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Thomas Linzey


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Thomas Linzey is an attorney and the Executive Director of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) – a nonprofit law firm that has provided free legal services to over five hundred local governments and nonprofit organizations since 1995. He is a cum laude graduate of Widener Law School and a three-time recipient of the law school’s public interest law award. He has been a finalist for the Ford Foundation’s Leadership for a Changing World Award, and is a recipient of the Pennsylvania Farmers Union’s Golden Triangle Legislative Award. He is admitted to practice in the United States Supreme Court, the Third, Fourth, Eighth, and Tenth Circuit Courts of Appeals, the U.S. District Court for the Western and Middle Districts of Pennsylvania, and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. He is a co-founder of the Daniel Pennock Democracy School – now taught in twenty-four states across the country which has graduated over 5,000 lawyers, activists, and municipal officials – which assists groups to create new community campaigns which elevate the rights of those communities over rights claimed by corporations. Linzey is the author of Be The Change: How to Get What You Want in Your Community (Gibbs-Smith 2009), has served as a co-host of Democracy Matters, a public affairs radio show broadcast from KYRS in Spokane, Washington and syndicated on ten other stations, was featured in Leonardo DiCaprio and Tree Media’s film 11th Hour, assisted the Ecuadorian constitutional assembly in 2008 to adopt the world’s first constitution recognizing the independently enforceable rights of ecosystems, and is a frequent lecturer at conferences across the country. His work has been featured in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Mother Jones, the Nation magazine, and he was named, in 2007, as one of Forbes’ magazines’ “Top Ten Revolutionaries.” Linzey currently resides in Gloucester, Massachusetts.

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Pulitzer Prize winning author Chris Hedges interviews CELDF’s Thomas Linzey and activist Mark Clatterbuck of Lancaster, PA, on growing local resistance and organizing against the fracking industry on Days of Revolt.

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We the People: Stories from the Community Rights Movement in the United States
Authors: Thomas Linzey and Anneke Campbell
Publisher: PM Press
ISBN: 978-1-62963-229-2
Published: 11/01/2016
Format: Paperback
Size: 8.5x5.5
Page count: 192
Subjects: Political Activism/Law

We the People offers powerful portraits of communities across the United States that have faced threats from environmentally destructive corporate projects and responded by successfully banning those projects at a local level. We hear the inspiring voices of ordinary citizens and activists practicing a cutting-edge form of organizing developed by the nonprofit law firm, the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF). Their methodology is an answer for the frustrations of untold numbers of activists who have been defeated time and again by corporate political power and legal entitlement.

Instead of fighting against what we don’t want, this book can teach us to create from the ground up what we do want, basing our vision in local control and law. By refusing to cooperate with the unjust laws that favor corporate profit over local sustainability, communities can show the way forward, driving their rights into state constitutions and, eventually, into the federal Constitution.

In communities from New Hampshire to Oregon, new forms of local organizing have sprung up to fight fracking, mining, dumping of toxic waste, and industrial agriculture, among other environmental assaults. These communities have recognized that the law has “legalized” the damaging actions of corporations, while providing no recourse against harm, and they have therefore decided to create a new system of law that makes local control and sustainability legal. Starting small, this process has spread from rural Pennsylvania to larger cities and towns, and has resulted in the creation of state networks seeking to amend state constitutions.

This work is about finishing the American Revolution by giving up the illusion of democracy and forging a system of true self-governance. In addition, this is about recognizing in law, for the first time in history, that nature possesses legally enforceable rights of its own.


“The most inspirational and strategic challenge to the corporate takeover of America is coming from grassroots patriots united in the community rights movement.  These folks can't be bought or beaten down, and they are shoving corporations and puppet politicians back on their heels. This revolution is not being televised, but like a wild fire it grows and glows brighter, a beacon for democracy.” —John Stauber, co-author, Toxic Sludge Is Good for You, Weapons of Mass Deception

"From the Hellbenders of Pennsylvania to the councils of Spokane to the rainforests of Ecuador -- We the People invites us to meet the courageous and persistent people on the front lines of the struggle for community rights and the rights of nature.  Serious movement-building can take a long time, and it's surely still early in the process, but the community rights movement is starting to grow more quickly and evolving as communities begin to network together.  The waves of new people who join can learn much from this book and these pioneering patriots of the new 21st Century global populism."
—Charlie Cray, Greenpeace and Center for Corporate Policy

"Nature’s right to gloriously carry forth are as inalienable as the sun rising each morning. Yet, we must fight hard to codify those immutable principles in human law and community practice. Tom Linzey and Anneke Campbell’s remarkable book help to revolutionize our thinking and our plan to enact and sustain this deep common sense. With an offence we can save the day. We the People: Stories from the Community Rights Movement in the United States is on the offence!"—Randy Hayes, Rainforest Action Network founder, Executive Director Foundation Earth

"We The People catalogs the newest legal tools available to communities who want to use self-governance to preserve their natural heritage and fight back against corporate oppression.  The individual stories of courageous action are a stark contrast to the false narrative that communities have to settle for what big government and big business allows them to have.  While the outcome is never certain, rediscovering hope of local self-determination creates stronger communities and a better tomorrow.”—Breean Beggs, City Councilmember, Spokane, Washington

“Now, more than ever, we need constitutionally-protected community rights which enable communities across the country to stop projects which threaten our air, our water, and our climate. This book is about the stories of those brave communities who have become the first to claim those rights. It’s a must read for everyone who cares about the future of life on this planet.”—Jerry Greenfield, Co-founder, Ben & Jerry’s

"We the People: Stories from the Community Rights Movment of the United States provides those involved in reclaiming their  democratic rights, bestowed upon Americans by the Constitution, to affect change in their  communities and  improve the quality of  life for community members and the  ecosystems in which they live. It  is a highly recommended read for those wishing  to affect change  in their communities."
—Edward Wells, Professor of Environmental Studies, Division of Integrated Sciences Wilson College

“There is no sustainability without the rule of law: a constitution that respects the laws of nature and fundamental human rights.  Thomas Linzey is on the right path.”
—Spencer B. Beebe,  Ecotrust

“These stories from the front lines of the community rights movement remind us of how corporate ‘rights’ supersede the rights of ‘we the people’ at the local level, and how we can never build the democracy we want unless a grassroots rebellion arises from below to challenge corporate supremacy. Every community fighting a corporate goliath should take the lessons from these pages to heart.”
—Thom Hartmann, author and host of The Thom Hartmann Program

“For thousands of years, the law of human beings was to keep the covenant with the natural world. Greed, the rise of empire and the modern corporate state have undermined this covenant and placed communities, human health, and the natural world in peril. The work on restoration of the rights of nature, and the rights of those who live there, or community rights, is essential to the transformation of our legal and policy system into one which is sustainable, and one which will serve the needs of the natural world and the seven generations ahead. This book is not only the concept, it is most importantly the practice of the hard work of making change.”
—Winona LaDuke, executive director of Honor the Earth

“As we scan the landscape of cataclysmic destruction, both environmental and social, behind the curtain in most cases is an economic motive. The rhinoceros in the room today is corporate power, the inevitable logic of a system that relentlessly concentrates wealth, distributes poverty, and leaves in its terrible wake a democracy deficit. This powerful book is a field guide to nonviolent revolution. It tells the story of how courageous communities are using innovative legal and political strategies to restore nature, communities, and democracy. It’s some of the most important work in the world today. Read it and act.”
—Kenny Ausubel, CEO and founder of Bioneers

"Thomas Linzey and Anneke Campbell's We the People, fully illustrates our political leadership's deliberate indifference to our health, welfare and safety. Time and again, they present shocking examples of how corporations usurp our individual rights and their efforts to legalize the destruction of the natural world that sustains us.  Most importantly, we find inspiration in their stories of individuals who have stood up to the legalized destruction of our communities."  —Doug Shields, former President, Pittsburgh City Council

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On Community Civil Disobedience in the Name of Sustainability: The Community Rights Movement in the United States
Author: Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund with an introduction by Thomas Linzey
Publisher: PM Press
ISBN: 978-1-62963-126-4
Published: 07/2015
Format: Pamphlet
Size: 8.5x5.5
Page count: 64
Subjects: Politics-Activism/Law

Humanity stands at the brink of global environmental and economic collapse. We have pinned our future to an economic system that centralizes power in fewer and fewer hands, and whose benefits increasingly flow to smaller and smaller numbers of people. Our system of government is similarly medieval—relying on a 1780s constitutional form of government written to guarantee the exploitation of the natural environment and elevate “the endless production of more” over the rights of people, nature, and their communities.

But right now, people within the community rights movement aren’t waiting for power brokers to fix the system. They’re beginning to envision a new sustainability constitution by adopting new laws at the local level that are forcing those ideas upward into the state and national ones. In doing so, they are directly challenging the basic operating system of this country—one which currently elevates corporate “rights” above the rights of people, nature, and their communities—and changing it into one which recognizes a right to local, community self-government that cannot be overridden by corporations, or by governments wielded by corporate interests.

This short primer from the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund explores and describes the philosophy and underpinnings of the community rights movement that has emerged in the United States­—a movement of nonviolent civil disobedience based on municipal lawmaking.

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Latest Blog Entries

  • Capitalism: The Elephant in the Room
    While I shouldn’t be surprised anymore when someone at a conference asks why CELDF’s community organizing doesn’t take on capitalism directly, the question still startles me. The intimation is that our work nibbles around the ...

What Others Are Saying...



we the peopleResistance Radio - Guest: Thomas Linzey
By Derrick Jensen
Resistance Radio
April 21st, 2019

Thomas Linzey is the executive director and an attorney for the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, which has assisted close to 200 communities across the country in eight states to adopt binding local laws that elevate community rights to sustainability over corporate rights and powers.

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we the peopleAchieving Self-Governance
By Seth Sandronsky
Earth Island Journal
Spring 2017

Answers unfold in seven crisp chapters as the authors delve into the growing community rights movement in the United States. They draw powerful portraits of communities that have faced threats from environmentally destructive corporate projects and responded by passing local legislation to ban them. As I see it, the community activists featured in the book prefigure the water protectors opposing the Dakota Access Pipeline at Standing Rock in North Dakota. Like the water protectors, they are coalescing around issues that affect their daily lives to push for policies and politics that advance human and environmental well-being rather than corporate profits...

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we the peopleWe the People: Stories from the Community Rights Movement in the United States: A  Review
By Melissa Wuske
Foreword Reviews
February 13, 2017

This emboldening book will equip movements to fight for community rights.
We the People: Stories from the Community Rights Movement in the United States, by Thomas Linzey and Anneke Campbell, presents the inspiring stories of everyday people and communities who stood up for their rights in the face of corporate and legal opposition.

Drawn from the work of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, each chapter presents a narrative case study of a particular community rights movement, each seeking to preserve the autonomy of groups of people and to protect the natural realm. Together, they form a picture of the struggles and victories that change agents face across the United States.

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on communityDismantling Corporate Control Isn’t a Spectator Sport: An Interview with Thomas Linzey
By Simon Davis-Cohen
In These Times
March 15th, 201

"CELDF has spearheaded the introduction of legally enforceable rights for ecosystems; over three dozen of the communities they work with have enshrined such “rights of nature” into local law. CELDF has also aided the special Ecuadorian Constituent Assembly in its successful effort to include enforceable rights of nature in the country’s 2008 constitution. Most recently in 2016, the Green Party of England & Wales worked with CELDF to include rights of nature in its official party platform.

People are taking notice. The Independent Petroleum Association of New Mexico warned against CELDF’s community rights organizing, calling it, “the beginning of a social movement that is greater than just the oil and gas industry, it is a potential game changer for all of corporate America.” In Benton, Ore., the county attorney recently suggested those petitioning for a Community Bills of Rights to ban GMO agriculture be labeled “domestic terrorists...”

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on communityThomas Linzey interviewed by Chris Hedges
By The Real News
Days of Revolt
December 8th, 2015

Pulitzer Prize winning author Chris Hedges interviews CELDF’s Thomas Linzey and activist Mark Clatterbuck of Lancaster, PA, on growing local resistance and organizing against the fracking industry.

Watch more | Buy the pamphlet nowDownload e-pamphlet now | Back to reviews | Back to top

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