Monday, 18 April 2011 09:43

Bolivia Set to Pass Historic 'Law of Mother Earth' Which Will Grant Nature Equal Rights to Humans

Written by Keph Senett
   
Evo Morales speaks at the UN Evo Morales speaks at the UN Wikimedia Commons

With the cooperation of politicians and grassroots organizations, Bolivia is set to pass the Law of Mother Earth which will grant nature the same rights and protections as humans. The piece of legislation, called la Ley de Derechos de la Madre Tierra, is intended to encourage a radical shift in conservation attitudes and actions, to enforce new control measures on industry, and to reduce environmental destruction.

The law redefines natural resources as blessings and confers the same rights to nature as to human beings, including: 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. Perhaps the most controversial point is the right "to not be affected by mega-infrastructure and development projects that affect the balance of ecosystems and the local inhabitant communities".

In late 2005 Bolivia elected its first indigenous president, Evo Morales. Morales is an outspoken champion for environmental protection, petitioning for substantive change within his country and at the United Nations. Bolivia, one of South America's poorest countries, has long had to contend with the consequences of destructive industrial practices and climate change, but despite the best efforts of Morales and members of his administration, their concerns have largely been ignored at the UN.

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Just last year, in 2010, Bolivian Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca expressed his distress "about the inadequacy of the greenhouse gas reduction commitments made by developed countries in the Copenhagen Accord." His remarks were punctuated by the claim that some experts forecasted a temperature increase "as high as four degrees above pre-industrial levels." "The situation is serious," Choquehuanca asserted. "An increase of temperature of more than one degree above pre-industrial levels would result in the disappearance of our glaciers in the Andes, and the flooding of various islands and coastal zones."

In 2009, directly following the resolution of the General Assembly to designate April 22 "International Mother Earth Day", Morales addressed the press, stating “If we want to safeguard mankind, then we need to safeguard the planet. That is the next major task of the United Nations”. A change to Bolivia's constitution in the same year resulted in an overhaul of the legal system - a shift from which this new law has sprung.

Ocean

 

The Law of Mother Earth has as its foundation several of the tenets of indigenous belief, including that human are equal to all other entities. "Our grandparents taught us that we belong to a big family of plants and animals. We believe that everything in the planet forms part of a big family," Choquehuanca said. "We indigenous people can contribute to solving the energy, climate, food and financial crises with our values." The legislation will give the government new legal powers to monitor and control industry in the country. 

"Existing laws are not strong enough," said Undarico Pinto, leader of the 3.5m-strong Confederación Sindical Única de Trabajadores Campesinos de Bolivia (a group that helped draft the law). "It will make industry more transparent. It will allow people to regulate industry at national, regional and local levels."

Desert

 

Bolivia will be establishing a Ministry of Mother Earth, but beyond that there are few details about how the legislation will be implemented. What is clear is that Bolivia will have to balance these environmental imperatives against industries - like mining - that contribute to the country's GDP.

Bolivia's successes or failures with implementation may well inform the policies of countries around the world. "It's going to have huge resonance around the world," said Canadian activist Maude Barlow. "It's going to start first with these southern countries trying to protect their land and their people from exploitation, but I think it will be grabbed onto by communities in our countries, for example, fighting the tarsands in Alberta." 

Gacier

 

Ecuador has enshrined similar aims in its Constitution, and is among the countries that have already shown support for the Bolivian initiative. Other include Nicaragua, Venezuela, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Antigua and Barbuda.

National opposition to the law is not anticipated, as Morales' party - the Movement Towards Socialism - holds a majority in both houses of parliament. On April 20, two days before this year's "International Mother Earth Day", Morales will table a draft treaty with the UN, kicking off the debate with the international community.

Read the entire document (in Spanish) here.

Related Sotry: Landmark Climate Change Bill Approved By Mexican Senate

Related story: One More Victory for Mother Earth in Her Fight Against Big Oil

UPDATE (Dec. 14, 2011): Canada Withdraws from Kyoto, while Mexico Insists on Green Fund

Related story: Is Progress a Right?

Related story: Peru Approves Indigenous Law as Wikileaks Exposes US Concerns.

Related story: Ecuadorians Win Judgement Against Chevron in Amazon Case, Company Refuses to Pay

Update May 23, 2011: Turkey considering ecological approach to new constitution. Read more here.

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 Mountains

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310 Comments

  • Comment Link Rob Wednesday, 06 February 2013 02:25 posted by Rob

    I'm not a fan of this guy. Bolivia is ready to make a ridiculous empty declaration about a metaphoric woman, the earth, while actual women in Bolivia are relegated as second class citizens. I don't like for example how Morales handled the literal rape of one member of parliament by another on the parliament floor (his reaction was basically "we will punish the leaker of the tape"). Info on that recent story can be found here: http://jezebel.com/5977166/bolivian-state-politician-caught-on-video-raping-unconscious-woman-on-parliament-floor

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  • Comment Link via Tuesday, 07 August 2012 11:48 posted by via

    Enjoyed examining this, very first-class stuff, appreciate it.

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  • Comment Link ibana Wednesday, 25 April 2012 18:15 posted by ibana

    that law is a lie, the march taken by the people of TIPNIS is again activated, again they will walk during 3 months for a lie a false promess, it's not posible to protect the enviroment if people are cutting down acres of trees to plant more coca leaves, the law was just an excuse to make that all the people from TIPNIS leave don't beliave everithing you hear

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  • Comment Link casual observer Monday, 27 February 2012 19:11 posted by casual observer

    Thank you for censoring all of the posts that dare to question the logic of this :)

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  • Comment Link Spherical Earth Friday, 24 February 2012 20:17 posted by Spherical Earth

    On behalf of Mother Earth I THANK Bolivia for this recognition .

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  • Comment Link Bob Eichenberger Friday, 24 February 2012 14:36 posted by Bob Eichenberger

    Bolivia may be considered a financially poor country, but at least they can be proud of their government and their president, unlike Canada. I did not vote for our monster, and i can not understand those who did. Maybe the elections are rigged.
    Right now, i would like to consider myself as a Bolivian, living in Canada.

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  • Comment Link surajo frith Thursday, 23 February 2012 16:31 posted by surajo frith

    thank you thank you for standing up for
    our mother earth - if only the whole
    world could exist with this same ethic

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  • Comment Link nikko raffin Sunday, 19 February 2012 22:50 posted by nikko raffin

    . . gratitude
    and many many blessings

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  • Comment Link Bruno Bautil Tuesday, 07 February 2012 16:10 posted by Bruno Bautil

    SO finally there might be a piece of nautre preserved somewhere on this planet, and it seems to be in South America.Congratulation Bolivia! What a lesson of modesty for the Capitalistic bullies countries.. Keep going strong Bolivia, nature is definitively man's best ally to live on this planet, just some people are smarter than others. I'd like to become Bolivian and will praise Bolivia wherever I can for "doing good to the planet". Let's see if the Belgian's are ready to follow???

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  • Comment Link Deirdre OLeary Wednesday, 01 February 2012 15:10 posted by Deirdre OLeary

    Thank you Evo Morales! Thank you Bolivia!
    With much hope, x

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