Will the Real Humans Please Stand Up
One of the most amazing developments of this century is entire nations stepping forward and enacting laws which protect Nature.
There are an abundance of laws on the books, in almost every nation, that attempt to protect individuals in every aspect of life from childhood to occupation to old age. But, up to 2008, when Ecuador added a clause to its constitution to codify the Rights of Nature, no one had ever considered giving the same rights to animals and trees that humans already had.
Experts attributed Ecuador’s surprising and very “green” initiative to its horrible history with Chevron. Led by leftist President Rafael Correa, this green revolution was intended to find a way forward that would allow development without destroying the ecology.
It was also a negation of the capitalist lifestyle, which centers on money. Instead, Ecuadoreans were looking for a greater focus on social, environmental and spiritual health. Some, appalled by the developed world’s insistence that corporations be given equal rights with persons, wanted to insure that, when using native resources, they left enough for future generations to meet the same, or higher, standards of living as they themselves enjoyed. This – using resources wisely and frugally – is the essence of sustainability.
It wasn’t long before Bolivia followed suit, amending its constitution in 2011 to insure that presidents, politicians and piranhas all had the same rights. In Bolivia, this initiative was called the Law of Mother Earth, or the Law of Pachamama, and aimed to insure that Bolivia’s abundance of mineral deposits not be exploited – as Chevron had done in Ecuador – but husbanded for the benefit of current and future citizens while cutting pollution and forcing industry to be respectful of the earth – something Chevron and other American corporations have not always been.
Tagging along on Ecuador’s coattails, and ready to inspire even more South American countries to protect their native assets and curb pollution (as well as providing resources to care for the poor), the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature – a social powerhouse in its own right – first met in Patate, Ecuador in September of 2010.
Attended by social activists and environmentalists from Australia, Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru, South Africa and the United States, The Global Alliance is designed to create a world network of committed individuals who can alter the unfortunate direction being taken in the developed world, where corporations actually have more rights than humans, to the detriment of society as a whole.
This unfortunate direction toward which we in the U.S. and Europe are racing headlong is best exemplified by the rising wealth of energy companies in particular and corporations in general – a wealth that provides CEOs with multi-million dollar salaries and pension plans, while impoverishing the rest of us. The same scenario exists in the financial sector, where big banks get bailouts, CEOs get a slap on the wrist and/or a “golden parachute,” and the environmental degradation daily becomes more apparent to the poor and the shrinking middle class, in whose neighborhoods the power plants, wastewater treatment facilities, fossil fuel refineries and the like are located. These are also the neighborhoods that get the last of the meager repair funds after devastating storms influenced by global warming pass.
A case in point would be research conducted by Bolivian glaciologist Edson Ramirez of San Andres University in the capital city of La Paz. His records suggest that temperatures have been going up at about the same ratio for the past 60 years, beginning in 1979. If they rise another 3.5 to 4C before 2112, Bolivia will be primarily desert – a startling conclusion which explains all too well why Bolivians are troubled.
This movement, to see nature as equal to humanity, is spreading. In climactically and environmentally green New Zealand, as a result of a treaty between the native tribe of iwi (a Maori people) and the Crown (of England), the Whanganui River will henceforth be recognized as a person when it comes to legislation. Legal and environmental experts expect the impetus to continue, with New Zealand eventually adopting the Ecuadorean and Bolivian mindset.
One would hope the United States will follow suit. It’s not like we don’t have our own coterie of environmentalists and social justice virtuosos. As far back as 1972, Law Professor Christopher D. Stone of the University of Southern California wrote, Should Trees Have Standing? Toward Legal Rights for Natural Objects.
It’s disheartening to note that the U.S. also has the greatest number of citizens in prison. I don’t think that iron bars will keep in a river.