Bolivia to grant rights to nature

Begonia Filgueira | 11 years ago

The Bolivian law granting rights to Mother Earth defines Mother Earth as:

“ .. the living and dynamic system formed by the indivisible community of all life systems and living things whom are interdependent, interrelated and which complement each other sharing  a common destiny.   Mother Earth is considered sacred by worldwide communities and indigenous peoples.”

If we look at the international research study I co-authored in 2009 (“Wild Law: Is there any evidence of earth jurisprudence in existing law and practice?”) aimed at creating a base line for drafting laws in harmony with Earth Jurisprudential principles we find that the main characteristics of laws imbued by these principles should include:
• being centered on Earth Governance;
• promoting mutually enhancing relationships for the well being of all the Earth Community;
• being guided by community ecological governance.

The Bolivian definition of Mother Earth is charged with Gaian and the above Earth Jurisprudential principles.  The Earth is recognised as a “..living and dynamic system..” – something James Lovelock discovered some time ago and is now widely recognised by the international scientific community.

This definition reflects exactly what we had in mind when we theorised about how laws could best promote mutually enhancing relationships for the well being of all the Earth Community.   It recognises the inter-connectedness between humans and non humans.  It recognises that there is an Earth Community, not only a human community, “which shares a common destiny” and has reciprocal needs.

The “sacred” characteristic of Mother Earth reflects both the Earth Centered Governance and the community ecological governance elements of this definition.  Sacred may be a word that does not sit comfortably with those in the west who could criticize it for its religious connotations. However, this is not the language used by any church but by the indigenous communities of Bolivia and around the world to express the higher importance of the Earth for our survival.  In its Earth Centeredness the law uses the word sacred to express its respect for the intrinsic value of the Earth and all its members, to value the Earth for what it already is.

To name the Earth as sacred is to communicate the intimate relationship between humans and the rest of the natural world where human conduct is regulated so as not to cause irreparable damage to the environment and its ecosystems.  By lauding the Earth as sacred it tells those interpreting laws that the harmonious survival of ecosystems is more important that the exploitation of the Earth for enrichment by a few.

About the author

Begonia Filgueira

Begonia is a specialist in Environmental Law, governance and negotiation. Her career now spans 20 years having started as an environmental lawyer in the City. She is a dually qualified UK Solicitor and Spanish Abogada who provides legal advice, trains professionals and carries out complex research in the areas of International and EU environmental law. She also advises on treaty negotiations and implementation of EU law. Begonia has advised UNEP, UNDP, the European Commission, DEFRA and DOENI. She also advises industry and NGOs on environmental policy and regulation. BREXIT negotiations is her current area of specialism.