Pablo Solón: It’s the time for the Rights of Mother Earth

by Pablo Solón

Cross-Posted from Pablo Solón’s blog

Pablo Solon of the Plurinational State of Bolivia on 7 December 2010 in Cancun, Mexico during the UN climate negotiations. Photo: Langelle/GJEP-GFC (This photo did not appear on the original blog post)

Victor Hugo, the author of Les Misérables, once wrote: “How sad to think that nature speaks and mankind doesn’t listen.”

Although we often forget it, human beings are a force in nature. In reality, we are all a product of the same Big Bang that created the universe, although some only see wood for the fire when they walk through the forest.

Nature is not a thing, a source of resources. Nature is a system, a home, and a community of living and interdependent beings.

Nature has rules that govern its integrity, interrelationships, reproduction and transformation.

States and society are not recognizing, respecting and making sure that the rules of nature prevail.

The philosopher Francis Bacon said that we cannot command nature except by obeying her. The time for superheroes and superpowers is coming to an end. Nature cannot be submitted to the wills of the laboratory. Science and technology are capable of everything including destroying the world itself.

It is time to stop and reaffirm the precautionary principle in the face of geo-engineering and all artificial manipulation of the climate. All new technologies should be evaluated to gauge their environmental, social and economic impacts. The answer for the future lies not in scientific inventions but in our capacity to listen to nature.

Green Economy is an attempt to put a price on the free services that plants, animals and ecosystems offer humanity: the purification of water, the pollination of plants by bees, the protection of coral reefs and climatic regulation.

For Green Economy, we have to identify the specific functions of ecosystems and biodiversity that can be made subject to a monetary value, evaluate their current state, define the limits of those services, and set out in economic terms the cost of their conservation to develop a market for environmental services.

For Green Economy, capitalism’s mistake is not having fully incorporated nature as part of capital. That is why its central proposal is to create “environmentally friendly business” and in that way limit environmental degradation by bringing the laws of capitalism to bear on nature.

Green Economy is absolutely wrong and bad because it thinks that the transfusion of the rules of market will save nature.

Humanity finds itself at a crossroads: Why should we only respect the laws of human beings and not those of nature? Why do we call the person who kills his neighbor a criminal, but not he who extinguishes a species or contaminates a river? Why do we judge the life of human beings with parameters different from those that guide the life of the system as a whole if all of us, absolutely all of us, rely on the life of the Earth System?

Is there no contradiction in recognizing only the rights of the human part of this system while all the rest of the system is reduced to a source of resources and raw materials – in other words, a business opportunity?

To speak of equilibrium is to speak of rights for all parts of the system. It could be that these rights are not identical for all things, since not all things are equal. But to think that only humans should enjoy privileges while other living things are simply objects is the worst mistake humanity has ever made. Decades ago, to talk about slaves as having the same rights as everyone else seemed like the same heresy that it is now to talk about glaciers or rivers or trees as having rights.

Nature is ruthless when it goes ignored.

It is incredible that it is easier to imagine the destruction of nature than to dream about overthrowing capitalism.

Albert Einstein said, “The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing.” We can’t watch the destruction of Mother Earth and our selves. This is the time to begin to recognize the intrinsic laws of Nature. This is the time to respect and promote the rights of Mother Earth.

[1] Based and my speech as Permanent Representative of the Plurinational State of Bolivia to the United Nations, on the Occasion of the General Assembly Interactive Dialogue on Harmony with Nature, New York, April 20th, 2011.

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