The Petchary was fascinated today by a news report that Bolivia‘s (first) indigenous President, Evo Morales, is working on the second part of a new law called the Law of the Rights of Mother Earth (Ley de Derechos de la Madre Tierra). This is the first law in Spanish that gives legal personhood to our planet. Mr. Morales presented the concept at the United Nations Conference on Climate Change in October 2010 and the law was passed by his Plurinational Legislative Assembly (interesting word, plurinational) last December.
We have human rights, animal rights – hell, even plant rights I understand. So, it makes perfect sense that our Madre Tierra should have rights. It’s fundamental. The Bolivians have determined that these rights are…
The right to life – yes, the most basic one of all. Let Earth live and breathe…
The right to biodiversity – this is a tough one. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) website is worth checking out, if you want a real wakeup call. Jamaicans’ very own Baldpate (a plain name for the gorgeous White-Crowned Pigeon) is on the IUCN’s Red List – a huge document that catalogs the status of almost every species on the planet – and is described there as “Near Threatened.” But we are still shooting them, as of now.
The right to water – quantity and quality. World Water Day seems to gain greater significance every year. We all know this is crucial. Of course, the fate of us humans is inextricably tied to that of our Mother. If she has no water, then we protest, we thirst, we die.
The right to clean air – Bolivia declared its first “National Day of the Pedestrian” recently, and Mr. Morales went jogging on the empty streets of La Paz – with a bunch of bodyguards. A blatant piece of PR, but it would be nice to have one of those days in Kingston, Jamaica.
The right to equilibrium – balance is always a hard thing to achieve for me, personally. Poor Mother Earth needs it desperately, before she tips over… beyond the tipping-point.
The right to restoration – a noble aim, but how much can be restored? Can virgin forest that has been torn down by bulldozers and chainsaws be regenerated?
The right to live free of pollution – If there was the political will, this could be done. If Jamaican firms just decided that they weren’t going to belch all their waste into the nearest river; if Kingston residents (uptown and downtown) decided that they weren’t going to ignore the garbage scattered on their doorstep by street dogs – then who knows, we might have a cleaner environment.
There are a couple of flies in Mr. Morales’ ointment, though. One is the recent protests – by indigenous people – against the building of a highway through the untouched rainforest preserve of Isiboro-Secure National Park. Mr. Morales insists that balance will be preserved, and that no exploitation of the surrounding lands will be allowed. The protesters are walking in protest – over 300 miles to La Paz. I don’t think they have reached there yet, but when they do, Mr. Morales will have an uncomfortable time of it. And biodiversity… that right might just go out of the window.
And what of Bolivia’s mining, and gas? Metal prices are high, and Mr. Morales has increased taxes to make the most of it. The much-maligned Standard & Poor’s is painting a somewhat rosy picture for Bolivia in light of all this. Does this mean more exploitation?
Well, Mr. Morales had the right idea, even though like most politicians he is saying one thing and doing the opposite. Perhaps the answer is to have a global Mother Earth human rights law.
Because for sure, global action is needed. Action, not words.
- Indigenous activists gain momentum in Bolivia (edmortimer.wordpress.com)
- Community Driven Bolivia Gives Legal Rights to the Earth (ecomantra.wordpress.com)
- Amazon Road Plan Has Native People on the March Again (edmortimer.wordpress.com)
- Natural Rights: Part 1 (llpathways.wordpress.com)
- Bolivia bans vehicles for a day (bbc.co.uk)
- Indigenous Bolivians March Against Highway (indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com)