Diritti della Natura Italia – Rights of Nature in Italy

Submitted by Davide Sapienza, Diritti della Natura Italia

Diritti della Natura Italia - Rights of Nature banner

On our newly launched website we introduce ourselves with the statement “we feel part of The Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature”. In the next line we declare, “we underwrite the Universal Declaration for the rights of Mother Earth”.

This, because in the first line of the written body you see a date: March 30, 2012. This day, a Friday, it is not just another date. Yes, there was already a “first” in 2011 when I was invited, as a writer, to conduct a conference at the Bergamo Scienza festival at my own choice. It was 6 October 2011 and I called it “Forests: The Future of Nature”, inspired both to the famous Orion Magazine book of 2007 and an essay I wrote in 2008 and published in a couple of books (including my own literary manifesto of 2004, “I Diari di Rubha Hunish” in the new 2011 edition). But that “first” was a stage in the long walk of five years, mostly alone, that helped me to focus and elaborate the whole thing.

In the last couple of years I realized a friend like Paolo Locatelli, formerly provincial head of Legambiente Bergamo for 10 years, could be the one who could go “the other way”, in regard to the “environmental groups” that to me seemed not to comprehend fully the real paradigm shift that we needed and that we were proposing. Paolo got the “spirit” before he got the “tools”. It had happened to me, as well. Of course: this is all new to our society, but we both had the feeling that something was missing and that to turn in the other direction, we had to go back to the fundamental truths of Indigenous peoples.

In the smalltown of Alzano Lombardo, just on the outskirts of Bergamo, I had the chance to set up a major event and invite Mari Margil. Little I knew that her “partner” was none other than Thomas Linzey. I found out when they got to Bergamo’s train station who the “partner” was. By then, also our lawyer Francesca Mancini was in the party. She got in touch with me from Australia, a week before the October 2011 conference: she was exactly attending conferences with people such as Cormac Cullinan and Alessandro Pellizon to discover more about “rights of nature”. Being Italian, she wondered if someone had worked on the issue. She found me. I had written something in our media – who mostly turned down proposals of stories – and found many many obstacles in the major media I wrote for between 2005 and 2009. Of course. That was their teaching: still, this is lingering in some of the less sleepy ones who are in the media and it eventually become “news”. I know that for sure. Don’t ask me “evidence”. I am Tao. I Live. I do not measure. And then, in December 2011, one of the three founding members of small company dedicated to renewable energies, INNTEA (, from the same Mountain area where I live since 1990, called me and said: “we want to work with ethics. We work with biomasess and small hydro plants, and we need to know we are doing the right things. Because we work with the Sun (solar energy), we want to know that if we cut trees or work in a creek, we are doing something sustainable, something we can account for with our children”. They hired me to “think” and “imagine” for them. When I said “Rights of Nature”, they said: we want this. We want to make a conference. We have a budget for this: we have a budget for a new culture to be nurtured. I also want to do something I can account for my little one of 3 years old. When he wakes up, and sees our beautiful Presolana range from the kitchen balcony, he says to me “daddy write the book of mother Earth”. So, I have to be consistent.

Therefore I made up my mind: to hell with the media, enslaved by their owners (corporations and big publishing groups) and their fake interest in the “environment”. The first thing I did for INNTEA was to remove the word “ambiente”, “environment” from their website and ads. Let us call it for what it is: Mother Earth, Madre Terra. Nature. Natural resources. LIFE. COMMUNITY OF BEINGS. The second thing I did, was to write to Mari Margil, to me, the lighthouse in the distance all along these last five years. But more was to come. Mari said yes, Francesca said yes, we established March 30 as The Day.

In that same December 2011 something else happened. I found a sensitive publisher to translate Cormac Cullinan’s WILD LAW. The book was suggested to me by Mari Margil (of course!). Mari, is the first person of the Global Alliance I got in contact with in September 2008, while ready to fly to Canada to write about the problems with forests. Ecuador was ready to vote the revolution of Law, we started to correspond. During that summer I had tried to explain what I then knew about rights of nature to some big heads of Legambiente.  It was useless. Maybe I was not that good at explaining but they said the usual “but with our laws this is impossible”. Of course! They had the answer inbuilt in their denial!

But here I have to say something about the very first human being that started to make me focus both as an Author and and as a person on what I already felt so strongly (even through my work for poets like Cheyenne Lance Henson and Sioux-Santee John Trudell in the early ’90s) was Barry Lopez. A friend, a maestro, the greatest living writer. All his Work is “rights of nature” turned into poetic truths. “Of Wolves and Men” is IT and since then I was “in”.

But this is now. March 30, 2012.

For this conference I invited Mari Margil and Francesca Mancini. The idea was to explain the very basic and simple truth about rights of Nature. Over 120 people attended that afternoon and Mari, Thomas and Francesca were hosted by me translating what Mari and Thomas were explaining and linking that to the speech Francesca had so thoughtfully and carefully set up, a run through of our Italian Constitution history since 1947 and why we do not even consider “Nature” in our foundation as post-WWII nation. This is why our press office for INNTEA, e.20, had the great idea of writing a letter to our President that Francesca had written out so well.

The conference was really something. I even saw a few representatives of “environmental groups”. Not one from WWF or Legambiente. They are too”big” and they work with the same paradigm as the politicians they ostensibly oppose. I had the same feeling when traveling across the Arctic and writing about Seal Hunt in Newfoundland and other “hot issues”: I had the feeling that for them (at the headquarters level) it was not about the rights of nature, but the rights of human beings to decide a new hierarchy in the Natural world. This, I said on the March 30th conference. And this I said on the October 2011 conference. In that first public appearance in Italy of “rights of Nature”, I remember that I asked to distribute photocopies of the Universal Declaration to the People. I also remember very well how people reacted in seeing that paper: “what? We already have a document? Great!”. It was a turning point. Because People just need tools to act with, People do not need more “politics” from our actions. They expect “actions”, like the Global Alliance is doing. In the same week of our Rights of Nature conference a wonderful Junghian synchronicity made it possible that, in Bergamo, Vandana Shiva was meeting people at a conference and in a local school, here in the mountains, 2 miles away from my home. Amazing? Amazing. But not really. Just right.

At the conference the emotional swell of the People, really urged me to announce, “today we declare the birth of Diritti della Natura Italia”. It was not planned. It just so was. It had to be. In two weeks, we have set up a website, we are meeting other associations and getting in touch with “situations” which we hope can turn into something important, because we need a first “case” in Italy to make it clear that we are NOT an environmental association. A friend has started work to put “rights of Nature” at work in the Dolomites, the world famous Italian mountain range that was declared World Heritage a couple of years ago. We want to go beyond that. Our friend is working on it and on August 20th, in Corvara (Bolzano), in the Badia Valley we will make a conference to present Cormac Cullinan’s book, the “manual” to our work. The book will be launched on May 1st in Bergamo at the Bookshops Fair, and I am very proud I was able to translate and edit the book for the Italian version so quickly. When I spoke to Cormac he was quite stunned for how quickly we did the job. It was necessary, though, because to me it was all intertwined: the conference in October 2011, the work for the conference in Alzano Lombardo and the future.

We are a group that is a part of a network, an “open source” to be enriched by outside ideas and actions, and the other way around. I am NOT an “environmentalist”. I am a male, from the Human Species. I am part of the Earth. I am writer and I am what I write. Because what I write is the way I convey what my Community, the Earth, is telling me to do. In Alzano Lombardo Mari and Thomas really explained “what is Rights of Nature” and showed the way to go, in practical terms. Francesca Mancini and Paolo Locatelli are the ones, for the practical way to go. I spread the word: I am good at what I am good, and that is what I am doing. I work on the subtle, spiritual, intimate part of this. I work for the Poetic Justice, like my friend John Trudell calls his strong tie to Mother Earth: and it so happens, this is what rights of nature is also part of.

Davide Sapienza, father of Leonardo, husband of Cristina.