Bolivia’s Mother Earth law gives nature equal rights to humans

By 09 January, 2012

Bolivia is set to pass the Law of Mother Earth, (La Ley de Derechos de la Madre Tierra in Spanish ) which will grant nature the same rights and protections as humans, according to PV Pulse.

For the South American country’s leaders, this legislation is part of an unprecedented move to promote a major shift in conservation attitudes aimed at stopping environmental destruction. The legislation will give new legal powers to the government, allowing it to monitor and control industry in the country.

It will create 11 distinguished rights for the environment, which 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,” said a report by the Huffington Post.

But out of the 11, the measure that is potentially the most controversial to some and the most essential to others is “the right to not be affected by mega-infrastructure and development projects that affect the balance of ecosystems and the local inhabitant communities.”

Last year Bolivian Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca said, “the situation was serious.”

Choquehuanca expressed his concern over the “inadequacy of the greenhouse gas reduction commitments made by developed countries in the Copenhagen Accord.” He claims experts forecasted a temperature increase “as high as four degrees above pre-industrial levels.” He added, “An increase of temperature of more than [just] 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.”

But perhaps no-one currently defends the environment in Bolivia with more conviction than the country’s first indigenous president, Evo Morales. A known fighter for environmental protection, Morales addressed the press in 2009 stating, “If we want to safeguard mankind, then we need to safeguard the planet. That is the next major task of the United Nations.”

Morales’s words had immediately followed the resolution of the General Assembly to declare April 22nd “International Mother Earth Day.”

Morales’s party, the Movement Towards Socialism, holds a majority in both houses of parliament. Strong opposition to the new legislation is not expected.

Meanwhile, Undarico Pinto, leader of the Confederacion Sindical Unica de Trabajadores Campesinos de Bolivia (a group that helped draft the law) highlighted how important it is to “allow people to regulate industry at national, regional, and local levels. Existing laws are not strong enough. [This] will help.”

The law’s ripple effect is apparent in the words of Canadian activist Maude Barlow, who said, “It’s going to have a huge resonance around the world. 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.”

For Bolivia, environmental concern runs very deep, and given its place in indigenous beliefs there, the Law of Mother Earth is not simply a piece of legislation, but an idea of utmost significance.

“Our grandparents taught us that we belong to a big family of plants and animals,” said Choquehuanca. “We believe that everything on the planet forms part of a big family. We indigenous people can contribute to solving the energy, climate, food, and financial crises with our values.”

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