Looking for novel ideas for protecting the environment? Bolivia is way out ahead of any other nation. In January it enacted the Law of the Rights of Mother Earth, to recognize natural resources as “blessings” and enumerate eleven specific rights of nature. As reported by The Guardian (UK), these rights 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.”
The law declares, “She [Mother Earth] is sacred, fertile and the source of life that feeds and care 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.” Mother Earth is also granted the right “to not be affected by mega-infrastructure and development projects that affect the balance of ecosystems and the local inhabitant communities.”
While such legal language is often seen as symbolic and aspirational, the Bolivian legislature has given some substance to its enactment. The new law establishes a Ministry of Mother Earth and an ombudsman position to advocate the rights of Mother Earth in legal proceedings. Perhaps as significant, communities were granted new legal powers to monitor and control polluting industries.