Bolivia’s “Law of Mother Earth”

There’s been a lot of buzz surrounding Bolivia’s new law that, when passed, will grant Nature all and equal rights granted to humans. This news is not new as Bolivia’s President Evo Morales, the first indeginous President of Latin America, announced December 2009 at the U.N. Climate Summit they were creating a Mother Earth Ministry. Days prior to the summit President Morales hosted the World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth in Bolivia.

During President Morales’ speech in 2009 he stated: “The budget for the United States is $687 billion for defense. And for climate change, to save life, to save humanity. They only put up $10 billion. This is shameful.” Yeah, I don’t even want to go back and look up the numbers for education and healthcare.

The law is said to establish 11 new laws for Nature which include:

  • the right to life and to exist;
  • the right to continue vital cycles and processes free from human alteration;
  • the right to pure water and clean air;
  • the right to balance;
  • the right not to be polluted;
  • the right to not be affected by mega-infrastructure and development projects that affect the balance of ecosystems and the local inhabitant communities;
  • the right to not have cellular structure modified or genetically altered

(I know that’s not all 11, pero I’m having a hard time finding them in English or Spanish, if you know of a link with all of them please share and I’ll update the post!)

As the Guardian’s UK John Vidal reports,

The law, which is part of a complete restructuring of the Bolivian legal system following a change of constitution in 2009, has been heavily influenced by a resurgent indigenous Andean spiritual world view which places the environment and the earth deity known as the Pachamama at the centre of all life. Humans are considered equal to all other entities.

Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca said Bolivia’s traditional indigenous respect for the Pachamama was vital to prevent climate change. “Our grandparents taught us that we belong to a big family of plants and animals. We believe that everything in the planet forms part of a big family. We indigenous people can contribute to solving the energy, climate, food and financial crises with our values,” he said.

Little opposition is expected to the law being passed because President Evo Morales’s ruling party, the Movement Towards Socialism, enjoys a comfortable majority in both houses of parliament.

A really good video accompanies Vidal’s article of his trip to La Paz discussing current experiences of survival after the February 2011 mudslide. I was also pleased to discover Vidal speaks and understands Spanish so there is no need for voiceover translation, instead English translation is provided on the screen.

Go check out Mala’s article on Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s speech at the Copenhagan Accord. I’d also encourage VL readers to check out Oliver Stone’s documentary “South Of The Border” where he speaks with President Morales, tries some coca leaves, and basically gets schooled on indigenous rights in Bolivia. He also interviews Presidents Hugo Chavez (Venezuela), Christina Kirchner (Argentina), Lula da Silva (Brazil), Rafael Correa (Ecuador). Fernando Lugo (Paraguay), and Raul Castro (Cuba).

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11 comments on “Bolivia’s “Law of Mother Earth”
  1. Yes, Evo Morales is the first indigenous president. He is also a politician, something that has to be kept in mind irrespective of whether one aligns more with the ideology espoused by the leader.

    In other words, it looks more like a measure to keep the base content rather than actually give mother nature rights.

    I’d also point out that us humans have a very poor track record–across the board–of respecting our own species’ rights. Should we not be more concerned with how human rights are not respected before we address the more nebulous “rights” of various elements of nature?

  2. I agree that politicians are politicians, however as a woman of color with Indigenous roots, I would like to challenge you on something. The way that colonialism has impacted our environment, and disproportionately so on Native lands was and continues to be part of a strategy to disrespect human life, namely the rights of communities of color. So for me, I don’t see the two as inherently separate

  3. Good point; they are not inherently separate, especially as it relates to the very tragic narratives of indigenous peoples’ lives since the arrival of the Europeans.

    It comes down to a philosophical disagreement between us, I think. Whereas you specify colonialism as a root cause of undermining indigenous rights(and other millions throughout the Americas and beyond), I think it goes beyond that and to the heart of human nature: inherent tendencies to accumulate power.

    Though of course the current system as it relates to indigenous rights could be better served by respected procedural safeguards, a difficult task to do on the best of days.

    This law in Bolivia does not look like it has the requisite teeth to make a significant impact.

    There is also the uncomfortable fact that most of the industrialized world cannot return to an small-environmental impact society(barring very extreme economic collapse), such as the many people in Bolivia are.

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  5. We can never truly value human life until we value and respect “all” life. I applaud the Bolivian government for this brave attempt to get people throughout the world to open their eyes to the peril we are all in if we don’t change our ways. Mother Earth is a living being and as our Mother she deserves to be cared for and valued. We must take this seriously if we care for our own children and grandchildren. What kind of world do we want to leave for them. Certainly not the one we are living in. Governments who can spend billions of dollars every year on senseless wars can certainly come up with a workable solution so that man can live comfortably in balance with each other and with nature. All of us, especially our leaders need to start listening to our hearts as much as we listen to our heads. It starts with each one of us awakening and making the small changes within ourselves to live more harmoniously with everything and everyone around us.

  6. I hope this law also includes indigenous wildlife. In the USA, too many “conservationists” want to save the land, air, and water for humans while eliminating the animals who were here first.

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