Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Ecuador Grants Rights to Nature

posted by Alex Witze on behalf of Amber Dance
The Great Beyond blog of the Nature Publishing Group
September 29, 2008

They didn’t cast a single vote, but Ecuador’s monkeys, tortoises and orchids just acquired constitutional rights, along with the rest of the nation’s nature.

On Sunday, Ecuador’s human citizens voted their approval of a new constitution; reports vary but approximately two-thirds of people voted yes (New York Times). The document included language making Ecuador the first nation to legislate rights for nature:

“Nature or Pachamama [the Andean earth goddess], where life is reproduced and exists, has the right to exist, persist, maintain and regenerate its vital cycles, structure, functions and its processes in evolution. Every person, people, community or nationality, will be able to demand the recognition of rights for nature before the public bodies.”

The section was written in cooperation with the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, based in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, which has helped individual communities legislate similar rights for nature. In June, Spain’s legislature supported rights for great apes, but the Ecuador constitution appears to go much further.

"With this vote, the people of Ecuador are leading the way for countries around the world to fundamentally change how we protect nature," Mari Margil, associate director of the Fund, said in a press release. Actually, probably a lot of them were more concerned about the parts of the constitution that are meant to help the poor, by providing free education, giving homemakers social security, and providing building materials for first-time homeowners (Guardian). The nature section has been locally "derided," according to Dot Earth. Despite the popular support, the Latin Business Chronicle suggests the new constitution will just increase president Rafael Correa’s control and increase problems for foreign investors.

Ecuador’s natural bounty includes Amazon jungle with more than 300 tree species per hectare, parrots, jaguars and butterflies. The mountain cloud forest hosts orchids, hummingbirds, toucans and spectacled bears. The nation also includes the Galapagos islands, host to unique tortoises, iguanas, and birds.

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