Linda Sheehan, Executive Director Earth Law Center spoke at the 3rd Interactive Dialogue of the United Nations General Assembly on Harmony with Nature on Earth Day April 22, 2013. Listen as Linda Sheehan speaks on creating Sustainable Human Communities, the necessary economic systems and the role of Rights of Nature.
“Recognition of the rights of nature is essential to help us build closer relationships with the environment and correct our upside-down ordering of Earth, humans and economic system. But we cannot complete this change in perspective
solely through rights of nature. We also must specifically reject the current neoliberal economic system and its false assumptions, and replace them with alternatives, such as those described by ecological economists. Roughly three dozen communities, large to tiny, across the United States have taken up this particular cause, with more joining in. Threatened by unwanted, destructive activities such as mining and hydrofracking, these communities have passed local laws that recognize the rights of local natural systems to exist, thrive and evolve. Significantly, these laws also reject the rights of corporations who would conduct these harmful activities, over the rights of local community members to live in harmony with each other and their environment. That is, these laws support a community’s right to nurture its home, rather than witness its destruction.”
Founding member of the Global Alliance and Executive Committee Cormac Cullinan has been awarded the prestigious Nick Steele Memorial Award for Environmentalist of the Year (2012) at the 24th annual SAB Environmental Awards in Johannesburg. As an environmental and green business attorney, author, speaker, and climate justice advocate, Cormac has been an influential leader in the global Rights of Nature movement. His book Wild Law. A manifesto for Earth Justice first published in 2002 presents the framework for transforming legal systems to align with the laws of Nature and recognize Rights of Nature. In 2010, President Evo Morales invited Cormac to be a lead author of the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth. Just in the last year, Cormac has been a keynote speaker for Rights of Nature events at the United Nations Conference on Climate Change COP17 in Durban, South Africa, the UN Rio+20 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, the WildLaw Conference 2012 in Brisbane, Australia, and the Environmental Law Conference in Oslo, Norway. Cormac also prepared a draft People’s Charter for Africa.
The following is a Press Release announcing Cormac’s prestigious award.
CORMAC CULLINAN NAMED 2012 SAB ENVIRONMENTALIST OF THE YEAR
Cormac Cullinan has been awarded the prestigious Nick Steele Memorial Award for Environmentalist of the Year (2012) at the 24th annual SAB Environmental Awards in Johannesburg. Cormac is an author and practising environmental and green business attorney based in Cape Town. He is a director of the leading South African environmental law firm; Cullinan & Associates Inc. and of the governance consultancy EnAct International, and is a research associate of the Department of Public Law at the University of Cape Town.
Cormac is an author and practising environmental and green business attorney based in Cape Town. He is a director of the leading South African environmental law firm; Cullinan & Associates Inc. and of the governance consultancy EnAct International, and is a research associate of the Department of Public Law at the University of Cape Town.
Cormac has practised, taught and written about environmental law and policy since 1992 and has worked on environmental issues in more than 20 countries. In 2008 he was listed among the world’s most extraordinary environmental champions in Planet Savers: 301 Extraordinary Environmentalists; which lists 301 people in history to be commended for their important role in saving and conserving the environment and promoting sustainable governance ranging from St Francis of Assisi to Al Gore.
Cormac’s ground-breaking book Wild Law. A manifesto for Earth Justice was published in 2002 by Siberink and has since been republished in the United Kingdom, the United States and Italy. Wild Law recognises that humans are an integral part of a living system (Earth) and advocates transforming legal systems to align them with the laws of Nature, including by recognising legally enforceable rights for Nature. These ideas have become increasingly influential globally with organisations dedicated to promoting wild law and Earth jurisprudence now well established in the United Kingdom, United States, Australia and Italy. Cormac is also a founder and executive committee member of the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature and led the drafting of the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth that was adopted on 22 April 2010 by a World People’s Conference of 35,000 people in Bolivia. He is frequently invited to address international audiences in many countries and has addressed the United Nations General Assembly in New York (April 2011), the C40 Cities meeting in Hong Kong, and most recently, the 2012 “Festival of Dangerous Ideas” at the Sydney Opera House.
Cullinan and Associates Inc is the only South African law firm to be independently certified as having offset its carbon emission. The firm actively promotes environmental protection by assisting companies to establish green businesses and to comply with environmental laws, and by taking important environmental cases. Recently the firm successfully represented the City of Cape Town in securing an important Constitutional Court judgement that confirms that mining activities may not commence without land use planning approvals (the Maccsand case). Currently the firm is representing the Treasure the Karoo Action Group (TKAG) opposing fracking in the Karoo, the Thyspunt Alliance opposing the construction of a nuclear power at near Jeffries Bay and the amaMpondo communities fighting to prevent the construction of the N2 Wild Coast Toll Road through their ancestral lands.
Over the past 15 years EnAct has played an important role in developing the legal and policy framework for environmental protection in South Africa and neighbouring countries. Cormac’s work has included leading the drafting of the National Environmental Management: Integrated Coastal Management Act, the Forests Protocol to the SADC Treaty and the Agreement between South Africa, Namibia and Angola that established the Benguela Current Commission to enable co-operative management of the Benguela Current Large Marine Ecosystem.
Cormac also prepared a draft People’s Charter for Africa that was taken around South Africa by the Climate Change Train prior to the COP17 climate change meeting in Durban. He is committed to supporting the emergence of an Earth Democracy movement in South Africa that will enable all South Africans who love Africa to work together to create ecologically sustainable and socially just communities.
Cormac Cullinan was born and grew up in Pietermaritzburg, educated at the University of KwaZulu Natal and at Kings College, London and now lives with his wife Mary Ann Cullinan in Kenilworth Cape Town. He has two sons, a step-son and two step-daughters.
The Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature is hoping that their cause will be taken up by Rio+20.
They are calling for global recognition and acceptance of Rights of Nature. They say an essential step for achieving this is to introduce a system of jurisprudence that sees and treats Nature as a fundamental, rights bearing entity and not as mere property to be exploited at will.
Dianne Penn who is at Rio+20 spoke with Cormac Cullinan and Osprey Orielle Lake about their hopes for the UN Convention on Sustainable Development.
Click to access UN Radio Interview - then click Listen
Blessing ceremony of the historical Kari Oca II Declaration, Kari-Oka Village, at Sacred Kari-Oka Púku, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 20 June 2012.
Click for IEN Delegation
Over five hundred Indigenous Peoples from Brazil and throughout the world gathered at Kari-Oca II, an encampment seated at the foot of a mountain near Rio Centro, to sign a declaration demanding respect for Indigenous Peoples’ role in maintaining a stable world environment, and condemning the dominant economic approach toward ecology, development, human rights and the rights of Mother Earth. Among the leadership at the Kari-Oca gathering were Tom Goldtooth and other IEN delegates.
We, the Indigenous Peoples of Mother Earth assembled at the site of Kari-Oka I, sacred Kari-Oka Púku, Rio de Janeiro to participate in the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development Rio+20, thank the Indigenous Peoples of Brazil for welcoming us to their territories. We reaffirm our responsibility to speak for the protection and enhancement of the well-being of Mother Earth, nature and future generations of our Indigenous Peoples and all humanity and life. We recognize the significance of this second convening of Indigenous Peoples of the world and reaffirm the historic 1992 meeting of the Kari-Oca I, where Indigenous Peoples issued The Kari-Oca Declaration and the Indigenous Peoples Earth Charter. The Kari-Oca conference, and the mobilization of Indigenous Peoples around the first UN Earth Summit, marked a big step forward for an international movement for Indigenous Peoples’ rights and the important role that Indigenous Peoples play in conservation and sustainable development. We also reaffirm the Manaus Declaration on the convening of Kari-Oca 2 as the international gathering of Indigenous Peoples for Rio+20.
The institutionalization of Colonialism
We see the goals of UNCSD Rio+20, the “Green Economy” and its premise that the world can only “save” nature by commodifying its life giving and life sustaining capacities as a continuation of the colonialism that Indigenous Peoples and our Mother Earth have faced and resisted for 520 years. The “Green Economy” promises to eradicate poverty but in fact will only favor and respond to multinational enterprises and capitalism. It is a continuation of a global economy based upon fossil fuels, the destruction of the environment by exploiting nature through extractive industries such as mining, oil exploration and production, intensive mono-culture agriculture, and other capitalist investments. All of these efforts are directed toward profit and the accumulation of capital by the few.
Since Rio 1992, we as Indigenous Peoples see that colonization has become the very basis of the globalization of trade and the dominant capitalist global economy. The exploitation and plunder of the world’s ecosystems and biodiversity, as well as the violations of the inherent rights of Indigenous Peoples that depend on them, have intensified. Our rights to self determination, to our own governance and own self-determined development, our inherent rights to our lands, territories and resources are increasingly and alarmingly under attack by the collaboration of governments and transnational corporations. Indigenous activists and leaders defending their territories continue to suffer repression, militarization, including assassination, imprisonment, harassment and vilification as “terrorists.” The violation of our collective rights faces the same impunity. Forced relocation or assimilation assault our future generations, cultures, languages, spiritual ways and relationship to the earth, economically and politically.
We, Indigenous Peoples from all regions of the world have defended our Mother Earth from the aggression of unsustainable development and the over exploitation of our natural resources by mining, logging, mega-dams, exploration and extraction of petroleum. Our forests suffer from the production of agro-fuels, bio-mass, plantations and other impositions of false solutions to climate change and unsustainable, damaging development.
The Green Economy is nothing more than capitalism of nature; a perverse attempt by corporations, extractive industries and governments to cash in on Creation by privatizing, commodifying, and selling off the Sacred and all forms of life and the sky, including the air we breathe, the water we drink and all the genes, plants, traditional seeds, trees, animals, fish, biological and cultural diversity, ecosystems and traditional knowledge that make life on Earth possible and enjoyable.
Gross violations of Indigenous Peoples’ rights to food sovereignty continue unabated thus resulting to food “insecurity”. Our own food production, the plants that we gather, the animals that we hunt, our fields and harvests, the water that we drink and water our fields, the fish that we catch from our rivers and streams, is diminishing at an alarming rate. Unsustainable development projects, such as mono-cultural chemically intensive soya plantations, extractive industries such as mining and other environmentally destructive projects and investments for profit are destroying our biodiversity, poisoning our water, our rivers, streams, and the earth and its ability to maintain life. This is further aggravated by Climate change and hydroelectric dams and other energy production that affect entire ecosystems and their ability to provide for life.
Food sovereignty is one fundamental expression of our collective right to self-determination and sustainable development. Food sovereignty and the right to food must be observed and respected; food must not be a commodity to be used, traded and speculated on for profit. It nourishes our identities, our cultures and languages, and our ability to survive as Indigenous Peoples.
Mother Earth is the source of life which needs to be protected, not a resource to be exploited and commodified as a ‘natural capital.’ We have our place and our responsibilities within Creation’s sacred order. We feel the sustaining joy as things occur in harmony with the Earth and with all life that it creates and sustains. We feel the pain of disharmony when we witness the dishonor of the natural order of Creation and the continued economic colonization and degradation of Mother Earth and all life upon her. Until Indigenous Peoples rights are observed and respected, sustainable development and the eradication of poverty will not be achieved.
This inseparable relationship between humans and the Earth, inherent to Indigenous, Peoples must be respected for the sake of our future generations and all of humanity. We urge all humanity to join with us in transforming the social structures, institutions and power relations that underpin our deprivation, oppression and exploitation. Imperialist globalization exploits all that sustains life and damages the Earth. We need to fundamentally reorient production and consumption based on human needs rather than for the boundless accumulation of profit for a few. Society must take collective control of productive resources to meet the needs of sustainable social development and avoid overproduction, over consumption and over exploitation of people and nature which are inevitable under the prevailing monopoly capitalist system. We must focus on sustainable communities based on indigenous knowledge, not on capitalist development.
We demand that the United Nations, governments and corporations abandon false solutions to climate change, like large hydroelectric dams, genetically modified organisms including GMO trees, plantations, agro-fuels, “clean” coal, nuclear power, natural gas, hydraulic fracturing, nanotechnology, synthetic biology, bio-energy, biomass, biochar, geo-engineering, carbon markets, Clean Development Mechanism and REDD+ that endanger the future and life as we know it. Instead of helping to reduce global warming, they poison and destroy the environment and let the climate crisis spiral exponentially, which may render the planet almost uninhabitable.
We cannot allow false solutions to destroy the Earth’s balance, assassinate the seasons, unleash severe weather havoc, privatize life and threaten the very survival of humanity. The Green Economy is a crime against humanity and the Earth. In order to achieve sustainable development, states must recognize the traditional systems of resource management of the Indigenous Peoples that have existed for the millennia, sustaining us even in the face of colonialism. Assuring Indigenous Peoples’ active participation in decision making processes affecting them, and their right of Free Prior and Informed Consent is fundamental. States should likewise provide support for Indigenous Peoples appropriate to their sustainability and self determined priorities without restrictions and constricting guidelines.
Indigenous youth and women’s active participation must also be given importance as they are among the most affected by the negative impacts brought by the commodification of nature. As inheritors of Mother Earth, the youth play a vital role in continuing defending what is left of their natural resources that were valiantly fought for by their ancestors. Their actions and decisions amidst the commercialization of their resources and culture will determine the future of their younger brothers and sisters and the generations to come.
We will continue to struggle against the construction of hydroelectric dams and all other forms of energy production that affect our waters, our fish, our biodiversity and ecosystems that contribute to our food sovereignty. We will work to preserve our territories from the poison of monoculture plantations, extractive industries and other environmentally destructive projects and continue our ways of life, preserving our cultures and identities. We will work to preserve our traditional plants and seeds, and maintain the balance between our needs and the needs of our Mother Earth and her life sustaining capacity. We will demonstrate to the world that it can and must be done. In all matters we will gather and organize the solidarity of all Indigenous Peoples from all parts of the world, and all other sources of solidarity with non-indigenous of good will to join our struggle for food sovereignty and food security. We reject the privatization and corporate control of resources such as our traditional seeds and food. Finally, we demand the states to uphold our rights to the control of our traditional management systems and by providing concrete support such as appropriate technologies for us to develop our food sovereignty.
We reject the false promises of sustainable development and solutions to climate change that only serve the dominant economic order. We reject REDD, REDD+ and other market-based solutions that focus on our forests, to continue the violation of our inherent rights to self determination and right to our lands, territories, waters, and natural resources, and the Earth’s right to create and sustain life. There is no such thing as “sustainable mining.” There is no such thing as “ethical oil.”
We reject the assertion of intellectual property rights over the genetic resources and traditional knowledge of Indigenous peoples which results in the alienation and commodification of Sacred essential to our lives and cultures. We reject industrial modes of food production that promote the use of chemical substances, genetically engineered seeds and organisms. Therefore, we affirm our right to possess, control, protect and pass on the indigenous seeds, medicinal plants and traditional knowledge originating from our lands and territories for the benefit of our future generations.
The Future We Want
In the absence of a true implementation of sustainable development, the world is now in a multiple ecological, economic and climatic crisis; including biodiversity loss, desertification, deglaciation, food, water, energy shortage, a worsening global economic recession, social instability and crisis of values. In this sense, we recognize that much remains to be done by international agreements to respond adequately to the rights and needs of Indigenous Peoples. The actual contributions and potentials of our peoples must be recognized by a true sustainable development for our communities that allows each one of us to Live Well.
As peoples, we reaffirm our rights to self-determination and to own, control and manage our traditional lands and territories, waters and other resources. Our lands and territories are at the core of our existence – we are the land and the land is us; we have a distinct spiritual and material relationship with our lands and territories and they are inextricably linked to our survival and to the preservation and further development of our knowledge systems and cultures, conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity and ecosystem management.
We will exercise the right to determine and establish priorities and strategies for our self-development and for the use of our lands, territories and other resources. We demand that free, prior and informed consent must be the determinant and legally binding principle of approving or rejecting any plan, project or activity affecting our lands, territories and other resources. Without the right of Free Prior and Informed Consent, the colonialist model of the domination of the Earth and its resources will continue with the same impunity.
We will continue to unite as Indigenous Peoples and build a strong solidarity and partnership among ourselves, local communities and non-indigenous genuine advocates of our issues. This solidarity will advance the global campaign for Indigenous Peoples rights to land, life and resources and in the achievement of our self-determination and liberation. We will continue to challenge and resist colonialist and capitalist development models that promote the domination of nature, incessant economic growth, limitless profit-seeking resource extraction, unsustainable consumption and production and the unregulated commodities and financial markets. Humans are an integral part of the natural world and all human rights, including Indigenous Peoples’ rights, which must be respected and observed by development.
We invite all of civil society to protect and promote our rights and worldviews and respect natural law, our spiritualities and cultures and our values of reciprocity, harmony with nature, solidarity, and collectivity. Caring and sharing, among other values, are crucial in bringing about a more just, equitable and sustainable world. In this context, we call for the inclusion of cultureas the fourth pillar of sustainable development.
The legal recognition and protection of the rights of Indigenous Peoples to land, territories, resources and traditional knowledge should be a prerequisite for development and planning for any and all types of adaptation and mitigation to climate change, environmental conservation (including the creation of “protected areas”), the sustainable use of biodiversity and measures to combat desertification. In all instances there must be free, prior and informed consent of Indigenous Peoples.
We continue to pursue the commitments made at Earth Summit as reflected in this political declaration. We call on the UN to begin their implementation, and to ensure the full, formal and effective participation of Indigenous Peoples in all processes and activities of the Rio+20 Conference and beyond, in accordance with the United Nations Declaration on the rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and the principle of Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC).
We continue to inhabit and maintain the last remaining sustainable ecosystems and biodiversity hotspots in the world. We can contribute substantially to sustainable development but we believe that a holistic ecosystem framework for sustainable development should be promoted. This includes the integration of the human-rights based approach, ecosystem approach and culturally sensitive and knowledge-based approaches.
We declare our solidarity and support for the demands and aspirations of the Indigenous Peoples of Brazil found in the Annex to this Declaration.
We Walk in the Footsteps of our Ancestors.
Accepted by Acclamation, Kari-Oka Village, at Sacred Kari-Oka Púku, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 17 June 2012.
The fourteen Peoples’ Sustainability Treaties, evolved through a consultative process with hundred of civil society organizations, converged at the Rio+20 to launch a Manifesto on the final day of the summit. They have declared that another world is possible after Rio+20 and pledged their commitment to a transition toward increasingly sustainable futures on earth.
The signatories to this Manifesto refuse to sit idly by in the face of another failure of governments to provide hope for a sustainable future for all. They announced their own responsibility for undertaking actions, inviting and encourage similar actions and commitments by other rightsholders and stakeholders, communicating a vision for healthy communities, sustainable and equitable human well-being and its associated strategies, and coming together in the form of a global citizen’s movement to shepherd the transition to a sustainable, equitable, and democratic future. These would come together in the form of a global citizen’s movement to shepherd the transition to a sustainable, equitable, and democratic future, one in which ethics is both a right and a responsibility—at the level of the individual, the community and the planet.
Humankind faces multiple and daunting crises that are more than likely to confront and impact billions of people in the decades to come. In addition, research is showing us that our actions are very likely going to cause us to transgress multiple planetary thresholds and boundaries. Despite this, governments at Rio+20 are missing yet another opportunity to formulate an effective response to these crises. Indeed, since 1992, there has been a retrogression in the consensus that was reached at the Earth Summit—and reflected in such principles as burden sharing, articulation of rights, mobilization of support, and protection of the vulnerable. Repeated attempts to revive this consensus—at Johannesburg in 2002, Bali in 2007, Copenhagen in 2009, and now Rio de Janeiro in 2012—have come up empty handed, thus thwarting efforts to build upon it. Despite unprecedented growth in the global economy since 1992, governments are trapped in making insatiable demands for still more unsustainable growth and rising inequity to remedy problems that economic globalization itself has caused.
The signatories have pledged to:
Equity is the overarching demand from the civil society world, and must be the foundation of the collective global response. We call for equity within generations, equity across generations, and equity between humans and nature. For this we need to revert back to making individual and societal decisions based on equity and ecological factors and not merely on monetary factors. A different sort of economics, a new approach to learning and education as a process, a revised understanding of ethics and of spirituality then become the ways in which we can work toward a more Equitable society; one that recognizes our integral relationship with the natural world
Localizing our systems of economies, decentralizing governance, and advancing sustainable lifestyles and livelihoods becomes the new social order of sustainable societies. Localism is the theme emerging across the board which is linked to the principles of devolution, of decentralization and of subsidiarity, turning localism into a world-wide movement becomes the key to unpacking many of the complexities we face, whether in the case of sustainable consumption and production or in the case of radical ecological democracy. Protecting the rights of Mother Earth and of humans, transforming our governance systems through radical ecological democracy, respecting cultural diversity, and strengthening sustainable economies is the way towards sustainable futures for all. It is thus essential that we create a more effective, responsible and democratic system of global governance
A Global Citizens Movement is the collective response towards transitioning to a sustainable world. All sections of society must thrive to converge upon their visions and convictions and find common ground for collective action that can bring about the transformation required to ensure the wellbeing of all on the planet—humans as well as nature. Such a global citizens movement would catalyze for a peaceful and prosperous new world that generates widespread happiness and contentment – thus propagating widespread practices of mindful intentional action. For this, a new sense of ethics, values and spirituality must be seeded within current and future generations through a redesigned system of learning, education and enlightenment.
This manifesto calls for action that helps move simultaneously toward a more localized socio-economic structure and toward a supra-national mindset that helps us transcend the parochial concerns of a corporate-capitalistic globalization to activate a global citizens movement.
The Peoples’ Sustainability Treaties is an initiative by global civil society organizations to come together to develop an independent, collective outcome for a sustainable future beyond Rio+20. The treaties are essentially a forward looking process and targets a future beyond Rio+20 and will become a living document towards the transition to a sustainable world order.
Tom B.K. Goldtooth, Indigenous Environmental Network
Note: This is an excerpt of one section from the NO REDD READER, A collection of articles written by REDD Monitor, Global Justice Ecology Project, Diego Alejandro Cardona, Tatiana Roa Avendaño, Honduran Garifuna Organization, World Rainforest Movement, Carbon Trade Watch, Brihannala Morgan, ETC Group and Indigenous Environmental Network.
All humans and all life are affected by climate change, however, Indigenous Peoples and local land-based communities worldwide are more vulnerable and therefore are confronting immense challenges. Changes in the climate, environment, the exploitation of economic globalization, free trade agreements and a continuation of western forms of development threaten indigenous and local land-based communities on a local and global level. The survival of indigenous cultures worldwide, including the languages and right to practice their cultural heritage continue to be affected by a modern industrialized world with an economic growth paradigm that lacks awareness and respect for the sacredness of Mother Earth. As “guardians” of Mother Earth, many indigenous tribal traditions believe that it is their historic responsibility to protect the sacredness of Mother Earth and to be defenders of the Circle of Life which includes biodiversity, forests, flora, fauna and all living species.
Indigenous Peoples participating in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) climate negotiations and other the UN Convention on Biological Diversity are in the front lines of a power structure that minimizes the importance of indigenous cosmologies, philosophies and world views. These power structures reside within the UN process and prop up inequalities found in industrialized countries, the more developed of the developing countries, the World Bank and financial institutions. These powerful actors have economic systems that objectify, commodify and put a monetary value on land, water, forests and air that is antithetical to indigenous understanding. Indigenous peoples, North and South, are forced into the world market with nothing to negotiate with except the natural resources relied on for survival.
With many indigenous communities it is difficult and sometimes impossible to reconcile their traditional spiritual beliefs within a climate mitigation regime that commodifies the sacredness of air, trees and life. Climate change mitigation and sustainable forest management must be based on different mindsets which give full respect for nature, the rights of Mother Earth and not on market-based mechanisms.
History has seen attempts to commodify land, food, labor, forests, water, genes and ideas, such as privatization of our traditional knowledge. Carbon trading follows in the footsteps of this history and turns the sacredness of our Mother Earth’s carbon-cycling capacity into property to be bought or sold in a global market. Through this process of creating a new commodity – carbon – Mother Earth’s ability and capacity to support a climate conducive to life and human societies is now passing into the same corporate hands that are destroying the climate. Carbon trading will not contribute to achieving protection of the Earth’s climate.
It is a false solution which entrenches and magnifies social inequalities in many ways. It is a violation of the sacred – plain and simple. We recognize the need for industrialized countries to focus on new economies, governed by the absolute limits and boundaries of ecological sustainability, the carrying capacities of Mother Earth, a more equitable sharing of global and local resources, encouragement and support of self sustaining communities, and respect and support for the rights of Mother Earth. Long term solutions require turning away from prevailing paradigms and ideologies centered on pursuing economic growth, corporate profits and personal wealth accumulation as primary engines of social well-being. The transitions will inevitably be toward societies that can equitably adjust to reduced levels of production and consumption, and increasingly localized systems of economic organization that recognition, honor and are bounded by the limits of nature that recognize the draft Universal Declaration on the Rights of Mother Earth.1
“In recognizing the root causes of climate change, participants call upon the industrialized countries and the world to work towards decreasing dependency on fossil fuels. We call for a moratorium on all new exploration for oil, gas, coal and uranium as a first step towards the full phase-out of fossil fuels, without nuclear power, with a just transition to sustainable jobs, energy and environment. We take this position and make this recommendation based on our concern over the disproportionate social, cultural, spiritual, environmental and climate impacts on Indigenous Peoples, who are the first and the worst affected by the disruption of intact habitats, and the least responsible for such impacts.
Dialogue is needed amongst Indigenous and non-Indigenous stakeholders and especially the public/civil society and their governments to re-evaluate a colonial law system that doesn’t work. A body of law needs to be developed that recognizes the inherent rights of the environment, of animals, fish, birds, plants, water, and air outside of their usefulness to humans.
This would address the question as to the law and rights of nature, however with the framework of indigenous natural laws or within the framework of indigenous Original Instructions. Most colonial western law limits nature and what North America Indigenous peoples term as the Circle of Life, as mere property or natural “resources” to be exploited.
Many Indigenous Peoples in Copenhagen at the UNFCCC COP 15 were demanding action; not false hopes and empty promises. Developed countries use tactics to continue carbon colonialism. As Indigenous Peoples, many of us are raising the bar. We are mobilizing with social movements, workers, women, youth, small farmers and the business sector with a consciousness for social responsibility and will make demands in Cancun at the COP 16 and beyond Cancun to South Africa in 2011 and the Rio +20 in 2012 the most stringent emission target reductions and real solutions. As Indigenous Peoples, we are the guardians of Mother Earth, and making principled stands for the global well-being of all people and all life.
On my mother’s bloodline, I am On my mother’s bloodline, I am Dine’, an indigenous tribal nation spanning from Alaska, throughout Canada to the southwestern region of the United States. The deep profound spiritual concepts of Mother Earth and Father Sky being part of us as the Dine’ and the Dine’ being part of Mother Earth and Father Sky is woven into our “Way-Of-Being” even before we are born, when we are in the womb of our birth mother. It is our belief the Dine’ must treat this sacred bond with love and respect without exerting dominance for we do not own our mother or father.
The four sacred elements of life: air, fire/light, water and earth in all their forms must be respected, honored and protected for they sustain life. These sacred elements cannot be owned and traded as property. We, the Dine’, the people of the Great Covenant, are the image of our ancestors and we are created in connection with all Creation. Mother
Earth and our place in the Universe embody deep thinking, what we call “Nahasdzaan doo Yadilhil bitsaadee beehaz’aanii” or in the closest English translation, “Natural Law”.
On the other side of my family, amongst our Dakota Oyate (People), we understand our relationship and responsibilities to the natural world and to all life – animate and inanimate. We have an expression concluding our prayers whereby we say, “Mitakuye Owasin”, in English translation meaning “All My Relations”. This saying defines the relational precepts we have towards recognizing the rights of Mother Earth, and all life, and the responsibilities we have to remember the responsibility of our place in creation.
REDD/REDD+ in the negotiations2
Many Indigenous Peoples are starting to call REDD/REDD+ “CO2lonialism of forests” or capitalism of the trees and air”. The newspaper The Australian calls it a “classic 21st century scam emerging from the global climate change industry.”
This is because in reality, REDD/REDD+ is bad for people, bad for politics and bad for the climate. It will inevitably give more control over Indigenous Peoples’ forests to state forest departments, loggers, miners, plantation companies, traders, lawyers, speculators, brokers, brokers, Washington conservation organizations and Wall Street, resulting in violations of rights, loss of livelihood – and, ultimately, more forest loss.
The reasons are simple. Industrialized-country governments and corporations will pay for the preservation of Indigenous Peoples’ forests only if they get something in return. What they want is rights over the carbon in those forests. They need those rights because they want to use them as licenses to continue burning fossil fuels – and thus to continue mining fossil fuels at locations like the Albertan Tar Sands in Canada, the Ecuadorian Amazon, the Niger Delta and Appalachian mountaintops in the United States. They will get those rights by making deals with – and reinforcing the power of – the people that they regard as having “authority” over the forests, or whoever is willing and able to steal forests or take them over using legal means. These people are the very governments, corporations and gangsters who have time and again proved their contempt for the rights and knowledge of Indigenous Peoples. The result is bound to be new and more extensive forms of elite appropriation of Indigenous and other territories.
REDD/REDD+ can’t be fixed by attempts to detach it from the carbon markets
Existing REDD/REDD+ projects have already set in motion this transfer of power, nor is there any way that REDD/REDD+ can be “fixed” to alter these political realities. It can only reinforce them. For well-meaning environmentalists to deny this is to indulge in a very dangerous naiveté.
First and foremost, REDD/REDD+ is – and is always in danger of being – a component of carbon markets. While many of the details of REDD/REDD+ are being worked out by well intentioned economists, lawyers, environmental NGOs, and forest conservationists and technicians with no particular commitment to carbon markets, the money behind it was always going to come mainly from industrialized countries and large corporations looking for more pollution licenses to enable them to delay action on climate change. Even among the Coalition for Rainforest Nations, the consensus is already clear: finance for REDD/REDD+ projects will come from carbon markets.
If REDD/REDD+ plans go forward, billions of tonnes of demand for trade-able REDD/REDD+ pollution licenses will be generated by UN-backed carbon markets including the European Union (EU) Emissions Trading Scheme, bilateral agreements and the voluntary market. Even the technical structure of REDD/REDD+ reflects its market orientation: REDD/REDD+ posits a numerical climatic equivalence between saving forests and reducing the burning of fossil fuels.
This equation is indefensible scientifically; its only function is to make different things trade-able in order to generate fossil fuel pollution licenses.3 A non-market REDD/REDD+ would not need to claim this false equivalence between biotic and fossil carbon.
As an alternative to the carbon market mechanisms of REDD/REDD+, there is an emerging movement of friendly countries, NGOs and Indigenous Peoples organizations (IPOs) proposing a hypothetical REDD/REDD+ that is not connected with the carbon markets. However, these strategic and tactical solutions are risky with no guarantees that these proposals will end up being pushed aside by the more powerful actors with a stake in developing this prospective trillion-dollar market.4 To act as if REDD/REDD+ might someday be financed by a repayment of the ecological debt the North owes the South, or by a benevolent fund using public or non-market donations, could be naive. Red flags go up expressing the danger zones of blindly supporting REDD/REDD+, of any kind, as well as any attempt to “fix” REDD/REDD+, that would inevitably mean support for the carbon markets.
Assuming REDD/REDD+ is irretrievably linked with carbon markets, then at least three important conclusions follow:
(1) There is no way to stop REDD/REDD+ from dividing Indigenous and forest dependent communities from each other. Every time a forest dependent community signs a contract to provide pollution licenses for fossil fuel-dependent corporations, it will be potentially harming communities elsewhere who are suffering from the fossil fuel extraction or pollution for which those corporations are responsible. No possible reform or regulation of REDD/REDD+ could prevent this; it is built into its structure as a carbon market instrument.
Of course, it would be theoretically possible, with great effort, for Indigenous and forest dependent communities who wish to sign REDD/REDD+ contracts to secure the free, prior and informed consent of all the other communities elsewhere who would be harmed.
Many local communities of these forested areas have values respecting humanity and the concepts of the well-being of community, however, most members of these REDD/REDD+ projects have not been thoroughly informed of the offset reality on how these projects create toxic hotspots violating the indigenous and human rights of communities far away. But unless this consent is obtained in every case – and the list of communities across the globe who would need to be consulted would be huge with many REDD/REDD+ projects – REDD/ REDD+ is bound to pit community against community.
Already, a project using aboriginal North Australian Indigenous knowledge of fire management practices to generate pollution licenses for ConocoPhillips has provoked the following reaction from Casey Camp-Horinek, a tribal member of the Ponca indigenous nation in the US, which suffers from the actions of the company in North America: “Indigenous Peoples who participate in carbon trading are giving ConocoPhillips a bullet to kill my people.”5
(2) There is no way to stop REDD/REDD+ from dividing Indigenous and forest dependent communities who sign REDD/REDD+ contracts from other communities for whom climate change is a concern. As part of carbon markets, REDD/REDD+ will inevitably slow action on global warming; that is what carbon markets are structured to do.6 REDD/REDD+ will thus heighten climate dangers for Arctic, indigenous lands, small-island states and low-lying and coastal communities, as well as, eventually, everyone else. Again, no possible reform of REDD/ REDD+ could prevent the damage it would do to the climate cause, as long as it is linked to carbon trading. Pretending that such reforms are possible only perpetuates the damage. The very structure of REDD/REDD+ makes it impossible that it could ever be made “Indigenous-friendly”.
(3) There is no way to stop REDD/REDD+ from being a speculative plaything of the financial markets – to the detriment of the climate and human rights alike. Already, the biggest investors in carbon credits are not companies that need them in order to meet their government-regulated pollution targets.7
REDD/REDD+ can’t be fixed by trying to ensure that the money “goes to the right place” REDD/REDD+ proponents often assert that, even though REDD/REDD+ may be bad for the climate, at least it will be good for forests because it will channel large sums of money to nature conservation and biodiversity protection. Leaving aside, for the moment, the difficulty that any program that accelerates global warming will also accelerate forest destruction, this is to overlook the historical lesson that every proposal to solve the problem of deforestation and forest degradation through large sums of money has failed.8
Il mensile online diretto da Sonia Toni, Scienza Verde, sul numero di giugno pubblicato oggi, ha chiesto a Davide Sapienza di esprimere un parere sull’imminente vertice in Brasile, Rio+20, dal punto di vista dei Diritti della Natura.