Researched by Chelsea Davis
In September 2008 Ecuador became the first country in the world to declare constitutional rights to nature, thus codifying a new system of environmental protection. Reflecting the beliefs and traditions of the indigenous peoples of Ecuador, the constitution declares that nature “has the right to exist, persist, maintain and regenerate its vital cycles, structure, functions and its processes in evolution. This right, the constitution states, “is independent of the obligation on natural and juridical persons or the State to indemnify the people that depend on the natural systems.” The new constitution redefines people’s relationship with nature by asserting that nature is not just an object to be appropriated and exploited by people, but is rather a rights-bearing entity that should be treated with parity under the law. Ecuador’s leadership on this issue may have a global domino effect. Mari Margil, Associate Director of the Environmental Legal Defense Fund says that her organization is busy fielding calls from interested countries, such as Nepal, which is currently writing its first constitution. “I expect them [the multinational extractive industries] to fight it,” says Margil. “Their bread and butter is based on being able to treat countries and ecosystems like cheap hotels.” Yet even as Ecuadoran President Correa embraces the extractive economic model of development, if history is any indicator Ecuadorians will successfully fight for the Rights of Nature, with or without their president.
“Ecuadorian Assembly Approves Constitutional Rights for Nature” Climate and Capitalism, July 10, 2008 http://climateandcapitalism.com/?p=479
“Ecuador’s Constitution Gives Rights to Nature” Cyril Mychalejko, Upside Down World, September 25, 2008 http://upsidedownworld.org/main/content/view/1494/1/
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