Bolivia leads the charge to give the environment its due respect
Posted 16 June 2011, by Christine G.K. LaPado, Chico News & Review, newsreview.com
The Law of Pachamama
The South American country of Bolivia—led by indigenous president Evo Morales (pictured), who in January made the U.K. Observer’s top-20 list of people “who will be setting the environmental agenda in the coming year”—looks set to pass a groundbreaking piece of legislation called “la Ley de Derechos de la Madre Tierra.” The Law of the Rights of Mother Earth will grant equal rights to Pachamama—“Mother World”—the revered goddess of fertility in Incan mythology, and by extension the natural world that we live in.
“The law redefines natural resources as blessings and confers the same rights to nature as to human beings,” wrote Abie Morales late last month in the Tucson Citizen, “including 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 to not be polluted, and the right to not have cellular structure modified or genetically altered.
“Perhaps the most controversial point,” continued Morales, “is the right ‘to not be affected by mega-infrastructure and development projects that affect the balance of ecosystems and the local inhabitant communities.’”
Bolivia’s move to write into law the protection of its natural resources from such ravages as corporate pillaging and profit-making follows the Andean city of Cochabamba’s massive protest in the year 2000—the “Cochabamba Water War”—when its poverty-stricken citizens took to the streets in opposition to water-rate hikes imposed by a private, multinational consortium (led by the American Bechtel Corp.) that had taken control of the town’s water system via a Bolivian-government-made deal for a $138-million loan from the International Monetary Fund. (The protesters’ actions ended up driving Bechtel and its cohorts out of the water business in Bolivia.)
The election of Evo Morales in 2005 as Bolivia’s first indigenous president was another step in the country’s increasing focus on self-determination and respect for the poor and the environment.
“President Evo Morales says the planet can live without humans but humans can not live without the planet, and reminds the world today that the rights of nature should be equal to those we, ourselves, enjoy,” Bolivian Minister of the Presidency Oscar Coca was quoted as saying in the May issue of the Free Venice Beachhead (http://freevenicebeachhead.wordpress.com/).