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.

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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."

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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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310 Comments

  • Comment Link Deanna Wednesday, 07 December 2011 02:12 posted by Deanna

    VIVA Bolivia, VIVA BOLIVIA, VIVA BOLIVIA. Much love and respect to the president of Bolivia. Now we need our leaders to see what the Tar Sands in Alberta is doing to our earth and follow example of the Bolivians.

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  • Comment Link Matthew Tuesday, 06 December 2011 23:31 posted by Matthew

    This is such a great idea and long overdue. People are starting to wake up to realize that if we don't protect the earth and all of its living creatures, we will all perish. It's time that we became aware that the entire earth is one, enormous ecosystem and unless we become advocates and protectors, we will end up losing everything. President Evo Morales is to be congratulated for having the courage to propose such a sensible and far reaching vision.

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  • Comment Link Sally MacKinnon Tuesday, 06 December 2011 15:01 posted by Sally MacKinnon

    Thank you Bolivia! This is the paradigm shift we've been longing for. You're a leader and an inspiration. May we quickly follow in your footsteps in Australia.

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  • Comment Link Sally Tuesday, 06 December 2011 12:36 posted by Sally

    Does this mean the unborn will be protected?

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  • Comment Link skilly Monday, 05 December 2011 18:55 posted by skilly

    Who will speak for mother nature, as nature doesn't speak for itself? Whomever assumes this role, will wield an awesome power to control whole industries, eliminate jobs, destroy private wealth and cast individuals in to poverty. He will subjugate an entire nation in the name of Gia.

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  • Comment Link brenda Monday, 05 December 2011 17:04 posted by brenda

    Wow! this should of been a law earlier, its sick that we as humans not only show our children that tossing a lit cigarette, or their trash out the windows! Wke up people!!

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  • Comment Link Jyl Sunday, 04 December 2011 10:41 posted by Jyl

    This so needs to be done everywhere. Awesome Bolivia!!!

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  • Comment Link Veisha Kulas Sunday, 04 December 2011 10:10 posted by Veisha Kulas

    Normally I am an optomist, but I fear all this may be too little, too late. !

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  • Comment Link Black Thunderbird Sunday, 04 December 2011 09:29 posted by Black Thunderbird

    The ones who will do their best to protect Mother Earth, and her children seem to finally be able to speak and be heard. We are all one family with the birds, bugs, trees, water, air.. etc.. we can not live without one of these things. The question is can they live without us? I think we often forget that it is our honour and priviledge to live on this Earth. Many act like it is our right to live and use and take and destroy without consequence. We use her for our entertainment, destroy parts of her to meet our own needs and wants. We offer nothing in return. We are the parasites on this planet. She will, like any mother, put us in our place soon enough. I grieve for her, and her inhabitants.

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  • Comment Link Nick Saturday, 03 December 2011 18:41 posted by Nick

    This is one of the stupidest things I've ever heard.

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