Ecuadorian Assembly Approves Constitutional Rights for Nature

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On July 7, the 130-member Ecuador Constitutional Assembly, elected countrywide to rewrite the country’s Constitution, voted to approve articles that recognize rights for nature and ecosystems.

UPDATE: On September 28, 2008, the people of Ecuador voted by an overwhelming majority (64%) to approve the new constitution.

“If adopted in the final constitution by the people, Ecuador would become the first country in the world to codify a new system of environmental protection based on rights,” says Thomas Linzey, Executive Director of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund.

The following clauses will be included in the constitution that will be submitted to a countrywide vote, to be held 45 days after Assembly finishes its work later this month.

Chapter: Rights for Nature

Art. 1. Nature or Pachamama, 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 recognitions of rights for nature before the public organisms. The application and interpretation of these rights will follow the related principles established in the Constitution.

Art. 2. Nature has the right to an integral restoration. This integral restoration is independent of the obligation on natural and juridical persons or the State to indemnify the people and the collectives that depend on the natural systems.

In the cases of severe or permanent environmental impact, including the ones caused by the exploitation on non renewable natural resources, the State will establish the most efficient mechanisms for the restoration, and will adopt the adequate measures to eliminate or mitigate the harmful environmental consequences.

Art. 3. The State will motivate natural and juridical persons as well as collectives to protect nature; it will promote respect towards all the elements that form an ecosystem.

Art. 4. The State will apply precaution and restriction measures in all the activities that can lead to the extinction of species, the destruction of the ecosystems or the permanent alteration of the natural cycles.

The introduction of organisms and organic and inorganic material that can alter in a definitive way the national genetic patrimony is prohibited.

Art. 5. The persons, people, communities and nationalities will have the right to benefit from the environment and form natural wealth that will allow wellbeing.

The environmental services are cannot be appropriated; its production, provision, use and exploitation, will be regulated by the State.

“Public organisms” in Article 1 means the courts and government agencies, i.e., the people of Ecuador would be able to take action to enforce nature rights if the government did not do so.

19 Responses

  1. bill mckee January 2, 2011 at 11:36 pm |

    This is an incredible step forward for any country but it has received scant recognition in any of the major news media. In Ecuador, Mari Margil, Associated Director of Environmental Legal Defense Fund has indicated “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. Multinational corporations are dependent on ravaging the planet in order to increase their bottom line.”

    The new Mining Law, introduced by Ecuador’s own President Rafael Correa and backed by Canadian companies, which hold the majority of mining concessions in Ecuador, is a testament to Margil’s forecast. The Mining Law would allow for large-scale, open pit metal mining in pristine Andean highlands and Amazon rainforest.

    It will be interestng to see how this plays out – I hope the environmentalists and the people of Ecuador win.

  2. nicole June 24, 2010 at 12:19 pm |

    also, just as an added note, i view this more as a thumbs up to humanity than to nature. if you think about it nature will always be here. humans will not. our continued abuse of our land will only shorten our lifespan on earth when we cant survive global warmings effects. ultimately nature will still exist and right itself, no matter how long it takes, and maybe even revert back to its ecological glory. but if we continue treating earth badly whos to say we will come back in the evolutionary process? were the ones who suffer from our mistakes, and this constitution is a glimmer of hope that we can fix our mistakes.

  3. nicole June 24, 2010 at 12:11 pm |

    genius. the way our environments heading right now i doubt this would change anything, especially since it seems quite vague in legal repacutions, but its nice to know theyre still some component countries out there who are indeed trying to create a better future. thank you, ecuador. now if only the US can get off its high horse and follow in suit.

  4. Justin Sloane April 6, 2010 at 4:47 pm |

    Ecuador’s establishment of constitutional rights for nature is an amazing social evolution and an extraordinary advancement in humanity’s relationship with the natural world. History will show it to be a defining moment in a sea change of human consciousness.

  5. corneilius September 20, 2009 at 12:41 pm |

    The eye is an natural expectation of light, the ear of soundwaves … and their expectations have a bandwidth, beyond which they either do not function or are damaged…

    So too with human beings, non-human beings, rivers, trees, lakes : nature.

    Natures expectations are immutable, unchanging though adaptive, responsive.

    That we have gone so far from natural expectations, that we have ventured so deeply into abuse as a way of life (see comments above and their tone!) that we have to establish ‘rights’ or ‘privileges’ at all is an indication of how desperate the situation is.

    I support the Equadorians in this move. I will work to ensure further moves in this direction.

    However, I am not naive. I KNOW that those in power and those who have internalised the values of those in Power will do all they can to usurp any change to the status quo, and percieved threat to their Power and i-pods.

    I also know that over time, this culture of dominance and abuse will fail, and nature will not.

    The question for us all is not whether nature will survive. It is are we willing to face the truth of our cultures dominationary psychology and do what it takes to flow towards natural expectations, to live as people who enhance the habitat for all life (as all other living beings do).

    If not, then so be it. Those who will feel the worst of it will be those most addicted to and those who identify the most with Industrial Civilisation.

  6. Trent Nicolajsen August 19, 2009 at 12:27 am |

    When I tell North Americans or people from commonwealth like Australian’s that I have planted trees for over 20 years. They really do not care nor are interested in what I have experienced first hand working with the environment.
    Canada awards people that destroy the environment or members of the Canadian military’s life is superior to people in other cultures. As a farmer or tree planter or artist, I am a third class citizen of Canada and to the Queen. I have helped to preserve nature for many years in Canada and Ecuador. Yes I am proud of myself and that is all I need.
    However my brothers and sisters in Ecuador respect me as a equal human being, the poor of ecuador will share there last egg with me. and are willing to share ideas. There I have dignity and respect because Ecuadorians know that it is not economical, technological or political power that keeps us alive it is the earth.
    When a country like Ecuador can give rights to nature and the many equalities in its constitution. I know now that Ecuador will be the place that we save the earth and I want to be there!

  7. david July 31, 2009 at 3:52 pm |

    Ecuador thanks for showing the way.

    lets hope that my country, South Africa, can institute similar legislative protection for nature and animals.

    I used to think that we, South Africa had the most enlightened Constitution, but now its clear that its limited by its humanist slant.

    Hopefully humans will leran from this example and cease to see our planetary next door neighbours as enemies to be defeated.

    Today Bolivia banned all use of animals in circuses , as cruel (31 July 2009)

  8. Ajay Pal Singh October 19, 2008 at 11:05 pm |

    I am working on this topic “DEMOCRATIC RIGHTS FOR NATURE”from 2000 in a different way but i did not publish the same .My approach is bit different .No doubt the lead which is taken by the Equadore Government will be a mile stone in this field .The abstract of the idea is given below

    DEMOCRATIC RIGHTS FOR NATURE

    Majorities of the countries in the world are ruled by the democratic system of governments. In spite of laws and regulations, the wild life in most of countries is progressively depleting. The problem is critical in the developing and more populous countries. For the long-term survival of wild animals on the earth, more attention and actions are required.

    The new concept which can give a new dimension in this direction is “ DEMOCRATIC RIGHTS FOR NATURE or DEMOCRACY FOR NATURE”. This concept is based on the fact that wild animals are citizens of a country in which they live but are not VOTERS, as human beings. If wildlife could be linked to the process of selection of politicians from that area, then politicians would start paying more attention as they would be also an important constituents in the process of election of politicians from that area.

    There could be numerous ways of implementing this idea. I am narrating a few. (a) In USA there are two distantly located states say Alaska and New York. The Alaska state is very rich in flora and fauna compared to the New York state whereas the New York state have more human population than Alaska. Consequently New York has more number of Electoral College than Alaska. If number of electoral seats in Alaska is increased on the basis of having more wild life than New York then the increased number of politicians from Alaska will certainly keep close watch on the growth of the faunal population of the area. In this way their political fortune will depend upon the existence of wild life in the state. (b) The name of Gir parliament constituency from Gujrat State, in India could be changed/renamed to Lion-Parliament Constituency, as the Gir forest in the Gujrat State is only abode of the Wild Asiatic LIONS in the World. So the politician elected from this area will remember to represent the lion population of the area. (c) More liberal economical help should be provided to the countries having rich value of flora and fauna by the global financial institutions.

    This new theme in the environmental management will compel the nature lovers to create more innovative ideas, which will be more effective in handling the current crises. For implementing this concept, big budgets are not required. The basic theme is to make politicians more aware and responsive.
    A.P.Singh
    Executive Engineer
    Merrut Division Ganga canal
    U.P.State Irrigation Department
    Merrut
    India

  9. ceti September 26, 2008 at 1:12 am |

    Ah, it looks like the wingnut troglodyte trolls have found this blog!

  10. Gaius September 24, 2008 at 2:44 pm |

    Yes, they really are that whacky. They can afford to be, owing to the wealth and true liberality and enlightenment of the country they so fashionably deprecate. Wouldn’t it be fun, or funny, to see them set down in the midst of mother nature as she really is, without their cellphones, iPods, email, bottled water, etc. etc. etc.; they wouldn’t be petitioning trees for feedback on human rights then, no; they’d be whining and blubbering for the comforts and security of good old technological, market-driven western civilization.

  11. Jason September 24, 2008 at 2:01 pm |

    we have been given authority over the earth by God, according to the Bible. Which means, yes, taking care of it but not granting rights to it.

  12. Kevin September 24, 2008 at 1:43 pm |

    You have got to be kidding! Are you people really this wacky? Do you ever understand the consquences of what you do? Typical of socialists. Russia learned the hard way, Cuba still hasn’t learned, and neither has China or North Korea.

  13. Ann Coffey September 9, 2008 at 11:34 am |

    Go for it, Ecuador! Lead the world to a more enlightened future. We sure need a leader in this regard. Thank you!

  14. Jonathan von Ranson August 26, 2008 at 6:14 pm |

    This enlightened act by a national legislature seems to me to demonstrate the benefits of small scale in a country’s size. Unlike a majority of us in the USA, Ecuadorans don’t secretly believe they’re bigger than God (or Nature), and understand the absolute necessity of protecting Nature, i.e., protect robust living diversity to protect continued human life on Earth.

    (…Although ideally, we humans would ask Earth what rights WE have, wouldn’t we? — rather than us granting them to Earth! I think this moves us toward that deeper understanding, and that’s why I’m grateful.)

  15. donna August 12, 2008 at 6:02 pm |

    great!!!!!!!! at least equador knows what doing on!!!!!!!!!!

  16. Mary Lehmann August 5, 2008 at 12:45 pm |

    I can’t wait to help spread this good news, Ecuador’s perceptive step to guarantee the rights of eosystems to exist could be a much needed model for other countries.

    One question: In order to prevent added stress on the environment of an increase in numbers of people, would you rule out importing and exporting food, that is, the large plantations of cash crops or their crop yield?

  17. Dolores de la Torre August 2, 2008 at 11:19 pm |

    Apparently we the people of the world are waking up, and this is most evident in South America, thank you for protecting the indigenous people, nature, the enviroment and life itself. Thank you for having the courage to stand up to bullies, which will encourage the rest of the world by your wonderful new constitution draft.

  18. Jennifer July 23, 2008 at 9:02 pm |

    This is awesome. About time someone got that idea. Too bad it’ll be a hundred years or more before the rest of the world follows suit.

  19. hoop July 20, 2008 at 12:37 pm |

    Sweet.

Comments are closed.