By Kate Wilson, The New York Times
A few months after Lloyd reported on the Swiss government’s conclusion that plants have rights, the Ecuadorian population went one step further and voted to change their constitution to proclaim that nature has “the right to the maintenance and regeneration of its vital cycles, structure, functions and evolutionary processes.”
The New York Times felt that the Ecuadorian concept of plants’ rights was significant enough to include it in their 8th Annual Year in Ideas list. Enquire further to find out what this could mean for conservation efforts in the South American nation.
The precise scope of nature’s rights is unclear. Referring to Pachamama, an indigenous deity whose name roughly translates as “Mother Universe,” the text puts less emphasis on defending specific species than on the rights of ecosystems writ large. And it is uncertain how, exactly, a country as poor as Ecuador can protect those rights — though observers expect to see a raft of new lawsuits against oil and gas companies.
As Risen notes, it remains to be seen if ecosystems will become protected because of the constitutional changes, but what is clear is that the local population thinks it’s worth a try. Almost 70% of Ecuadorians voted in favor of protecting nature in this method.
Ecuador drafted the changes with the help of the U.S. based Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund. Along with it’s work in Ecuador, the Fund “has assisted more than a dozen local municipalities with drafting and adopting local laws recognizing Rights of Nature.” The basis of these rights “change the status of ecosystems from being regarded as property under the law to being recognized as rights-bearing entities.”
With a world economy, partially-based on the sanctity of property rights, in a nosedive it’s possible that radical ideas like this will take hold. We’ll watch with cautious optimism that other nations will follow the Ecuadorian lead to respect and protect our interconnected planet.
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Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 1.10.4
During the reign of Mahārāja Yudhisthira, the clouds showered all the water that people needed, and the earth produced all the necessities of man in profusion. Due to its fatty milk bag and cheerful attitude, the cow used to moisten the grazing ground with milk.
The basic principle of economic development is centered on land and cows. The necessities of human society are food grains, fruits, milk, minerals, clothing, wood, etc. One requires all these items to fulfill the material needs of the body. Certainly one does not require flesh and fish or iron tools and machinery. During the regime of Mahārāja Yudhisthira, all over the world there were regulated rainfalls. Rainfalls are not in the control of the human being. The heavenly King Indradeva is the controller of rains, and he is the servant of the Lord. When the Lord is obeyed by the king and the people under the king’s administration, there are regulated rains from the horizon, and these rains are the causes of all varieties of production on the land. Not only do regulated rains help ample production of grains and fruits, but when they combine with astronomical influences there is ample production of valuable stones and pearls. Grains and vegetables can sumptuously feed a man and animals, and a fatty cow delivers enough milk to supply a man sumptuously with vigor and vitality. If there is enough milk, enough grains, enough fruit, enough cotton, enough silk and enough jewels, then why do the people need cinemas, houses of prostitution, slaughterhouses, etc.? What is the need of an artificial luxurious life of cinema, cars, radio, flesh and hotels? Has this civilization produced anything but quarreling individually and nationally? Has this civilization enhanced the cause of equality and fraternity by sending thousands of men into a hellish factory and the war fields at the whims of a particular man?
It is said here that the cows used to moisten the pasturing land with milk because their milk bags were fatty and the animals were joyful. Do they not require, therefore, proper protection for a joyful life by being fed with a sufficient quantity of grass in the field? Why should men kill cows for their selfish purposes? Why should man not be satisfied with grains, fruits and milk, which, combined together, can produce hundreds and thousands of palatable dishes. Why are there slaughterhouses all over the world to kill innocent animals? Mahārāja Parīksit, grandson of Mahārāja Yudhisthira, while touring his vast kingdom, saw a black man attempting to kill a cow. The King at once arrested the butcher and chastised him sufficiently. Should not a king or executive head protect the lives of the poor animals who are unable to defend themselves? Is this humanity? Are not the animals of a country citizens also? Then why are they allowed to be butchered in organized slaughterhouses? Are these the signs of equality, fraternity and nonviolence?
Therefore, in contrast with the modern, advanced, civilized form of government, an autocracy like Mahārāja Yudhisthira’s is by far superior to a so-called democracy in which animals are killed and a man less than an animal is allowed to cast votes for another less-than-animal man.
We are all creatures of material nature. In the Bhagavad-gītā it is said that the Lord Himself is the seed-giving father and material nature is the mother of all living beings in all shapes. Thus mother material nature has enough foodstuff both for animals and for men, by the grace of the Father Almighty, Śrī Krsna. The human being is the elder brother of all other living beings. He is endowed with intelligence more powerful than animals for realizing the course of nature and the indications of the Almighty Father. Human civilizations should depend on the production of material nature without artificially attempting economic development to turn the world into a chaos of artificial greed and power only for the purpose of artificial luxuries and sense gratification. This is but the life of dogs and hogs.
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The forests of India are a critical resource for the subsistence of rural peoples throughout the country, but especially in hill and mountain areas, both because of their direct provision of food, fuel and fodder and because of their role in stabilising soil and water resources. As these forests have been increasingly felled for commerce and industry, Indian villagers have sought to protect their livelihoods through the Gandhian method of satyagraha non-violent resistence. In the 1970s and 1980s this resistance to the destruction of forests spread throughout India and became organised and known as the Chipko Movement.
The first Chipko action took place spontaneously in April 1973 and over the next five years spread to many districts of the Himalaya in Uttar Pradesh. The name of the movement comes from a word meaning ‘embrace’: the villagers hug the trees, saving them by interposing their bodies between them and the contractors’ axes. The Chipko protests in Uttar Pradesh achieved a major victory in 1980 with a 15-year ban on green felling in the Himalayan forests of that state by order of India’s then Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi. Since then the movement has spread to Himachal Pradesh in the North, Kamataka in the South, Rajasthan in the West, Bihar in the East and to the Vindhyas in Central India. In addition to the 15-year ban in Uttar Pradesh, the movement has stopped clear felling in the Western Ghats and the Vindhyas and generated pressure for a natural resource policy which is more sensitive to people’s needs and ecological requirements. (more…)
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By Brigid Schulte, Washington Post
The idea seemed too crazy to Rod Simmons, a measured, careful field botanist. Naturalists in Arlington County couldn’t find any acorns. None. No hickory nuts, either. Then he went out to look for himself. He came up with nothing. Nothing crunched underfoot. Nothing hit him on the head.
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Article from the Working Villages International website.
There are few places on Earth like the Ruzizi Valley. The average temperature remains around 80 degrees Fahrenheit (27 C) year round. There is plentiful water, rich volcanic soil and four growing seasons. Twenty years ago the valley was covered with fertile farms and pastures and healthy herds of cows. Ten years of brutal war destroyed all this.
Today, the people of the Ruzizi Valley, in partnership with Working Villages International (WVI) have begun implementing an innovative yet practical economic model of sustainable village development just outside the town of Luvungi. WVI is building from scratch a model village which will have full employment, and private ownership of small farms and businesses. It is a village designed for maximum harmony with the environment. This project is a practical demonstration that it’s possible to profoundly increase living standards in rural Africa by relying on local resources and skills, enhanced by modern appropriate technology. (more…)