The South American country Bolivia is giving the Earth rights equal to those attributed to humans. Backed by politicians and environmental organisations, this radical milestone in law is set to trigger huge conservation efforts.
The indigenous culture of the country sees the planet Earth as a living entity, a deity called Pachamama – which is made up of all living things and ecosystems, not just the geological sphere. They are now reflecting that philosophy in national law. Parts of nature now have 11 rights, including the rights to exist, carry out cycles without human interruption, to clean air and water, and to be free from pollution and genetic modification.
Bolivia has a history of environmental damage caused by mining, as it is blessed with rich deposits of minerals such as tin, silver and gold. The new laws could pose dramatic financial problems for the country as they currently base a large part of their economy on the extraction and sale of these resources. With the new rights however, this activity could be liable for prosecution if it is deemed too destructive.
I’m not sure how Bolivia will deal with these issues, or indeed how they will put the laws into practise when it comes to actual trials. How can a forest be represented in court? They are certainly covering new ground here and as such are alone on the cutting edge. I hope they find ways to balance viable industry with environmental protection, and I most importantly hope the ideals behind these legal developments are upheld.