Update by Russ McSpadden
Alas, the wild and wet dream of an ecotopia in Bolivia is but lies on paper and another example of the emptiness of beautiful intentions applied to government rhetoric. The poetry and land-based traditions written into law have been mutilated by the petty drones of bureaucracy and the corruption of the powerful. The article below was written in December 2010, in the salad days of Evo’s hope and change campaign and we all wanted to believe. Please read the article, for the points are factual regarding the Law of Mother Earth as written into the Bolivian constitution, but they have since been stomped on by the very same Bolivian government. Like those in power before him, Evo Morales has pushed forward with mega projects that violate indigenous rights, scar the earth, and disrupt working class struggles. For more details consider reading Decepcion in Bolivia: Evo on the Rocks by Chellis Glendinning, a beautiful and startling piece, found online here. Chellis is currently living in Cochabamba. You might also consider reading her more recent piece Dispatches from the Andes: Surrealism in Boliva at Counterpunch here.
By Sasha (December 1, 2010)
A groundbreaking law is emerging from Bolivia called the Law of Mother Earth. Moving towards granting Nature equal rights with humans, the objectives of this law are made clear from the outset: Harmony with nature, working towards the Collective Good, Guaranteeing Regeneration of Mother Earth, working in Respect and Defense of the Rights of Mother Earth, choosing life over Commercialization, and maintaining a respect for diversity.
In characterizing Mother Earth, the document explains, “Mother Earth is the living dynamic system comprised of the inter-related, interdependent and complementary indivisible community of all life systems and living beings that share a common destiny.” While considering Mother Earth a sacred place apropos the cosmological understanding of Indigenous peoples, the law enfranchises a commons, or “collective rights of public interest.” This commons is an enshrining of biodiversity and human diversity.
This is perhaps the most important legal facet of the new law. “Mother Earth and all its components, including human communities, are owners of the rights inherently understood in this Law,” explains the document, “The application of Mother Earth’s rights shall take into account the specificities and particularities of its diverse components.” Legally, this conception of ownership could extend to “informally owned” properties. Although the US foreign policy is to get the Global South to “open” these properties—squatter communities, indigenous land holdings, temporary living spaces—to capitalist ownership, the new Bolivian Law of Mother Earth goes in the other direction, providing perhaps a legal protection to all peoples dispossessed by capitalism.
By granting rights to Mother Earth of life, clean water, biodiversity, clean air, balance, restoration and freedom from contamination, the law goes on to manifest a knowledge that Earth and humanity are intertwined. If Earth is denied these rights, obviously humans are as well. Finally, the government of Bolivia agrees in the creation of this law to adopt public policies in accordance with the rights of Mother Earth, including “sustainability of power generation” and destruction of all nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. The law also acknowledges a public debt to the environment, which should be considered in all trade treaties.
This law will create new structures for consultation and conservation on a grassroots level, taking advantage of the microgovernmental form of democracy that helped topple the conservative government in 2005 and launch the Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) into power. By organizing a governing body around ecology, Bolivia is essentially composting the most toxic aspects of the State. Although more discussion needs to be had with regards to the meaning of the word “exploitation” as it comes about in the document, the Law of Mother Earth is a huge step toward radical ecology in action. Solidarity with what Bolivia is trying to do and solidarity with the rights of Mother Earth!