Report from the Centre of the Earth

By Lisa Mead

Newsletter at: EMERGENCE, The Global Newsletter of the Earth Law Alliance

Rights of Nature Ethics TribunalLast month, I attended the first ever Ethics Tribunal for the Rights of Nature, which took place on 17th January 2014 in Quito, Ecuador. The international panel of judges, chaired by Dr Vandana Shiva, heard nine cases in what Dr Shiva described as a “Seed Tribunal”, in order to determine their admissibility for adjudication at a full hearing to be held later this year. I’ve waited to report on this until the videos and transcripts of the Tribunal become available online, which they are now at the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature website.

One of the key aims of the Tribunal was to show how the framework of existing law is failing to protect the natural world and the defenders of Mother Earth, and how things could look if Rights of Nature were enshrined in law. The Rights of Nature movement proposes a new jurisprudence that recognises the inherent right of nature to exist, persist, evolve and regenerate.

Holding the Tribunal in Ecuador showed solidarity for a country that is currently living with a government more committed to exploiting the natural abundance of the country for financial profit than to honouring nature’s rights, or the needs of all people to a healthy, unpolluted environment. This is something that Ecuador has in common with many other countries of course. However, the government of Ecuador is choosing this stance in spite of the fact that since 2008 Ecuador has recognised the Rights of Nature in its constitution. To me, this demonstrates that although it is a good start, it is not nearly enough just to enshrine Rights of Nature in a country’s constitution. Rights of Nature principles need to be adopted at all levels of law-making in order to be truly meaningful, and of course more fundamentally, we are talking about a shift in how we view our relationship with the Earth, rather than just about changing laws. Read more