or elsewhere in the U.S., that are using ordinances and other tools, to fight back against corporate domination. It is not just a matter of scale -- from the smaller community to the nation state -- but most importantly -- the assertion of people's rights over corporate rights.

This reframing to recognize the legitimacy of diverse communities allows us to discuss free trade as neo-colonialism on a global scale and immigration and outsourcing (jobs and factories) as the disruption of community and displacement of people world-wide in general and, therefore, unsustainable in regard to people and nature.

With a focus on community, we will focus on reframing the discussion toward how to build a movement for a "Peoples Trade Agreement" that respects the rights of communities and nature which is rights-based rather than free vs. fair trade both part of the same regulatory approach.

This proposal is for a 2-hour moderated and open roundtable discussion with audience participants to discuss the concept of community rights-based organizing and of a "people's" or "democratic trade zone" and legal tools, such as "Home Rule"  to create sovereign communities where corporations protected by investor-state provision have no legal standing. Instead, the community would be sovereign and the rights of people and nature would be recognized.  Materials will be provided to explain this right-based approach to shift power from corporate rights to community sovereignty.    

Currently, I have the commitment of Ruth Caplan, Alliance for Democracy, to participate. I am in discussion with others about their participation in this roundtable, but have not secured final commitments.                                     

Race, Property and the Commons
Submitted by Jan Edwards, AfD Chapter, Pt. Arena, CA. Sponsored by POCLAD: Program on Corporations, Law and Democracy; Co-sponsored by AfD and listed in the Democracy Track.

Is a forest Private Property? Or is it a Commons? How about Water? Or the Internet? Can a human person be the private property of another human? It was once so in the US, and is still happening in places around the globe. Women and children are especially vulnerable and poverty is a major factor. Today, a small minority of humans claim rights to most of the planet's wealth. Things that were once clearly commons or shared things are fast being turned into property and privatized. Who decides what is private property and what is not? The answer to this question holds the key to saving life as we know it: our planet's ecology, our human culture, and the hope of true social justice and democracy.

We propose a four hour workshop on the connected issues of Race, Property, and the Commons. We envision a lively, participatory conversation with on-your-feet activities, deep inquiry into root causes, with plenty of time to explore strategy. Using music, art and a variety of presentation styles, we will design a workshop that is interesting and accessible to all levels without any dilution of serious content.

As activists, we can benefit by spending some time looking at the systemic root problems to help us devise genuine lasting solutions for all the issues we are passionate about. We plan this as a big picture workshop where we can question the deepest assumptions of law and culture and illuminate how all our issues are interconnected.

Karen Coulter of the Program on Corporations, Law and Democracy, Matt Nelson of the Freedom Now! Coalition and the Milwaukee Police Accountability Coalition, and Jan Edwards of The Alliance for Democracy, approach the issues from complimentary perspectives. Karen will examine the history of property and commons law and how the continuing enclosure of the commons by corporate and other private entities has threatened human and other species on the planet. Matt will discuss the ways that race and class have been used to create today's property rule. He will explore the 14th amendment and ask the question "How can you have an anti-racist law operating in a racist society?" Jan plans to use interactive tools and games to explore the interconnectedness of the commons both natural and cultural, and helps us think through the difficult concepts of private property and commons. All three will connect the issues to show ways to: protect the commons using legal rights, stop nature and culture from being turned into property, and pass this common wealth down undiminished to the next generations of all the creatures of the planet. They will also discuss how the commons concepts can be used to promote social justice and equality.

Singer/songwriter David Rovics has agreed to open the workshop with his song "The Commons." We are still open to including a Native American presenter, if the right person becomes available.

View some of the materials for the Tapestry of the Commons here where, in the Readings section, Karen Coulter's "Rule of Property" article is available.

Trading Water, Trading Democracy  
Proposed by Nancy Price and Ruth Caplan. Sponsored by AfD and listed in the Democracy Track and the Water Track

Corporate globalization threatens our right to clean, affordable water right here in the U.S. and around the world.  With global warming threatening water supplies in parts of the U.S., the threat of corporate control of our water resources looms even larger. To protect the human right to water, it is essential that water services be kept in public hands and water resources not be controlled by corporations that will price water at whatever the market will bear.   

This panel will expose how policies of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank and the international trade agreements work together to promote the interests of corporations over people and their communities and promote privatization of water services and resources that impact the poor and underserved globally as well as in the U.S.

Privatization is not the only issue we wish participants to take away. We will also expose and emphasize in this panel how democratic water governance is at risk under these neo-liberal financial and market-driven trade policies. One of the biggest challenges the U.S. movement for "fair" trade faces is to shift the discussion from economics and trade to governance and democracy.

For example, the workshop will describe how NAFTA allows corporations to sue states directly in secret trade tribunals over regulations that threaten their profits. Also, the workshop will look at how, under the WTO's General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), local water services can be opened up to privatization by overriding any vote of the local community and how local control of water resources is threatened by specific provisions. And, finally, how corporate commercial bulk water sales are covered and protected under GATT and NAFTA, so that our governments and elected representatives may not be able to prevent local water resources from being exported to other countries. This will be an increasing threat as countries compete to protect their citizens from the consequences of global warming.

Each panelist will also offer a course of action, including mobilizing against the global financial institutions, fast track (Trade Promotion Authority), and creating local autonomy from trade agreements. Participants will be engaged in discussion of how to implement these actions in their communities or with their organizations.  Handouts and discussion will be in English.

  • Closing Down the World Bank, Sameer Dossani (50 Years is Enough),
  • Trading Away our Water, Ruth Caplan (Alliance for Democracy)
  • Slowing Down "Fast Track" (Trade Promotion Authority), David Edeli (Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch)
  • Democratic Trade Zones: Local autonomy from trade agreements, Nancy Price (Alliance for Democracy)