Implementing the Rights of Mother Earth

Implementing the Rights of Mother Earth

Learning from the caterpillar

It’s hard to believe that today is the third ‘ the penultimate ‘ day of the World People’s Conference on Climate Change and Mother Earth Rights. I’ve learned a lot and met some incredible people, but I wish I could be in two places, maybe even three, at once. There are so many interesting events, but it’s impossible to attend all of them. However, thanks to some last minute rescheduling today, I was able to attend a strategy session called, “Implementing the Rights of Mother Earth Locally: A Viable Strategy for Frontline Communities.” Speakers included Shannon Biggs (Director of the Community Rights Program for Global Exchange), Mari Margil (Associate Director of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund ‘ CELDF), and, the icing on the (vegan) cake, Cormac Cullinan (South African lawyer and author of Wild Law: Protecting Biological and Cultural Diversity).

I was especially excited to hear Mr. Cullinan speak since I’ve been working on an upcoming Brighter Green project that focuses on the rights of nature, wild law, and earth jurisprudence. Not only did I get to hear him speak, but I was also able to ask him a few questions after the presentation ‘ I even got a picture with him. I also caught Mari Margil from CELDF, who allowed me to ask her about how agriculture and factory farming fit into the larger issues of nature’s rights and animal welfare. (Stay tuned for the soundbytes from these brief interviews, to be uploaded soon!)

Mr. Cullinan began his address with an allegory about a caterpillar: “There is no future for the caterpillar who eats and eats and eats without limits.” Luckily, the caterpillar’s DNA contains a mechanism that drives the tiny worm to stop eating and weave a cocoon around its body, preparing for a great transformation. Like the caterpillar, we are nearing a great transition. As human beings, and members of the Earth community, we must mobilize and unite to protect the Mother Earth and all of her creatures; we must “establish a new DNA for society” that is not based on colonialism, domination, exploitation, and treating the Earth like a machine. Cullinan asserts that we must do more than change existing laws – we must overhaul the paradigms and philosophies that the legal system is based on. Mari Margil’s work with CELDF in the US, Bolivia, and elsewhere also follows this idea.

According to Margil, the existing system of law in human society denies nature the barest inalienable rights. In September 2008, with the help of advisors from CELDF, the country of Ecuador ratified a new Constitution, which grants rights and legal protection to nature. To most, this is progressive. In fact, to most, this is probably radical. Until society undergoes a necessary paradigm change, the mainstream will be unable to accept Pachamama as an entity deserving preservation for its own sake and a presence in ‘human’ courts.

Photo courtesy of Stavros Markopoulo