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Ecuador to give legal rights to Gaia

October 22nd, 2008

 

 

Date: Sun, 12 Oct 2008 23:30:08 -0700

The Guardian, 24.9.08

The South American republic of Ecuador will next week consider what many countries in the world would say is unthinkable. People will be asked to vote on Sunday on a new constitution that would give Ecuador’s tropical forests, islands, rivers and air similar legal rights to those normally granted to humans

If they vote yes – and polls show that 56% are for and only 23% are against - then an already approved bill of rights for nature will be introduced, and new laws will change the legal status of nature from being simply property to being a right-bearing entity.

The proposed bill states: ‘Natural communities and ecosystems possess the unalienable right to exist, flourish and evolve within Ecuador. Those rights shall be self-executing, and it shall be the duty and right of all Ecuadorian governments, communities, and individuals to enforce those rights.’

More on http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2008/sep/24/equador.conservation

CommonDreams.org, NewsCenter, 25.9.08

Ecuador’s proposed constitution includes an article that grants nature the right to ‘exist, persist, maintain and regenerate its vital cycles, structure, functions and its processes in evolution’ and will grant legal standing to any person to defend those rights in court.

The concept that nature itself can possess rights runs counter to the classical liberal theories of government that hold sway throughout much of the West, which view rights as possessed only by individual human beings. 

But Ecuador is not the first country to propose granting rights to nonhuman entities: Many countries, including the United States, have long held that corporations possess many of the same rights – such as the rights to free expression and to due process – that human beings have. 

And in June, Spain‘s parliament approved a measure to extend some human rights to nonhuman apes.

But, as an editorial in the Los Angeles Times observes, Ecuador’s extension of rights to nature may represent a larger shift in how humans view their place in the world:

No other country has gone as far as Ecuador in proposing to give trees their day in court, but it certainly is not alone in its recalibration of natural rights. 

Religious leaders, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Dalai Lama and the Archbishop of Constantinople, have declared that caring for the environment is a spiritual duty. 

And earlier this year, the Catholic Church updated its list of deadly sins to include polluting the environment.

Ecuador is codifying this shift in sensibility. In some ways, this makes sense for a country whose cultural identity is almost indistinguishable from its regional geography – the Galapagos, the Amazon, the Sierra.

How this new area of constitutional law will work, however, is another question. We aren’t ready to endorse such a step at home, or even abroad. But it’s intriguing. We’ll be watching Ecuador’s example.

More, including the five articles that acknowledge rights said to be possessed by nature, or “Pachamama”, the Goddess revered by Andean peoples whose name roughly translates as “Mother Earth,” at:

 http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2008/09/04-7


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