Magazine article Earth Island Journal

Bolivia Decrees Rights for Mother Nature

Magazine article Earth Island Journal

Bolivia Decrees Rights for Mother Nature

Article excerpt

In 1776 Thomas Jefferson famously declared that all men are "endowed, by the Creator, with certain unalienable Rights." Now, a couple centuries later, the Bolivian government is taking the concept a few steps further, declaring that creation itself is endowed with inalienable fights.

In April, Bolivian President Evo Morales, the country's first Indigenous leader, introduced the "Law of Mother Earth," which will grant to natural systems rights equal to humans. Among other guarantees, the law says that nature enjoys "the right to clean air, the fight to pure water, the right to balance, the fight not to have cellular structure modified or genetically altered," and "the right to continued vital cycles and processes free from human alteration."

"In Bolivia, we seek a return to balance, a harmonious life not only between individuals but between man and nature," says Bolivian Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca.

Since the 1970s, some environmental philosophers have espoused the idea of Deep Ecology, which argues that all living beings possess intrinsic value aside from just being useful to human beings. Only recently, however, has the idea gained the force of law. In 2009, Ecuador became the first nation to recognize the fights of nature when citizens there approved a new constitution including a "Nature's Bill of Rights. …

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