In 2009, the UN declared April 22nd "International Mother Earth Day," turning what had been a US event into an global cause, drawing attention to the need to unite across borders to confront global environmental challenges. An initiative of Bolivia's Indigenous president, Evo Morales, International Mother Earth day represents a victory for green thinking and popular struggle. It is currently celebrated by 50 UN members.
April 22nd, 2013 is the 4th International Mother Earth Day
People's Movements Give "Earth Day" a New Name and Transformative Potential Jackie Smith / Common Dreams
Few Americans are aware that in 2009, the United Nations declared April 22nd "International Mother Earth Day." In doing so, it made what had been a US event an international one, drawing attention to the need for people to unite across national borders to confront global environmental challenges.
The UN Resolution establishing International Mother Earth Day, which was endorsed by over 50 member states, was an initiative of the Plurinational state of Bolivia and Indigenous president, Evo Morales. Morales emerged from the ranks of labor and indigenous human rights activists, making recognition of International Mother Earth day a victory for long-term popular struggle. But as with most movement accomplishments, we must continue to struggle to tell this story and realize its transformative potential.
Bolivia was the second country (following Ecuador) to recognize the rights of Mother Earth in its constitution. But clearly, national laws aren't enough, and transnational social movement networks -- most notably those shaped by Indigenous people's movements such as the World Social Forum -- have begun coalescing around the demand for a Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth.
Bolivia further advanced global movement building by hosting the World People's Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth in 2010, responding to the persistent failures of inter-governmental climate talks.
The Conference drew more than 30,000 activists and government representatives and called for a Global People's Movement for Mother Earth, "which should be based on the principles of complementarity and respect for the diversity of origin and visions among its members, constituting a broad and democratic space for coordination and joint worldwide actions."
The People's Agreement of the PWCCC calls for a Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth. Social movements have continued to advocate for this at the World Social Forums and at International Climate Negotiations. In doing so, they are building an increasingly potent challenge to governments' monopolies in international climate negotiations, and they are questioning dominant discourses that have inhibited any serious discussion of the links between global capitalism and the climate.
Recognition of rights of Mother Earth makes explicit the idea that humans are inextricably connected to all living species and the planet we inhabit. It would protect Mother Earth's ability to "regenerate its bio-capacity and to continue its vital cycles and processes free from human disruptions."
When I tell friends and colleagues about the correct name for April 22nd, they ask, ‘Why haven't I heard of this?' Yet, one doesn't have to look far to find the answer. The proposed text for the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth points out that "the capitalist system and all forms of depredation, exploitation, abuse and contamination have caused great destruction, degradation and disruption of Mother Earth, putting life as we know it today at risk through phenomena such as climate change."
By renaming Earth Day, Bolivia and its movement allies have challenged the core ideology that sustains the global capitalist order: namely, the idea that we can organize our economies around the goal of perpetual growth and profit accumulation. It is now up to us to use this opening our brothers and sisters from the global South have made and help tell this story of how people's movements are leading us towards real solutions to our increasingly urgent global ecological crisis.
So tell all your friends, colleagues, neighbors and others you encounter that we're reclaiming April 22nd for Pachamama. And help them learn about the global campaigns to transform the structures that perpetuate the abuse and destruction of our Mother.
Today, Nature is treated as property under current law. Nature has no standing and therefore, cannot be represented directly in a court of law.
Our call is for governments, corporations and civil society to value Nature as a living being that has rights, in all its life forms, with the right to exist, persist, maintain and regenerate its vital cycles rather than being seen as property, a resource to be consumed.
We are all part of Mother Earth, an indivisible, living community of interrelated forms....
(April 18, 2011) -- United Nations diplomats on Wednesday will set aside pressing issues of international peace and security to devote an entire day debating the rights of "Mother Earth."
A bloc of mostly socialist governments lead by Bolivia have put the issue on the General Assembly agenda to discuss the creation of a UN treaty that would grant the same rights found in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to Mother Nature.
Treaty supporters want the establishment of legal systems to maintain balance between human rights and what they perceive as the inalienable rights of other members of the Earth community -- plants, animals, and terrain.
Communities and environmental activists would be given more legal power to monitor and control industries and development to ensure harmony between humans and nature. Though the United States and other Western governments are supportive of sustainable development, some see the upcoming event, "Harmony with Nature," as political grandstanding -- an attempt to blame environmental degradation and climate change on capitalism.
"The concept ‘Mother Earth' is not universally accepted," said a spokesman from the British Mission to the UN about Bolivia's proposal. "In general, our view is that we should focus on tackling important sustainable development issues through existing channels and processes."
The General Assembly two years ago passed a Bolivia-led resolution proclaiming April 22 as "International Mother Earth Day." The measure was endorsed by all 192 member states. But Bolivian President Evo Morales envisioned much more, vowing in a speech to UN delegates that a global movement had begun to lay "out a Declaration on the Rights of Mother Earth."
Morales, who repeatedly says "the central enemy of Mother Earth is capitalism," called for creating a charter that defends the right to life for all living things. Morales, who was named World Hero of Mother Earth by the General Assembly, has since made great strides in his campaign.
In January, Bolivia became the world's first nation to grant the natural environment equal rights to humans. Bolivia's Law of Mother Earth is heavily influenced by the spiritual indigenous Andean world outlook that revolves around the earth deity Pachamama, roughly translated to Mother Earth.
The Bolivian law establishes 11 rights for nature that include: the right to life and to exist; the right to pure water and clean air; the right to not have cellular structure modified or genetically altered; the right to have nature's processes free from human alteration. The law also establishes a Ministry of Mother Earth to act as an ombudsman, which will ensure nature is "not being affected my mega-infrastructure and development projects that affect the balance of ecosystems and the local inhabitant communities."
Emboldened by this triumph, Morales' goal is to emulate his domestic achievement as a UN treaty. In a 2008 address to a UN forum on indigenous people, he said the first step in saving the Earth is to "eradicate capitalism" and to force wealthy industrialized countries to "pay their environmental debt." Morales presented 10 points, or Evo's Ten Commandments, as they are affectionately called by devotees, to save the planet.
Among them is a call to end the capitalist system, and a world without imperialism or colonialism. Respect for Mother Earth is Commandment 6. UN critics slammed the decision to devote an entire day debating Mother Earth legislation as not only a waste of time and resources, but a major blunder.
"The UN is a one-act show," said UN watchdog Anne Bayefsky, of Eye on the UN, in which "Western democracies are responsible for the world's ills and developing countries are perpetual victims."
Bayefsky said the General Assembly's focus on Mother Earth distracts from more pressing issues and problems at the UN
"The rights of inanimate objects violated by developed countries are considered a useful focal point this month," she said, adding that, "Syria is scheduled to be elected next month to the UN's top "human" rights body, and Iran is on the UN's top women's rights body." Syria is one of the sponsors of the "Mother Earth" treaty.
Bolivia's ambassador to the UN, Pablo Solon, who will represent Morales at the debate and ‘expert' panel discussions at UN headquarters, said, "Presently many environmentally harmful human activities are completely legal," including those that cause climate change.
"If legal systems recognized the rights of other-than-human beings," he says, such as mountains, rivers, forests and animals, "courts and tribunals could deal with the fundamental issues of environmental contamination."
It is not clear if Bolivia's new tough environmental laws will actually go as far as to protect life forms like insects, but the legislation does include all living creatures.
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