Nature to Get Legal Rights in Bolivia

June 20, 2011 • Climate Change & Mitigation, Bolivia, Daily Email Recap

Greetings from Nairobi, where I will be working for two weeks on planning a PMC program for Kenya.  Thanks to Steve Kurtz for this article from Wired Science.  See

Nature to Get Legal Rights in Bolivia

By Brandon Keim

April 18, 2011

After decades of exile to environmentalism’s legal fringes, the notion that natural systems could have legal rights is receiving serious attention.

Bolivia’s Law of Mother Earth is set to pass. On Wednesday the United Nations will discuss a proposed treaty based on the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth, which was drafted by environmentalists last year. Both mandate legal recognition of ecosystems’ right to exist.

It’s highly unlikely that the United Nations would pass any such treaty in the foreseeable future, and the discussion has been criticized as a time-wasting political maneuver. But the intellectual argument for nature’s rights isn’t necessarily a patchouli-soaked Gaia fantasy translated into legalese. Some say it’s a practical extension of ecological insight.

“It has to happen. We have to be able to give legal protection and consideration to the rest of the natural world,” said Patricia Siemen, executive director of the Center for Earth Jurisprudence. “It’s in the human best interest, as well as the larger natural world’s.”

The first principle of Bolivia’s law calls for human activities to “achieve dynamic balance with the cycles and processes inherent in Mother Earth,” with Mother Earth defined as “a unique, indivisible, self-regulating community of interrelated beings that sustains, contains and reproduces all beings.” A ministry of Mother Earth will be established, and an ombudsman appointed to hear disputes.

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