Bolivia is about to pass the world’s first laws granting Mother Nature equal rights with human beings.
According to The Guardian, “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 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;
• the right to not have cellular structure modified or genetically altered;
• 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.
This fresh and hopeful legislation from one of the planet’s poorest countries should be a shining example to the rest of the world. The naysayers are laughing, of course. How can a country so dependent on the mining industry ($500m a year) possibly hope to enforce this kind of legislation? Critics point to Ecuador which, despite the fact that the constitution give Mother Nature “the right to exist, persist, maintain and regenerate its vital cycles, structure, functions and its processes in evolution”, the exploitation of the Amazon continues.
In his article, “Radical Environmentalism: Bolivia to Push ‘Rights of Nature’ at UN”, Wesley J. Smith writes, “I can think of fewer ways to subvert human exceptionalism and destroy human prosperity than to give ‘nature’ co-equal ‘rights’ with humans. And remember, possessing rights implies personhood. So as the story said, this is about personalizing nature and the earth”. Smith writes for First Things, published by The Institute on Religion and Public Life, “an interreligious, nonpartisan research and education institute whose purpose is to advance a religiously informed public philosophy for the ordering of society”.
The notion of humans having dominion over the earth, or a special status in nature, simply isn’t part of my consciousness. And if our prosperity as a species is dependent on destroying the planet on which we depend for life, then something is very wrong. My own philosophy tends to align with the Gaia Hypothesis developed by Dr. James Lovelock and Dr. Lynn Margulis who describes our planet as “the series of interacting ecosystems that compose a single huge ecosystem at the Earth’s surface”.
The greenwashing and jaded partisan politics of the Western world aren’t getting us anywhere. The glaciers are melting, lakes are turning into tailing ponds, extinctions continue, and more and more people contract cancers in a world laced with contamination. This planet is buckling under the pressure of abuse by such an “exceptional” species.
But I don’t want to get sidetracked from the power of Bolivia’s intentions, and it my hope that this new legislation will be greeted by much of the world with support, not derision, because it is an evolved and positive vision.
“Earth is the mother of all,” said Bolivian vice-president Alvaro García Linera. “It establishes a new relationship between man and nature, the harmony of which must be preserved as a guarantee of its regeneration.”
I can’t even imagine a Western leader talking so passionately about our planet. For many of them, the the planet and the species that share it appear to be divided up into economcis units, unlike in Bolivia where the new series of laws are, according to The Guardian, “heavily influenced by a resurgent indigenous Andean spiritual world view which places the environment and the earth deity known as the Pachamama at the centre of all life”.
The draft of the new law states: “She is sacred, fertile and the source of life that feeds and cares for all living beings in her womb. She is in permanent balance, harmony and communication with the cosmos. She is comprised of all ecosystems and living beings, and their self-organisation.”
Bolivia, a landlocked south American country, has come through decades of economic and political strife for more than two centuries — and despite colonization, war, and heavy exploitation of the land and people by industry, it is a country that has the vision to chart a brave course of respect for the planet, not a “resource” but as an entity worthy of our deepest respect and care. Is this radical. Yes, thank goodness.
“Licancabur: Pachata en laguna verde” in Bolivia mapache_mau @ Flickr.com. Creative Commons. Some Rights Reserved.
Bolivia’s first indigenous president, Evo Morales. Courtesy of Celcius.
“El Regalo de la Pachamama” Artist Unknown, courtesy of UCLA Latin American Institute.