The Nature-Rights Movement or the “Law of Mother Earth”

In April we posted somewhat tangentially (Earth-day Post) about a progressive (as in back to the way things used to be…) movement taking off in Bolivia. Better than LEED, or the Kyoto Protocol, Bolivia is moving to pass the first ever comprehensive package of rights affirming that Nature is equally valuable and as worthy of protection as we humans. Fantastic! Irrespective of this blog’s particular hang-ups with human’s being once again considered to be outside nature this sounds like an enormous step for environmental preservationists and perhaps the beginnings of a conceptual shift in collective mind of the larger public. If nothing else, it will hopefully become dinner table talk around the world.

From the Guardian UK:

Bolivia is set to pass the world’s first laws granting all nature equal rights to humans. The Law of Mother Earth, now agreed by politicians and grassroots social groups, redefines the country’s rich mineral deposits as “blessings” and is expected to lead to radical new conservation and social measures to reduce pollution and control industry.

The country, which has been pilloried by the US and Britain in the UN climate talks for demanding steep carbon emission cuts, will establish 11 new rights for nature. They include: the right to life and to exist; the right to continue vital cycles and processes free from human alteration; the right to pure water and clean air; the right to balance; the right not to be polluted; and the right to not have cellular structure modified or genetically altered.

Controversially, it will also enshrine the right of nature “to not be affected by mega-infrastructure and development projects that affect the balance of ecosystems and the local inhabitant communities”.

Of course the big issues here are going to be along the lines of 1) How will this ever be enforced? 2) How do you begin to define terms like the “right to balance” and 3) What does one do in the case where my (human) right to exist impacts your (fatal bacterial infection) right to exist? Not to mention that the premise of such a law or laws seems to assume a certain stasis or equilibrium in “Nature” which we see over and over again simply does not exist. But, details details…

We love the forward thinking of this movement and more than anything else believe that these are immeasurably complex issues that will only begin to be resolved with conversation. So, with that, discuss!

image credit: USGS
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