Earth Law

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Description

Osprey Orielle Lake:

"I believe one of the most critical areas of work that we can focus on is Earth law. The idea of Rights of Nature or Rights of Mother Earth can address our dire need to truly become “civilized” in the highest sense of this word—meaning to live civilly with each other and our Earth, respecting both natural laws and the Earth’s ecosystems.

Around the world, and in almost all non-indigenous systems of law, nature and ecosystems are treated as property. Our life-giving rivers, forests, and mountains are treated as property to be sold and consumed, often protected under commerce laws. As property, these natural communities and ecosystems are not recognized as rights-holders. In our legal systems, because nature is property, it is invisible to courts.

Beyond the legal frameworks, this nonrecognition of the inherent rights of nature has dangerously contributed to distancing us culturally and personally from our living planet. I think we should consider this old, property-based legal system as highly uncivilized.

That said, what is very encouraging right now and brings promise is that for the past three decades, environmental lawyers and visionary thinkers around the globe have been developing a new theory of jurisprudence to change that system.

The “Rights of Nature” approach promotes a structure of law that recognizes that our living planet has rights of its own. If a Rights of Nature legal framework were implemented, activities that harm the ability of ecosystems and natural communities to thrive and naturally restore themselves, would be in legal violation of nature’s rights.

The Rights of Mother Earth framework recognizes the inherent meaning, sacredness, and value of the natural world: that which is not tradable or subject to commerce.

These rights along with respecting human rights are what being civil means." (http://www.tikkun.org/nextgen/rights-of-nature-and-an-earth-community-economy)


Examples

Osprey Orielle Lake:

Practical Applications:

"Can Rights of Nature take hold? Yes! In 2008, Ecuador became the first country in the world to recognize Rights of Nature in its constitution. In a remarkable step that could begin to alter the way we understand the natural world, Chapter 7 of the Constitution of Ecuador now explicitly states that nature has the right to exist, the right to be cared for according to its natural life cycles and ecosystems, and the right to restoration in the event of environmental harm. In broad language that requires repair of past damage as well as regulation of future potential harm, Article 72 states:

In the cases of severe or permanent environmental impact, including the ones caused by the exploitation on non renewable natural resources, the State will establish the most efficient mechanisms for the restoration, and will adopt the adequate measures to eliminate or mitigate the harmful environmental consequences.

Additionally, Bolivia has established eleven new Rights of Nature laws after hosting The World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth in April 2010, which also produced the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth.

Before these national developments in Ecuador and Bolivia, a vital shift had taken place in 2006 in the rural U.S. community of Tamaqua Borough, Pennsylvania, when the community with the assistance of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund passed an ordinance recognizing nature as a rights bearing entity. Since then over twenty-four communities in the United States have passed local ordinances, which recognize Rights of Nature to protect their ecosystems. We can change our laws—think civil rights, suffrage, and the end of Apartheid." (http://www.tikkun.org/nextgen/rights-of-nature-and-an-earth-community-economy)


Discussion

Working Toward an “Earth Community Economy

Osprey Orielle Lake:

"Around the world, we are seeing the emergence of creative alternatives to destructive economic paradigms. The good news is what is healthy for an ecosystem is also good for people: key ingredients are localization and regionalism. The best economic and environmentally sound solutions are place-based, diverse according to region, and are responsive to local communities and social needs. Instead of fearing a transition to an Earth Community Economy, we can support and enjoy local organic food, vibrant local businesses, a healthy local economy, jobs with justice and the development of clean decentralized energy.

I’m not talking about utopias, but rather regenerative, functional, local communities. Already we are seeing many creative, self-organizing groups and their ideas on the move with this concept: Transition Towns, Eco-builders, Cool Cities, Eco-villages, Eco-Cities, permaculture communities, food sovereignty groups. The list grows daily with working concepts and models in every part of the world.

History and logic dictate that transitioning away from a globalized economy will not always be smooth or easy. Yet our survival depends on our ability to do so, and quickly.

We must change the way we think about what an economy is for, and how we measure it. Today, we measure economic well-being using flawed instruments such as the GDP. Yet even the generation and dumping of toxic waste is part of the GDP—a wildly inaccurate measure of progress. We must begin to develop new metrics like the Gross National Happiness Index, which assesses economic performance based on the health and well-being of people living in balance with each other and nature.

Cultures living close to the Earth have shown a balanced way of life quite unlike newer, consumer-driven notions of simply having more. “Living well” in the Kichwa language of the Indigenous people of Ecuador, is called sumak kawsay; in Spanish, it is buen vivir. The Buryat people of the Lake Baikal region express it this way: “To live a life of honor is to live with tegsh,” meaning to live in appreciation and balance with all of life. An Earth Community Economy envisions a future that has not come from enslaving Nature and treating all other life as mere resources for human exploitation and unchecked material growth.

A Rights of Nature legal framework would foster human well-being in harmony with the integrity and functioning of the entire Earth community, thus prompting economic incentives and disincentives aligned with this purpose. An Earth Community Economy recognizes the inherent meaning, sacredness, and value of the natural world: that which is not tradable or subject to commerce. To this end, in order to truly protect our Earth, we must stop the commodification and financialization of nature.

While a Rights of Nature framework does not solve all of our daunting problems, it does offer a foundation upon which healthy economic principles and sustainability can be built. Advocating for a systemic economic alternative that balances the rights of human communities with the rights of ecosystems should be at the heart of all international sustainable development and climate negotiations. As we look to completely transform our responsibilities and relationship with the natural world, this Earth Community Economy based on Rights of Nature is an idea and a necessity whose time is now." (http://www.tikkun.org/nextgen/rights-of-nature-and-an-earth-community-economy)