From our good friend Jason of the Delaware Liberal:
Filed Under: Featured
If we accept the legal fiction of corporate personhood, why not extend rights to the Earth as well?
That is exactly what Bolivia is doing.
Mother Earth To Be Given Rights Equal to Humans In New Bolivian Law
by Matthew McDermott, New York, NY on 04.11.11
Bolivia is about to pass laws granting all of nature equal rights to human beings. The laws were first proposed after the World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth and show the deep differences in zeitgeist between Bolivia and, well, pretty much every other nation-state on the planet.
Rights enshrined into law 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; and the right to not have cellular structure modified or genetically altered. Controversially, it will also enshrine the right of nature “to not be affected by mega-infrastructure and development projects that affect the balance of ecosystems and the local inhabitant communities”. (The Guardian)
The new law goes on to articulate how Mother Earth, Pachamama is, “sacred, fertile and the source of life that feeds and cares for all living beings in her womb. She is in permanent balance, harmony and communication with the cosmos. She is comprised of all ecosystems and living beings, and their self-organization.”
That view is rooted in the indigenous beliefs of the Bolivian people and has much in common with the beliefs of indigenous peoples throughout the world–and while described somewhat differently, is roughly similar to traditional Hindu beliefs about all of existence being sacred, worthy of reverence, as well as pre-Christian beliefs of European peoples.
There’s just so much potential humor in this, that it’s hard to know where to begin. Pachamama is basically a fertility goddess and “mother world” diety handed down from Inca lore, and the indigenous people of Bolivia have every right to believe in her all they wish. But it seems a strange law to be promulgated under a socialist President, Juan Evo Morales Ayma. I thought that, to socialists, religion is the opiate of the masses.
Jason’s throwaway line at the beginning of his article points out an inherent flaw in the reasoning of this law. Corporations have actual human beings leading them, and human beings taking decisions for the corporation as a whole. Well, unless Pachamama decides to appear in person, that means that, yup, some human being is going to have to speak for the goddess, and take action for her.
Jason presented only a small part of the Guardian article, and my initial impression, from that, and based on our American legal experiences, was that every crackpot environmentalist would be going to court, to stop people from cutting the grass or building dams or mining coal, were such a law passed here. At least the Bolivarians aren’t stupid enough to have that problem.
But the abstract new laws are not expected to stop industry in its tracks. While it is not clear yet what actual protection the new rights will give in court to bugs, insects and ecosystems, the government is expected to establish a ministry of mother earth and to appoint an ombudsman. It is also committed to giving communities new legal powers to monitor and control polluting industries.
Translation: the new law might give the rights to Pachamama, but it gives the power to the government.
Bolivia is a poor country, but it does have some wealth. However, its primary sources of wealth are tin and silver, both extracted by mining, mining of some other metals, as well as crude oil and natural gas production. Other than coca,¹ the plant basis of cocaine, Bolivia’s primary sources of wealth for foreign trade are precisely the things that this new law could inhibit.
Oh, well, no one ever said that socialists were particularly bright.
¹ – President Evo Morales was once a coca farmer, and became a leader in the Cocalero movement, the coca growers trade organization.